I spent last Thursday in New York, listening to the legend of design, Milton Glaser, speak about everything from the projects “The Clients Didn’t Approve” to the power of color. He seems to have a pool of stories that’s never-ending (in a good way!). I took so much away from his talk, but one thing in particular will sit with me for a long, long time.

I have used the phrase “I’m stuck” plenty of times when I’m designing. It’s what I run to when a solution doesn’t come as easily as I had hoped, when I want to step away from something and take a walk, when I have exhausted all the options I can think of for a design and don’t know where else to go. After Milton had finished his presentation, they opened the floor for questions and a woman asked the question that we’ve heard so many times, ” Where do you go for inspiration when you get stuck?” His response was not what I expected.

“Stuck is just a literary term. It doesn’t exist. It’s not real in design.” He continued, “The only way ‘stuck’ exists is when you STOP WORKING. So don’t stop working!” 

Milton explained that design is most often times a process and if you find a solution that isn’t working, that’s very different than if you are “stuck”. If it’s not working, you move on, that’s part of the exploration. The work that you are consistently doing will influence and help you through the moments you think you’re stuck because you’ll begin to see what works and when to move on. “The solutions come when you are involved with the project so thoroughly that you know it’s a good answer.”

I realized then that use of “stuck” in my vocabulary needed to change. I was using the idea that I couldn’t go any further to encourage me to stop working or move to a different project or start the whole project over. It was the wrong answer. I do believe that sometimes you have to walk away from something, or sleep on it, but in most cases, the more you persist in moving forward, the more you’ll get from it.

Milton reminded me that design is as much a process as it is an art, and that to continue to create great work: don’t stop working!

thank you, Mr. Jobs

apple-think-different

Trying to explain the impact Steve Jobs has had on my career is a little difficult. It’s not that I knew him, talked with him, or even saw him from a distance at any point in my life, but Steve Jobs’ impact on design and my generation is already legend. As a graphic designer, my career has transformed itself in a short 50 years so greatly, that most wouldn’t recognize the industry if they started in it some 50 years before. I was required to buy a Mac for my first design courses, and after using it, I came to call this little tool an extension of myself. I use an Apple product every hour of every day. I use a Mac computer at work, come home to my Macbook laptop, use my iPhone for email, GPS, entertainment, weather, twitter and even when I’m sleeping, my computer is backing up my files, updating my inbox and my phone’s alarm is set to wake me up in the morning. No other company I have ever known influences my day on such a regular basis. If ever there be a product or man to transform my life, Steve Jobs and Apple would be it.

His passion for design in an industry that originally shunned it, opened doors for people like me for the future. Not only did he make products that became extensions of ourselves, but he impacted how business sees design and showed the world that design and business can be, and are, one.

I became even more emotional about Steve’s death because of reading the article by Steven Heller about The Job Jobs Did, a sobering reality that this impact can disappear with his absence at Apple and that we need people like Steve to inspire and uphold the power of design or it will be lost. The article speaks with graphic designers about their response to his legacy and courage to resist and change design as we know it. It’s a challenge for us to continue this trend, even though we’re not CEO’s at Apple, we have the power to make design a prominent part of business and “give people not what they ask for but what they need.”

So, in his passing, all I can do is say thank you, Mr. Jobs, for impacting a generation, a career path, and an everyday person like me and for changing my life forever. It was a pleasure knowing you.

think different image

While this project may not have effected me directly, I was really moved this week by Frank Chimero’s The Shape of Design Kickstarter project. He asked to raise a total of $27,000 to publish his book and reached it in under 5 HOURS. The outpouring of designers and supporters was phenomenal. After 2 days, he has raised $53,000+ for his book, almost doubling his goal.

Now what about this moved me, you ask? The fact that so many, many people supported him. I started to ask myself, what is it about Frank and his book that so many people wanted to be a part of? As I read his FAQs on his site yesterday, I found my answer in his “How Do You Promote Yourself?” answer. Frank’s Kickstarter project was something he could have promoted the hell out of, and didn’t. He tweeted once, maybe twice, but what drove the surge were the people that support, admire and appreciate his thoughts and actions. He works hard to make the design community better and designs with intention and impact, unlike many designers out there right now.

As I get more and more tired of “pretty design,” I crave change, a breath of fresh air. Someone to be different and speak to becoming better and thinking about design. Design with purpose. Frank’s project inspired me to take a risk, brainstorm more and work with intent to create a better solution. My lack of posts this week comes from spending more time sketching, thinking and repositioning my goals. I’m inspired to be better.

So, here’s Frank’s answer for how you promote yourself. A great reason to become better at what you do.

How do you promote yourself?

Unsexiest answer ever: be better.

Do something interesting and do it really well. This is way harder than promoting yourself. Service your clients really well. Come up with damn good work that has thick value.

Do something compelling. There’s a trillion people writing blogs that need something to write about. There are magazines hungry for content. There are hundreds of thousands of people bored on the internet wanting something to look at or do. For the most part, people have exceedingly low standards on the internet. But, I think people are hungry for better. Make something better. People will notice.

The number of people that are consuming creative work keeps growing (because it’s fun and nourishing). The number of people doing solid, compelling creative work is staying the same (because it’s hard work). You do the math.

Thank you, Frank, for inadvertently encouraging me and many designers who want to be better. Looking forward to even more food for thought in your new book.