Friday, April 10, 2009

In praise of paradoxes.

Fun, insightful post by Adrian Shaughnessyover at DesignObserver talking about the paradoxes of design. Naturally, there's lots of crossover from design to the broader communication arts, as well as the bigger stage, living. I've clipped a few favorites from the full list. You can read the rest on Design Observer. Enjoy:
Clipped from DesignObserver:

I’ve just finished writing a book about graphic design. Yep, just what the world needs — another graphic design book. In my defence, the book is about the stuff that doesn't get written about much. It deals with subjects like rejection, envy, and plagiarism. There are also entries on kerning, the wisdom of using only lowercase letters, and the merits of Univers. But mostly it’s a book about the soft stuff — the stuff that we deal with every day and tend to take for granted.

In writing this book I discovered that many aspects of graphic design are paradoxical. I’m using the word paradox here to mean an opinion or statement contrary to commonly accepted wisdom. And while there are many others, here are my top ten everyday graphic design paradoxes.

01: There’s no such thing as bad clients: only bad designers. We love to blame our clients for poor work. When projects go sour, it’s always the clients — never us — who are at fault. Sure, there are bad clients. But designers treating them badly have usually turned them into bad clients. As designers, we end up with the clients we deserve.

02: The best way to learn how to become a better graphic designer is to become a client. On the few occasions that I’ve been a paying commissioner of graphic design, I’ve learned more about being a designer than by anything else I’ve done. It’s only by commissioning graphic designers that we discover that most of us are not very good at articulating what we do and how we work. For many clients, designers seem to operate on the principle expressed by the architect hero of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead: “I don’t intend to build in order to have clients. I intend to have clients in order to build.” As part of their training, all designers should be obliged to spend a sum of their own money on graphic design.

03: If we want to educate our clients about design, we must first educate ourselves about our clients. When I hear designers say that “we must educate our clients”, I want to break out in hives. Instead of educating our clients, we must educate ourselves in the ways of our clients. Then — and only then — will clients take us seriously.

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10: If we believe in nothing, we shouldn’t wonder why no one believes in us. In a world with no principles, people respect those who have principles. Impersonating a doormat is a poor way to be an effective graphic designer. In fact, standing up for what we believe in — ethics, morality, professional standards, even aesthetic preferences — is the only way to produce meaningful work. Of course we won’t win every time, but we will win more often than the designer who doesn't believe in anything. There are countless ways in which we can demonstrate professional integrity — the only mistake we can make is not to demonstrate any.

Paradoxometer prototyped by Adrian Shaughnessy. Artwork by Tea Design

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