Milton Glaser on fundamentals

“I really couldn’t draw the way I needed to draw. So I started drawing again from plaster casts, trying to really represent what was in front of me. To try to get that thing from the eye to the brain to the hand fluid and working. I did that for almost two years. It helped me enormously, because I knew that if I could get past it I wouldn’t have to do it anymore. If you can achieve that fluidity at a level of academic understanding, you can then push it aside. But there’s no way to push it aside without going through it. The great lesson you learn is there’s no shortcut to learning how to draw expressionistically, or inventively, except to first draw academically. You can’t bypass that process.

First you play the scales. The scales are not music yet. But eventually, when you can make your fingers move the way the brain wants them to, the possibility of music occurs.”

— Milton Glaser (via Graphis #331)

Nick Hornby on favorites

“Maybe the best thing to do with favorite films and books is to leave them be: to achieve such an exalted position means that they entered your life at exactly the right time, in precisely the right place, and those conditions can never be re-created. Sometimes we want to revisit them in order to check whether they were really as good as we remember them being, but this has to be a suspect impulse, because what it presupposes is that we have more reason to trust our critical judgements as we get older, whereas I am beginning to believe that the reverse is true. I was eighteen when I saw Nashville for the first time, and I was electrified by its shifts in tone, its sudden bursts of feeling and meaning, its ambition, its occasional obscurity, even its pretensions. I don’t think I’d ever seen an art movie before, and I certainly hadn’t seen an art movie set in a world I recognized. So I came out of the cinema that night a slightly changed person, suddenly aware that there was a different way of doing things. None of that is going to happen again, but so what? And why mess with a good thing? Favorites should be left where they belong, buried somewhere deep in a past self.”

— Nick Hornby (via)

Maurice Sendak on style

“Artistic style is only a means to an end, and the more styles you have, the better. To get trapped in a style is to lose all flexibility. If you have only one style, then you’re going to do the same book over and over, which is pretty dull. Lots of styles permit you to walk in and out of books. So, develop a fine style, a fat style, and fairly slim style, and a really rough style.”

— Maurice Sendak (via)

David Barringer on books

“I’ve seen many friends who are avid readers turn toward their shelves of books and regard them as they would a photo album of their own lives. We take the contents of books into our imaginations, and our personalities are influenced by them. Looking at the books on my shelves, I feel memories bloom, my own life come back to me. Books are triggers for remembering where we have been, and who we are.”

— David Barringer (via)

Alexandra Lange on Walter Gropius

Alexandra Lange on Walter Gropius, collaboration, and the myth of the sole genius:

“Gropius is hardly alone in being an architect who couldn’t draw. He worked with a partner, and everything he made was at minimum a joint production. “The ideology of the past century has taught us to see in the individual genius the only embodiment of true and pure art,” Gropius wrote in “Scope of Total Architecture” (1956). His partner Sally Harkness, in a 1972 essay, added, “Nowadays young people are fighting a style of living, a style of practice, realizing again that stereotyped formulas are too restrictive.” For her, the myth of the individual genius was particularly intolerable for women, as it separated public life from private, and kept women minding the hearth.”

George Tscherny in 1969

Some quotes by the late George Tscherny from a 1969 design panel discussion:

“The lack of really professional ethics in our profession, if you can call it that … a profession … has disturbed me for a long time. If you bring up the question of belonging to an organization for this purpose … you know, a union, although it seems to be a dirty word … I would have no objection at all.”

“A couple of years ago I characterized the annual report scene as absolutely Neanderthal. Chaotic. No pre-described way of doing things has ever been developed. You find yourself working with the public relations department, and the financial people, and the assistant to the president … Each time you start one of these it means educating the people you’re working with to the problems of doing an annual report. I’ve had to accept and adjust to the fact that I probably spend half of my time solving problems that aren’t worth solving … although I still solve them to the best of my ability. An annual report is a problem that isn’t
worth solving.

Let’s assume it’s conceivable that the life of a company depends on the success of the annual report. My answer to that would be ‘So what?’ But if you design a traffic sign, the life of a person could depend on that. That would be a problem worth solving. I think we’d all agree that it’s a much more important problem to solve than saving the life of a company.”

“The only way to really control your own destiny is to design things and produce them yourself. This applies even more to product designers than to graphic designers … you design a chair and you produce that chair. Or you design a salt and pepper shaker and you produce it. And you don’t have to convince some guy that this chair or this salt and pepper shaker is worthy of producing. I think this is a solution… I’ve decided for myself that I want to do fewer and fewer things, but I do them the way want to do them. Maybe this is sort of going back to the Renaissance Man who dreams up his own projects, develops them, designs them, prints them.”


“I have no desire to build an organization that goes on beyond me. I don’t really plan for any kind of a future, I plan very selfishly for a pleasant, personal life.”

— (via Communication Arts, June/July 1969)

Kazuo Ishiguro on stories

“But in the end, stories are about one person saying to another: This is the way it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you?”

— Kazuo Ishiguro

Arnold Schwartzman on originality

“Comedians say there are only five basic jokes in the world and the same is true of design. After using the Best Picture titles on the Oscar poster, I remembered an Abram Games portrait of Shakespeare composed of titles of all his plays. People pointed out the similarity of this year’s image to the scene in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis where the robot is transformed into a woman by circles of static electricity. I knew the scene, of course, but the similarity was accidental. At this years AGI congress, everyone was invited to come up with a four-letter graphic, and I proposed ‘dead’ with the last ‘d’ topped, only to discover that had also been done before.”

— Arnold Schwartzman (via Graphis)

We grow accustomed to the Dark

We grow accustomed to the Dark —
When Light is put away —
As when the Neighbor holds the Lamp
To witness her Good bye —

A Moment — We Uncertain step
For newness of the night —
Then — fit our Vision to the Dark —
And meet the Road — erect —

And so of larger — Darknesses —
Those Evenings of the Brain —
When not a Moon disclose a sign —
Or Star — come out — within —

The Bravest — grope a little —
And sometimes hit a Tree
Directly in the Forehead —
But as they learn to see —

Either the Darkness alters —
Or something in the sight
Adjusts itself to Midnight —
And Life steps almost straight.

— Emily Dickinson

Paula Scher on ageism

“What is quality work? This is the eternal debate. We know design must function properly, but design functions differently for different problems and audiences. Ray Gun works perfectly for its audience but won’t be received well by someone over forty-five who doesn’t care about rock and roll. Is it quality or garbage? Aesthetics is a tricky business.

One can admire the aesthetics of a specific school without loving it. I admire Emigre without loving it. It’s ten years old now. I admire the publication and some of the typefaces even though I’ll never use them. But the Emigre designers were innovators. I felt the same way about Herb Lubalin. In fact, I feel the same way about Paul Rand. I never loved his work as I love Cassandre’s, El Lissitzky’s, Pierre Mendell’s, and some of Fred Woodward’s Rolling Stone spreads. But I admire it. I know how important it is. One builds admiration from a distance, in retrospect. It takes time.

With ageism there is no admiration for any work produced by a younger generation. None. No shining example, no beacon among the heathens. Only designers from their own generation or the distant past merit praise. At the end, there is no debate, no enlightenment – only a divide. And we are all losers.

We are losers because the ensuing factionalism, hurt feelings, confusion, resentment, and anger are damaging to the most important goals of the community. If we fear and loathe one another, how can we persuade society of the collective value of good design? If we’re all chopped into different factions with different agendas, collectively we have no power at all. We destroy our credibility. When we are contemptuous of one another, we invite the contempt of business and society. We devalue design.”

— Paula Scher (via Make It Bigger)