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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Wide Open Spaces

I remember countless lunch hours navigating the busy sidewalks around my Times Square office, dodging tourists, business suits, street people, buses and cars. As much as I fed off energy of the towering buildings and the crowds, when I reached my lunchtime destination and strolled into Central Park there was always this inner sigh of relief – beautiful, wide-open space.

As a graphic designer I understand the value of space as a key design element. More often than not, the client will push to make the message “bigger,” to let the type fill every inch of available space. While I understand the impulse, the problem with that approach is that today’s consumer experience is a lot like that walk in the city. It’s crowded and noisy, and they are overwhelmed. When they encounter open space, they feel that same sense of relief. They’re able to mentally sit down, relax and listen what you’ve got to say.

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A Toast To The Campari Brand

You might love them or hate them, or perhaps you fall somewhere in between, but there is no escaping the ubiquitous presence of brands on our shelves, on our social feeds, and in just about every aspect our lives. Long before everything and everyone became a brand, the concept was alive and well and, yes, quite necessary.

Actually, the modern term “brand” goes all the way back to the 1500s when people began burning their mark into cattle to prove ownership. These early marks were distinctive and individual, enabling owners to identify their livestock quickly and efficiently. Today’s “marks” serve that same purpose.

In the early 19th century, brewers and vintners began burning their marks into shipping cases and crates to distinguish their goods from the competition. So while you may feel inundated with and assaulted by brands on a daily basis, it’s really nothing new.

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Today’s Q&A

If I’ve learned anything in my long and winding career, it’s this: Nobody has all the answers. That’s why we need each other. In business and in life, we rely on the people around us. If I provide you with some insights and you do the same for me, we make progress together.

But while we offer praise and encouragement to those who provide us with the big answers, we often, consciously and unconsciously, discourage the asking of the little questions that will point us in the right direction. Without the right questions, we will never get to the right solution.

Just this week, we sat down to discuss a marketing plan with a new client. After the meeting, it was pointed out that I had offered more questions than answers. At first, I was taken aback. After all, they hired us for our marketing and branding expertise. But on quick reflection I remembered that we pose those questions to get educated, get to the heart of the client’s concerns, and build a strong, authentic brand.

As kids, we have no problem asking questions. Ask any parent driven to the brink by the endless repetition of “why?” and “how come?” Somehow, as we get older and “wiser,” that urge to ask gets sublimated. In our effort to avoid looking clueless, we often wind up without a clue.

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