Short Essays on Design

How to Become Famous

Paul Rand may not be a household name outside of the design industry, but his work definitely is. To me that seems to be the deciding factor of how well-known a designer is. Even if an average person on the street wouldn’t recognize his name, I’d be willing to bet they would recognize the logos of ABC, UPS, Ford, and IBM. That should be the goal of every aspiring designer. The field is incredibly crowded and amazing work is being put out. If your work rises to the top, you win.

I absolutely loved that Bierut mentioned that it takes one second for a judge to form an opinion about a design. This doesn’t only apply to design competitions or the design community. Someone is either moved by a design or they glance over it and keep searching/reading/walking/etc. The window of opportunity to have an impact is incredibly small. Often the simplest designs take the most time and the end result, if effective, masks the painful hours that went into it. I’d often have clients request a logo or design with the disclaimer, “This should be pretty simple,” or “I have a really quick request, shouldn’t take you long at all.” I would always cringe after hearing that because there is a hidden and underestimated process behind producing a solid, strong and simple design. But at the end of the day, whether the judge is a fellow designer or a client, you have one second to make an impression.

Information Design and the Placebo Effect

I don’t care if the buttons don’t work. I’ll keep pressing them over and over again and then feel a sense of accomplishment when the light changes. I’m completely aware of the fact that I like to have some sort of control over my surroundings and if the crosswalk buttons want to humor me, so be it. On some level we all like to harness control. I may be an extreme case but I like the buttons and would feel lost without them. Call me crazy, but there’s something to be said about reassurance on a personal, local, or national scale, regardless of how significant (or insignificant) the outcome is.

I am a Plagiarist

Plagiarism in design is such an odd concept. On some level every design can be traced back to a trend, movement or influencer. Does being inspired by another designer’s work constitute plagiarism? One of the first things I do before starting a project is look at all kinds of work that has been done in the past. I see what stands out to me, what I like/dislike, and what really screams success. I have a “grab bag” folder on my desktop of designs that I love. I peruse through them when I need inspiration for a header, a typeface, a banner, etc. I’ve always been jealous of designers that can just pull something out with no research whatsoever, like it’s just stored somewhere and they don’t base it off anything. The line is so blurry between being inspired by a design and applying that approach to your own work, and using too much and possibly stealing ideas.

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