Lanny Sommese on design

Posters by Lanny Sommese

“I’m subsidized pretty well as a teacher, so I can pick and choose my jobs on the basis of creative freedom, not money. To a large extent, that’s why my work bears a resemblance to fine art. I consider myself more of a ‘posterist’ in the European tradition than a graphic designer in the American mold.

When I was attending drawing classes as a kid, I couldn’t draw all that well. I could draw faces, but I couldn’t draw feet and hands. I did a whole series of drawings, a hundred or so, showing people with their hands behind their backs and their feet submerged in mud. It’s only been in the last eight to ten years that I’ve realized my inability to draw a hand like Michelangelo, or the way they taught me in studio classes, was what made me unique. So not only do I leave in those little quirks, now I amplify them. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not against teaching students to draw perfectly. I just think it’s bad to chastise them if they can’t.

It seems to me that a lot of designers take themselves much too seriously. They’ve lost their sense of humor. I’m going to take that one step further. They’ve lost their ability to find an original solution to a problem, humorous or not. They’re depending on a formula.

Of course, as a posterist, it’s easy to ignore the grid philosophy of design. With signage or corporate identity, that kind of systemic approach is very important. It makes life easier and gives the work continuity.”

— Lanny Sommese (via Communication Arts, May/June 1983)