The Very Essence of Cool

As a member of the “vinyl” generation, I have fond memories of hours spent in record stores riffling through the albums, making those potentially life-changing decisions on what to bring home.

Back in that pre-instant gratification era, it could be tough choice, usually based on what I knew about the artist’s music. But every now and then, it was the album art, that singular combination of photography and graphic design, that grabbed me. I had to have that record.

Some of the best examples of that kind of album-art seduction can be found leafing through “The Cover Art Of Blue Note Records: The Collection,” a book that sits on my studio shelf and that I refer to often for graphic inspiration.

With trailblazing artists like Art Blakey, Cecil Taylor, Sonny Rollins, Joe Henderson, Thelonious Monk, and so many more on the label, Blue Note was at the forefront of an exceptionally vibrant jazz scene in the ’50s and ’60s, a label known for the quality of both their stellar array of artists and their state-of-the-art recordings.

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Good Design Is Good Business

Clarity By Design. For the past several years that phrase has served as both tagline and prime mission statement here at Cronin Creative. We understand the vital role design plays in establishing and differentiating a business in today’s overcrowded, highly competitive marketplace. Thankfully, our clients, having experienced the real difference that carefully considered, expertly executed design can make for their businesses, understand this as well.

It’s accepted wisdom these days that quality design is healthy for, and even integral to, a company’s success. But when Thomas Watson, Jr. took over the reins of IBM from his famously successful father back in the early 1950s, it was something of a revolutionary idea.

The story goes that the younger Watson happened to walk into the Fifth Avenue offices of Olivetti and was blown away by the brightly colored, highly designed typewriters displayed in a modern, brightly lit showroom. Comparing Olivetti’s innovative, design-centric approach to his company’s rather drab, lifeless look, Watson decided then and there to change the face of IBM.

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Box? What Box?

Back in 2007, when we took the big leap and started our own company, we made a promise. Settling on the name Cronin Creative (we do have a thing for alliteration), we vowed to explore and employ all the different facets of our creativity. At the time, we were thinking of things like design, writing, and music. But over the years of running a small business, dealing with realities like accounting, cash flow, and staffing challenges, we’ve found that creativity isn’t limited to the arts.

We’ve also discovered that creativity isn’t limited to “creatives,” our fellow designers, writers, musicians, and practitioners of the fine arts. With an eclectic roster of clients, we’ve witnessed first hand the high level of creativity among those not traditionally tagged with the “C” word. There is a creative spark in all of us. It’s part of being human; one of the really cool parts.

In “The Artists Way,” her landmark book, author Julia Cameron explores creativity from all sides, and finds that, in the end, it’s as natural as breathing.

“Creativity is the natural order of life,” Cameron says. “No matter what your age or your life path, whether making art is your career or your hobby or your dream, it is not too late or too egotistical or too selfish or too silly to work on your creativity.”

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Shake It Up

Opening up and focusing, developing your own individual designer’s eye, and learning to trust what you see are important parts of any art education. But after years working as a graphic designer, that kind of seeing can become automatic, almost lazy. It’s good to shake things up now and then, to challenge your viewpoint and give your eyes a kind of “refresh.”

I’m currently enrolled in an evening portrait photography class at (the awesome) Watkins College of Art, and, much to my surprise, it has reignited my curiosity and spurred my creativity. Looking through the camera lens, focusing on the face, the personality, the attitude of my subject, I’m forced to rethink just about everything I know about seeing. It’s challenging, and it’s a whole lot of fun to reconsider the way I look at things. I come home from class inspired and ready to apply those visual ideas to the work I’m doing for my clients.

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The Art Of Design

Maribeth Graybill’s “The Artist’s Touch, The Craftsman’s Hand” happens to be a book that explores historic Japanese prints, but it was the title that grabbed me. It serves as a concise description of what a graphic designer does and what the profession requires. Whether it’s the design of a magazine, a logo, a brochure, or an annual report, the graphic designer brings a broad skill set, along with balance, perspective, and that all-important artist’s touch, to the task.

So where does the artist end and the graphic designer begin? And how do those two disciplines intersect to support and draw from one another?

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