Designers are problem solvers. But what kinds of problems do they solve, and what constitutes good design? Here, we turn to designers from a range of different fields to extract important lessons about design from their inspirational words.
“Grids do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in relation to the content. We never start with a grid. We start with an idea which is then translated into a form, a structure.”
—Linda van Deursen, critic in graphic design at Yale University; her work includes producing the new identity of Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
“Good design begins with honesty, asks tough questions, comes from collaboration and from trusting your intuition.”
—Freeman Thomas, currently director of strategic design at Ford Motor Company and has worked with Porsche and Volkswagen.
Find order in chaos.
“Designers can create normalcy out of chaos; they can clearly communicate ideas through the organizing and manipulating of words and pictures.”
—Jeffrey Veen, Vice President of Products at Adobe; he runs product design and development for Adobe’s Creative Cloud service.
Emotional alignment matters.
“What a graphic designer tries to do is make sure the typography is emotionally consistent with the brand.”
—Michael Ian Kaye, Creative Director at Mother Design; he began his career in book publishing where he served as creative director at Little, Brown & Company and Farrar, Straus, Giroux.
Lay out consciously.
“Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose.”
—Charles Eames, multi-disciplinary designer; he and his wife were pivotal in the development of 20th century American architecture, furniture, industrial design, and graphic design. He has also worked in fine art and film.
Strive for coherence.
“I see graphic design as the organization of information that is semantically correct, syntactically consistent and pragmatically understandable.”
—Massimo Vignelli, multi-disciplinary designer; his firm, Vignelli Associates, has produced packaging, houseware, furniture, public signage, and showroom design for big brands, such as Bloomingdale’s, IBM, and Xerox.
Enact social good.
“Good graphic design solutions to communication problems can improve the flow of information in society and, therefore, substantially and positively affect education, social well-being and the daily enjoyment of life. In addition, good graphic design solutions can also have a positive economic impact.”
—Jorge Frascara, professor emeritus at the University of Alberta and a fellow of the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada; he was an advisor to the International Standards Organisation and the Canadian Standards Council on design principles.
Return to function.
“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
—Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc. and Pixar Animation Studios; all-around trailblazer in the personal computer revolution.
Make it actionable.
“A design isn’t finished until somebody is using it.”
— Brenda Laurel, chair of the graduate media design program at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California; as an interface designer, she has significantly advanced the field of virtual reality.