Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Looking Closer

Yesterday I met with a corporate communications director. My corporate graphic design portfolio which deals mostly with print publishing (book and magazine) identity and corporate communications, was a bit dusty. It's been a while since I talked about the annual reports and direct mail pieces that used to be my bread and butter. Now that I am a mom I mostly talk about bread and peanut butter. Since I've evolved to be as much entrepreneur as designer, I think about business and strategy almost as much as I think about aesthetic. Since most of my work is now stationery and couture invitations, my life revolves around hosts, guests and events, rather than editors, buyers and drop dates. Showing this portfolio was fine, I really enjoyed the discussion as well, but I was reminded that I love what I do now too. I also remembered that the graphic design student in me is very much alive. All artists constantly grow and change, but the one thing that never seems to change for me is my desire to learn more about design.

When I graduated with my BFA in 1995 I attended the International Design Conference at Aspen. It was a dream for me to attend. While there I picked up a copy of Looking Closer: Critical Writings on Graphic Design. I have read and re-read many of the articles housed in these pages over the years. "Why Designers Can't Think" by Michael Bierut has got to be one of my all time favorite essays on design education. Having been schooled at a university where visual problem solving was valued first and a slick portfolio came second, this article reminds me of my duty to make everything I touch attractive, legible and appropriately communicative. Famed children's book illustrator and graphic designer Leo Leonni's article on "The Urge to Make Things" is another favorite that captures the designer as artist. And as a designer in book publishing I found William Drenttel's essay on the written word, to be a valuable resource on a daily basis.

I could write FOREVER about the great modern and post-modern, and post-post-modern graphic designers of our time (do I feel a new blog feature coming on? Would you guys even want to read about Massimo Vignelli or David Carson?) and how they influence what I do today (make wedding invitations...wha?). I know it sounds crazy, but as I design stationery you'd be surprised at how often some of these pioneers come to mind. I mean, how awesome was Bradbury Thompson?! The guy tried to revolutionize the alphabet, by using only one symbol for each of the 26 letters. Alright, this design nerd sees that you are glazing over and clicking onto another blog (I know that look and I am not offended, I used to teach design to liberal arts undergrads after all). I'll wrap it up by saying that as a designer what I design may change and the passion with which I design it may ebb and flow, but for those who truly love what they do, the initial spark in some way, shape, or form will always be there. Sometimes I've had to dig deep to access it, but when I do even that smallest spark has lit my way.

3 comments:

Cartolina said...

Thanks for this - really interesting topic and thanks for the resources!

Cathe said...

Wow, that brings back my designs school memories Erin! I still have this book somewhere in my house, but you've got me wanting to find it, dust off the cover and read it again. I'm a design nerd, too!

"...as a designer what I design may change and the passion with which I design it may ebb and flow, but for those who truly love what they do, the initial spark in some way, shape, or form will always be there. Sometimes I've had to dig deep to access it, but when I do even that smallest spark has lit my way."

You go, lady! My thoughts exactly! I tell my fellow designer friends who are still doing corporate work (though I still do a bit of it myself), that designing stationery and paper goods is just an evolution of my passion as a designer.

Great post! Love it. One of the reasons why I read daily. :-)

Erin said...

So glad I'm not the only design nerd, or better yet stationery design nerd, out there ladies. Thanks. Knowing readers like you are in my blog audience inspires me to write more about the craft and skill we all love so much!