The Universal Arts of Graphic Design | Off Book | PBS

Uploaded by PBSoffbook on 29.11.2012

First and foremost, graphic design has to communicate something. But good graphic
design makes people's lives better. You have to find a way to make sense of
how to make something beautiful and, to me, you're speaking for them.
As a graphic designer, concept is the first thing; idea
and life.
Graphic design is essentially a language for living.
Graphic design is about using
words and images to convey a message. Graphic designers have to know a lot about color
theory, typography, how to create a grid. But those are all really
basic. You have to be somebody that is really interested in
understanding human behavior, being able to understand how they think, how they choose, how
they buy, how they believe.
People probably don't think about how much graphic design impacts them. We use
graphic design to cross the street, to decide what we want to eat and how much we
want to eat.
We use graphic design to pay our bills, to get married. We use graphic design to get
divorced. We use graphic design in every single aspect of human life right now
and people tend to like things best when they feel that they are respected by that
But I think, ultimately, if it moves you, whether it be a good emotion or a bad
emotion, chances are that it's effective because it's getting you to think about
something and it's getting you to potentially take action.
When I work on package design I like for there to be an idea behind it.
I like for there to be some wit, some language, some feeling that
there is a human hand behind what you are interacting with.
Like, for instance, matchbooks are one of my favorite things to design. It's this
nice intimate moment between you and the smoker or
candlelighter because you have the reveal that can be completely
surprising. For the Spice Market, we turned them into these little incense boxes. I
like to think about the product like I'm the consumer. So, when we were working
on the kleenex project, we learned that, for some people, choosing which pattern
on the box to take home is a huge part of
their day. So, I think about
what would give me a moments pleasure when interacting with that thing.
The Mercer Hotel was a
really interesting project that was very clean and very understated and witty.
And not necessarily witty in the design but also witty in the language. Like, for
instance, there's always that sign on the bathrobe that says "If you take it,
you're going to have to pay for it." But we didn't want to say that in such a crass way, so
we just made a sign that very simply said "disrobe" and then, when
you turned it over, it said "is available for purchase in the lobby." And, so,
sometimes maybe beautiful isn't
exactly what it should be. Maybe it needs to be
quirky or maybe it needs to be ugly or maybe it needs to be invisible.
So, I think you're always solving what it has to
look like visually based on what it needs to be conceptually.
A lot of times when people talk about signage and environmental graphics they
think that it always involves letters
but it really involves landmarks, creating a moment that somebody
remembers and immediately understands. Graphic designers aren't trained
necessarily to think in dimension but you do need to identify things within space
that the architecture wouldn't necessarily be doing otherwise; through color and type
and light. Working on the signage for Bloomberg's offices, they wanted people
to use the stairs. We thought if people are intended to use this space, why don't we
at least make it interesting to use. If you can make the space interesting people will
want to be there. It really involves creating a moment that somebody remembers and
immediately understands. Bridge designs are decorations that we have proposed
for the city of Pittsburgh and our proposal was to, essentially, make those
moments special moments. So it could just be a paint job or it could be using
light in a certain way to highlight that feature as a gateway to the north side.
Every building has a timeline of your experience with it. What's the cover of this
book and then how does that play out as one navigates through the space where your
mind actually solves the problem.
So, there's a process of discovery there.
Should you judge a book by its cover?
I would really like to say yes, but I think that there's a lot of really good
books out there that don't have good covers. My guiding philosophy in design is forever going
to change, I think.
You have to understand the responsibility you have in terms of
there's someone at the end of the line there
that actually cares about what you're doing and
you have to give it a voice.
I never like to pin myself down to one different style and, to me, that's what's fun about design as opposed to
an illustrator's style. You can wear different hats. The artistic expression,
that is the art of it. Getting into the mind of a book,
expressing what the book is about, making it beautiful and grabbing people's attention.
You always care about what are you reading first and that's based on
contrast of size, contrast of color, is the title more important than the author, can
you read it from across the store or not. You know, these are the things that I think about
on a daily basis. You have to understand where this book fits in the world of
books. The Day the World Ends is a poetry book and here's an example of well, what do you focus on?
You have all these different poems that are about different things so I broke the type
up a little bit and the author just connected with it.
If you love the content, you want something to come up in your head when
you think about it. So, any successful book cover is something
that you want to hold in your hand. It's unexpected, smart, and beautiful but at
the end of the day you just want to
put it on your book shelf face out because it means something to you.
We use graphic design now in many ways to convey who we
are as people, to define affiliations, to signal beliefs.
If you can contribute to making peoples lives a little bit better
and elevating the general level of design, then why not?
If you know how you want to make them
feel, that's the most important thing. You just want to make something memorable.
I say, do what you think is right and
interesting and smart and then worry about what the survey says.