I’ve been thinking about design a lot lately and what I want to do. This is the first time I have been able to dedicate myself completely to graphic design and that my time hasn’t been split up between communication and design (not that I’m complaining, I enjoy both). I’ve been thinking about the designers who I know and like, and why. Yes, they all happen to be famous, but it’s obviously much easier to learn about designers when you can read interviews and attend lectures from them.
Here’s my who & why:
Stephan Sagmeister (pictured above the lecture I went to). I have to start with him, of course, I just attended his lecture! I found out about his work in school and of course his famous AIGA poster that is burned into the memory of every designer. I became really interested in him when I saw his list of things he’d learned in conjunction with his book, Things I have Learned in My Life So Far. There is something candid and unassuming about that list that I really like and find motivating. (I really need to read that book). And then getting to hear him in person I was really glad to find out that he just gets interested (nearly obsessed) with something and runs with it, like his curiosity with happiness. Or the unheard of “sabbaticals” he takes where he just leaves for a year to a remote country. During Q&A a the end of the lecture he gave extremely thoughtful and personal responses. I wish I hadn’t come late.
James Victore. Victore is a tenacious fellow who shows so much zeal so much zeal for his work that it can be a little frightening at work. But getting to know him or if you’ve dug deep enough into his lectures, you can see how generous he is about sharing his knowledge, time, and passion with new designers. He seems to be trying single-handedly to re-ignite the creativity and gumption into the pompous design community and cheap clients. He is unapologetic and authentic, confident and charismatic. I need a little more Victore in my own dealings. I first learned about Victore when he came to my school and I participated in a week-long workshop with him, as you’ve heard me ramble on about before, he’s practically an old friend to all your bloggies.
Charles S. Anderson. As far as I can tell, Charles personally is far less in the public eye, though his work proliferates and is incredible. I’m convinced that his beautiful typography and letterpress work started this vintage trend. When I got hear him talk last year, it was confirmed that he was my kind of people. Again, he was just able to marry perfectly his interests and his skills to make his work continually fun, interesting, and innovative. Even if he just thought it was funny. Again, he was fully present at the lecture and gave meaningful responses to our questions and the lecture in general was fantastic.
Milton Glaser. I find Glaser absolutely charming. I love his work and so do you, probably, and you don’t even know it. He’s a living legend. Example: Can you believe there was an actually a time before “I <3 NY”? There was, and the Glaser was like: I got this idea, and it’s going to be big. So I knew he was tremendous, but what first made me take a look at this fellow was when I saw videos of him telling jokes under a series titled “Old Jews Telling Jokes.” Since I have read articles about him and recently posted that his great speech about not being afraid of failure, and still hope to see him in person one day.
So those are the the main contenders thus far, but there are plenty of people I’ve seen in passing who I really enjoy and who have influenced me. I realized that all of these people have qualities certain shared qualities.
- Fearlessness: either feigned, real, or earned. As a timid person, I want to emulate their assuredness and feel like that’s what I’m working towards on the design side. If you second-guess yourself, other people will too. Do work you’re proud of. I feel like recently I have been seen the thin-lipped designer/fashionista who’s work is quiet, quiet, quiet. Who’s delicate work can only be talked about in a whispered reverence but who is really a one-hit wonder, style-wise. Be bold. Try new things.
- Sincerity. These people are honest with themselves, the people they meet, and through their work. It’s not pretentious design fluff that warrants a 20-page brief explaining why the lines represent “movement” and the blue is “life” or some hogwash like that. (I know because I sat through an hour-lecture by a design duo who sucked all the joy out of life by going into incredible detail about how meticulous they were). They do what they know and feel is right and will tell you why. If it took them two seconds and they drew it on a napkin, they’ll tell you.
- Sense of exploration and play. They’re working on a project because they want to. They have pet projects that are dear to them. They try new things that other people think is utterly ridiculous. They’re proving people wrong every day without even trying or noticing because they’re too busy having fun.
- Passion. They take the frustrations with the joy, but you can just tell that they bounce back quickly and fiercely. I don’t want to be around negative people who look at each project like a burden. If you listened to the This American Life episode about negativity, you’d know that a negative attitude is contagious and detrimental to a group setting. I just don’t see these designers dragging their feet or grumbling about revisions. First of all, they probably wouldn’t take a project they honestly didn’t want, and secondly, they might get frustrated but it’s from a desire to do really well, not from a desire to 1) do what they want or 2) avoid working more.
- Creative talent. They’re all talented, no doubt about that, but all of their work is very different. It’s more than just their technical skills (some are very, some are less so), but it’s this unique perspective they bring to their work. A combination, really, of the previous items that all funnel into their work. Something that I want to work diligently at.
Who would you want to work with and why?