Cassette At Work

15 Words of Advice from Expert Designers

For today’s post, we’re going to skip the formalities of introductions and conclusions, and just present you a simple list of brilliant designers and their wise words of advice. Consider this a motivational kick in the pants.

April Greiman: “My M.O. became about trying stuff and not worrying about the grid or the structure until I have a feeling for what I’m doing. Then you tidy it up after. If you start off tidy, it’s really hard to get messy”.

Charles Eames: “My dream is to have people working on useless projects. These have the germ of new concepts”.

Saul Bass: “The nature of process, to one degree or another, involves failure. You have at it. It doesn’t work. You keep pushing. It gets better. But it’s not good. It gets worse. You go at it again. Then you desperately stab at it, believing “this isn’t going to work”. And it does!”

Bruce Mau: “Imitate. Don’t be shy about it. Try to get as close as you can. You’ll never get all the way, and the separation might be truly remarkable”.

Gail Anderson: “You approach each project searching for a dozen great ideas, not just one or two. After about seven designs, you realise there really are infinite ways to look at a problem. I now completely enjoy the process, though I’m keenly aware that all but one of those dozen great ideas will eventually be killed. It’s strangely liberating”.

Paul Rand: “It is important to use your hands. This is what distinguishes you from a cow or a computer operator”.

Stephen Doyle: “I try to staff our studio with people who have curiosity and passion. And you must keep a constant lookout for who you might want to hire next, because often the curiosity of our team leads them on to other things. You can’t keep brilliance; you let it shine, and then you have to let it go”.

Colin Forbes: “One of the things I have observed, looking back historically, is how elegant a seventeenth-century book looks. One of the reasons it looks so elegant is because of the restrictions: there was only one typeface available, there weren’t that many fonts, and virtually all you could do was play with sizes, italics, and so forth”.

Herbert Bayer: “It would seem unlikely that a manufacturer of short-lived paperboard boxes could make the slightest cultural impact upon his time. But the facts show that if even the humblest product is designed, manufactured, and distributed with a sense of human values and with a taste for quality, the world will recognise the presence of a creative force”.

Paula Scher: “My work is play. And I play when I design. I even looked it up in the dictionary, to make sure that I actually do that, and the definition of ‘play’, number one, was ‘engaging in a childlike activity or endeavour’, and number two was ‘gambling’. And I realise I do both when I’m designing”.

Abbott Miller: “If a client comes to you and says that they’re not really sure what to do, that’s one of the best relationships you can possibly have—when there’s an acknowledgment of a goal but the path to the end product is unknown, and they’re open to the collaboration”.

Experimental Jetset: “To suggest that the way we use Helvetica is an easy way out typographically is ridiculous. Simply ridiculous. We spend an enormous amount of time spacing, lining, and positioning type. The fact that we use only a small variety of typefaces demands a certain discipline, a skill precision, a focus on the finer details. It’s certainly not a different-typeface-for-every-occasion attitude. Now, that would be an easy way out”.

Seymour Chwast: “I read once about the concepts of a lateral idea and the vertical idea. If you dig a hole and it’s in the wrong place, digging it deeper isn’t going to help. The lateral idea is when you skip over and dig someplace else”.

Michael Bierut: “I have a bunch of calendars I used before I went digital. Every once in a while, I’ll open up one from 1991 and look at all the names and appointments and things that, at the time, seemed so important. Meetings that I was really worried about, things that I was getting calls four times a day about, and I wonder, “Where did it all go? Where are they now?” It’s so strange, everything has disappeared. The only thing that stays behind is the work”.

Stefan G. Bucher: “Almost any situation gets better when you ask yourself this: How can I be most useful right now? — Most useful to your employer, to your client, to the people you care for in your personal life, even to your future self. Asking ‘How can I be most useful right now?’ will get you past too little ambition, past too much ambition, past many interpersonal conflicts, boredom, frustration, and creative block. Sometimes the answer is ‘I can be most useful to everybody — including me — by leaving’, but usually it’ll lead you to creating better work!”