Sometimes you’re pushed to do work on something that seemed inconvenient at the time, but when you look back made a huge impact on your point of view. This essay combined with preparations for Junior show at Chapman University was one of those periods in my life. In the past 2 years I hope to have grown and strengthened my design philosophy, but this essay gave me the first opportunity to concretely articulate what I believe design to be and how those beliefs influence my design decisions, even today.
Design is everywhere. There is no escaping the need for a designer’s touch in practically every application. Although as individual designers we might be invisible to the public, the work of graphic design directly affects how brands, products, and the world around us are perceived. Graphic designer Robert L. Peters puts the collective work of graphic designers into perspective, “Design creates culture. Culture shapes values. Values determine the future.” This powerful responsibility is not always understood by those outside of the design community, who believe owning a Mac with Photoshop installed is enough to “design” as Massimo Vignelli describes, “The life of a designer is a life of fight: fight against the ugliness.” The creative process when involving a client can be one of the most difficult for designers. It is our job to create what the client wants, but it is also our responsibility to design in an aesthetically pleasing.
I believe the role of a designer unlike a fine artist is to provide a creative solution to solve a multitude of problems and the art produced is a by-product of communicating this idea. A graphic designer’s focus should be on communicating the requested message in an appropriate manner for the audience instead of personal preference. Drew Davies, a graphic designer focused on identity and branding, shares this view of graphic design in his quote “Good design must be defined by appropriateness to audience and goals, and by its effectiveness, not by its adherence to Swiss design or the number of awards it wins.” The purpose and functionality of design is what keeps me constantly interested in my work. Instead of sticking to the constraints of my limited worldview continually varying clients allow me to stretch my abilities as a designer and grow as an individual.
Good and bad, as a designer, everything in the world influences our work. We either learn from the mistakes of others or find inspiration from the creative applications created by others. Every moment our eyes are open we process our visual surroundings and catalogue our experiences, which we later incorporate (usually unknowingly) into our designs. “Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.” I truly believe what Leo Burnett says here, which is why I attended Chapman University as a liberal arts school instead of a dedicated art school. I believe taking classes in a variety of subjects can only improve our work. The more we know and see of the world, the better we understand it and the more options we have to design for it.
When I am given an assignment my first instinct is to research the product, company, or client. I believe this initial research, before any creative planning is one of the most important steps in the design process. Without this understanding of the project anything I design is pointless, the client and consumer should be in mind with every design choice. Instead of limiting my creativity, this starting point allows me to be even more creative in my applications. If I understand what the company has done in the past and what they stand for I can design something original and applicable for the client that the audience will enjoy and find fresh.
The most inspirational designer I look to for influence is Paul Rand. He was able to design and stay relevant for over 50 years in the industry. His work is corporate while still keeping a playful outlook through use of color and layout. He worked for clients to sell products ranging from cigars to cosmetics managing to keep his personal design perspective apparent, without overwhelming the content and goal for the client. In his long career Rand was able to design for each application of graphic design I plan on pursuing. Rand began his work by looking at the logo and finding opportunities for improvement. His identity work has become legendary including logos for FedEx, Mobil, IBM, and ups. When possible I approach my work in the same fashion, building from a logo redesign then finding creative and appropriate applications. During his the beginning of career especially Rand made several influential covers and editorials for Apparel Arts and Direction magazine, which as a career was the reason I chose graphic design as an area of study. I still believe working in the magazine industry could be a career choice, but as I learn more about the possibilities of graphic design I am drawn to packaging design, which Rand designed as well for IBM, Westinghouse, and El Producto.
I believe Rand’s influence on my design can be seen in my use of color in relation to negative space. This connection is obviously seen in my fictitious exhibition posters for an AIGA sponsored Paul Rand exhibition, but this compositional balance is also carried over to my Navigation Vintage stationary and Soda Pop packaging. Like Rand I believe design, even at it’s most corporate should have a playful sense about it. Rand’s response in his 1988 interview with Steven Heller sums up my outlook on design and life “I steered towards humorous things. People who don’t have a sense of humor really have serious problems.”
My design philosophy allows me to experiment with different design styles for each piece, but a retrospective view of my work shows some consistent features. When designing logos I tend to combine a san-serif font with a hand-drawn element, combining corporate identity with a personalized aesthetic. This creates both a unique branding identity for the company as well as an opportunity to connect with the viewer. I also am inclined to design using repeated elements, my political campaign, Paul Rand posters, and Target commercial are the best examples of this aesthetic. In each although images are repeated the elements build on each other to create a fuller understanding of the concept and message. This idea of repeated progressive elements builds from Cassandre’s first creation of the serial poster for Dubbonet.
Eskilson, Stephen J., Graphic Design: A New History. England: Yale University Press, 2007.
Heller, Steven, and Seymour Chwast. Graphic Style: from Victorian to Digital. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2000. ”Dubo Dubon Dubonnet.” Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 07 Apr. 2010 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/172781/Dubo-Dubon-Dubonnet