I just finished approving the last printer proof of the May/June 2008 issue of STEP inside design magazine. The May/June issue [on sale April 25] is our Type Annual, guest edited by Allan Haley, but it was the last feature story from the issue that I worked on that has compelled me to blog this week.
The feature, "The Man in The Irony Mask" by Natalia Ilyin, is one of the most interesting design articles I've read in a long time...
DESIGN MY LOGO FOR FREE!
An acquaintance of mine and I were sitting on the patio when he announce that he had the perfect logo for his new business—which he then went on to explain in excruciating detail. “My friend Don has a copy of CorelDraw—that’s a great program—I love it, and we’ve got the logo all figured out”, he went on. “All I need now is someone to do my letterhead…”
“Good for you, good for you”, I kept repeating as I smiled.
FROM PASTEUP TO PIXELS
In my career I’ve seen a good deal of change, from paste-up to computers, from ad film to PDFs, from transparencies to online images. I remember when Comstock was just about the ONLY game in town.
I’ve also worked on all sides of the clip art/royalty-free/rights-managed image business—from buying images to designing catalogs. So, you’d think with all this exposure and experience I’d have learned a thing or two about finding images. Not much.
THE ZERO EFFECT
One of my favorite movie lines is super sleuth Daryl Zero’s [“Zero Effect”, 1998] explanation of looking for things.
“Now, a few words on looking for things. When you go looking for something specific, your chances of finding it are very bad. Because of all the things in the world, you're only looking for one of them. When you go looking for anything at all, your chances of finding it are very good. Because of all the things in the world, you're sure to find some of them.” [Italics mine]
Years ago when computer mice were angular, heavy, and not ergonomically design I had the bad habit of CLICKING and dragging, which caused me to developed a mild but chronic case of mouse finger. I figured this malady and my attempts to eliminate it made me a prime candidate for this task, so I said yes.
DID I JUST SAY THAT OUT LOUD?
I don’t think there is a designer alive that hasn’t felt the sting of criticism. The fact that the critic isn’t as enthusiastic as you are about what you just designed makes your blood boil.
“The Cretin. The Neanderthal. The pig. No, pigs are useful—for bacon and sniffing out truffles. I can’t believe that slug has the manual dexterity to sign my check…did I just say that out loud?”
That's a quote from Tibor Kalman the thorny partner of M&Co. The May/June issue of STEP inside design has a story on M&Co and what it was like to work for the late Kalman. The feature has perspectives on M&Co’s style of “wrong thinking” from former employees such as Stephen Doyle [Doyle Partners], Alexander Isley [Alexander Isley, Inc.] and Emily Oberman [Number 17]. After reading the story I needed a refresher on Kalman so I went back and picked up my copy of Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist.
Kalman’s approach was legendary; caustic, confrontational and often contradictory, but his affect on the design world in the Eighties was undeniable. His take on doing the same job more than twice? "The first one, you f*** it up in an interesting way; the second one, you get it right; and then you're out of there" [Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist].
My first makeover for the Dynamic Graphics Makeover issue [June/July 2006] is a newsletter—or more accurately a calendar—for a Church's youth program. It's currently two quarter-folded 11 x 17 sheets of paper printed both sides and mailed. The problem is the newsletter is confusing and hard to follow, largely because information is being repeated two and three times. Often this copy duplication happens because design "creep" sets in—someone picks up an existing piece and adds to it rather than rethinking and redesigning it.
Solving this specific problem was pretty straight forward though. First I read the entire newsletter—multiple times.
Brutal Honesty in Design
It's that time of year when we start working on the annual Dynamic Graphics magazine Makeover issue [June/July]. For those of you unfamiliar with the issue, let me bring you up to speed.
Once a year we ask our readers to submit projects that need a "makeover". Categories include logos, newsletters, websites, brochures, packaging, advertising, menus and direct mail. We choose between 15 and 30 projects to redesign and then we run the "makeovers" in our June/July issue [on newsstands May 26]. Over the next few days 20 "lucky" readers will be contacted and told they won. Woowhoo.
Invariably when I do these makeovers I find that often the problem goes much deeper than a mere facelift will fix.
Organize vs. Design
I'm an organizer. I can get pretty fixated on organizing something, it could be an insertion order form in Excel, or untangling a knot of gold chains from my wife's jewelry box—it doesn't matter. I can organize things that would drive most people insane.
I'm a binge-purge organizer though. I don't have my CDs in alphabetical order nor are my books organized by color [that's too much work], I like to come in, clean things up, and then walk away. Sometimes I think I'm more of an organizer than a designer.
For example, today I finished designing a timeline for the article "Memorable Moments: Women Working in Design 1900–1980" for the November/December of STEP inside design, and it was all about the organization.
Don't get me wrong,
I LOVE MY JOB!
Well...today I do anyway. Why? Because I get to do two of my favorite things; talk about design, and hear myself talk about design. Life is good.
When asked if I wanted a design blog my colleagues said I would be great at it—that means I talk too much. So much so that at times I've been called "A Fountain of Useless Information" and once "The Urinal of Knowledge" [thanks th]. So with this new outlet for the never ending dialog in my head, my coworkers ears will get a rest, and you'll find out what my wife and kids already know: It's scary inside my head, and I love books.
Yesterday I finished designing...