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Design Quotes Worth Reading (OK, and a self-serving one or two)
Over a number of years working in the creative marketing field I’ve heard, read (and in some cases, written) quotes that are worth repeating. So without getting too heavy with creative philosophy here... some lite summer reading.
1. "If ya cain’t make it good, make it big." If ya cain’t make it big, make a lot of em. (Sig Reynolds) - Sig was a sculpture teacher of mine in my first year at Tyler School of Art. His thick Southern drawl added a certain quaintness to the phrase. Talking to a bunch of wide-eyed young students he boiled down sculptural success into this simple phrase. I generally dislike simple rules that are thrown out to govern creativity but over the years I’ve laughed at how many times this has held true. Another great quote from Sig that I fortunately never heard directly about my work was "D... for dog." He was pretty direct.
2. "The hardest part about design is knowing when not to." (William Milnazik) - Almost every year I take an evening and join an event (by the AIGA) where many creative professionals review the portfolios of graduating design students. It’s a pleasure to see this young and excited talent. With some students I noticed that they tendency to fill a layout with activity, top to bottom, left to right. It all has the same demand for attention. There was no rest for the eye or any visual hierarchy that would allow the viewer to see things in the proper order. With everything in a layout commanding equal attention from the viewer there is no visual hierarchy that lets the viewer know what to look at first, the eye bounces around and often the desired message is lost.
3. "80% of success is just showing up." (Woody Allen) - I love this one. It works for so many areas of business. “Showing up” can be interpreted an physically attending, emotionally being there, Professionally bringing one’s best, and many other ways of making one’s self available.
4. "There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for." (Milton Glaser) - “WOW”… three letters, ok, two if you consider repeats. But it is a simple word that is often the start to the best design and marketing. “WOW” separates a company or product from its competition… the first step to making a difference.
5. "If everything yells, nothing is heard." (William Milnazik) - The current process in the design field tends to be one of email communication and of sending layouts and client comments back and forth. It can be tempting for a client to look over the layout and want to make one thing bigger (like a logo), then see that something else is being overpowered and want to make that bigger. This process can go on for some time. It can be the equivalent of making all the elements of a layout “yell.” In a room where everyone is yelling… nobody is heard.
6. "If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough." (Various forms of this are quoted to a number of different people) - There is a lot of value in this one. Without mistakes, we can’t learn, grow and improve. If one learns how NOT to do something, they are better focused on how TO do something. Plus, anything new is inherently unknown. In business, the trick is to move the mistakes to where they can’t cause damage. Testing, trials or making them in the privacy of one's own creative environment all allow us to explore in safe ways.
7. "You must learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t possibly live long enough to make them all yourself." (Sam Levenson) - OK, just to throw out an opposing point of view to the last quote, this one has a lot to say as well.
8. "The correct design answer is often found in the question." (William Milnazik) - An appropriate design solution is often found in a clear understanding of the problem that needs to be solved. Designing for business is a process of creating communication that delivers a correct and motivational message to a target audience. If clear description of the current situation, the goals, the audience (among other details) is delivered, the correct answer is usually found in the process of distilling this information to a more pure and simple form.
9. "A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist." (Louis Nizer) - “Heart” is a critical, fragile and precious part of the creative process.
10. "Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose." (Charles Eames) - As an industrial designer Eames produced many recognizable products that have since become icons in our culture. Although “arranging elements” is oversimplifying both industrial design and graphic design, his quote holds true here as well with the “purpose” being the driving factor.
11. "85% of design is subliminal to the end viewer. But if we don’t do it, that too delivers a subliminal message... a bad one." (William Milnazik) - There are so many different creative decisions made while developing marketing campaigns or materials. These decisions are all intended to help put a message across. (This is largely what my “Design in Context” newsletter series in all about). But most non-designers don’t think about type, images, concept, color relationships and all the other elements of design to the same degree and visual communicators… but they are affected by them.
12. "Thinking about design is hard, but not thinking about it can be disastrous." (Ralph Caplan) - This one sums up the risk in doing a poor job designing… well, anything. Another way to look at this is “It’s far too much work to do it poorly.”
13. "I would have written less but I didn’t have the time." (Unknown) - I heard this from a copywriter once. I loved the way it delivered the idea that creating effective simplicity is harder than just including everything. This works for writing as well as visual communication. And in this time in history where attention spans are measured in nanoseconds, it is more important than ever.
14. "Everything “cool” is a result of a creative person." (William Milnazik) - After listening to a radio show on urban planning where the goal was to move artists into an impoverished location and let them "make it cool” therefore making it desirable, I thought about other “cool” things. In almost every case creativity was at the source.
15. "A first-rate story is easily killed by second-rate design." (Mokokoma Mokhonoana) - As a visual designer I can’t help but to notice all the failed graphic communication out in the world. And I have to say “Thank God for bad design. It makes the good work look so much better."
16. "Designers work in 5 dimensions, width, height, depth, time… and emotion." (William Milnazik) - I suspect this one is self-explanatory.
17. "To have a style is to be stuck." (Jonah Lehrer) - I’ve often thought that a consistent “style” is simply ignoring the client's situation and applying a “favorite” solution no matter what the problem. Every new project, new target audience and new design request requires a new perspective, one which takes into account the specific people (clients and audience), industries and visual "language" best required to communicate for this need. This one relates closely to the continuing "Design in Context" articles I've posted to date.
18. "If a designer is bored with a project it’s their own fault." (William Milnazik) - There is always a new way to look at a project that takes it out of the "expected" and makes it fun for the creator and effective to the audience.
19. "We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. (Albert Einstein) - This one has is a favorite and has been popular for a long time. In communication and branding it's a strong message to go beyond a well established “comfort zone.”
20. "Design is not just what it looks and feels like. Design is how it works." (Steve Jobs) - All of design is answering a need whether it's structural, technological or promotional. That “need" is why we designers get up in the morning. It’s our purpose.
New AXIS Work
Russ and I worked hard to bring a high level of branding to Case Networks. They offer case-based training to residents and healthcare students and needed a system to promote three main areas of their business.
Problem Solver No. 1
Thank you for taking the time to read this. If we can help with your design and marketing needs feel free to contact us.