Friday, July 18, 2008

The hiring process and the titling process

Typing the title of this blog just triggered a memory of a thought I had the other day concerning the time one chooses to fester up a title for something, like this blog or a piece of art or a novel, etc. I asked myself whether or not I title things before or after I create them. My answer was both. I sometimes title them after creation because I then better understand what something is, an element necessary in order to determine an appropriate title. Sometimes I already know what I want to say so I think of the title first because I am certain is sums "it" all up. You can also apply this concept to giving birth to a child and naming it...The naming ritual. I always wondered what was better, to name a child before you know them by looking/seeing into their eyes for the first time or after. I always pondered the idea of a child becoming what you want them to be because you "dubbed"* them before they were born. And most names have certain meanings behind them and by naming a child that, they are then forever destined to be something they may not have been. So I suppose I can say that I would prefer to name a child after birth so I can meet them. I think this is traditionally how native americans, and I'm sure quite a lot of other tribes and cultures, "go about"* their naming rituals. Anyway, just an observation that I felt like writing.

As for my thoughts on the hiring process...
I was just thinking how silly it is to have a typical interview process for new hires, especially in the graphic design field. Graphic design seems to be a "field"* that people put their all and their souls into and one that actually is projected in visual, concrete form. Hence the idiom, "written in stone". So it seems that to fully know you think a person is better for the position than anyone else that you interview is to really and truly try and get to know them on a real level. To me, interviews are nothing but standardized tests for the job world. I never do well on those things because my mind does not process things in such a standardized way. Tests like that always intimidate me because I am put on the spot and quizzed...just doesn't seem natural. Feels more like interrogation before being sentenced to prison. Not something that would make me happy at all. I always freeze up when I am interrogated and it makes me seem like I am "guilty" (in this instance meaning, like I don't know my stuff.) When in fact, if I were taken out for drinks or actually just sitting there having a conversation with real people about design, not under any spotlight, people would see exactly who I am and why I would be good for the position. I think you can get a lot more out of a person if you don't grill them, quiz them or the like. Get on a real, personal, human (non-robotic) level (maybe this really means on multiple levels) and connect.

Those were my thoughts. yep yep.

*most of the time, when I place things in quotes, I do that because I realize there is a better or more elegant and sophisticated way to say things or more appropriate words to use but can't seem to think of them at the moment.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Paul Rand: A Timeless Genius

I recently signed up for the "Daily Heller" by Steven Heller. Today he posted videos about Paul Rand, a genius of the graphic design field. I do not use the word genius lightly. He is the PERFECT leader of the design world. He is the perfect example for young aspiring designers.

I often get frustrated and irritated by the lack of education among the masses regarding graphic design. You say "graphic design" and people think they know what you mean. There has been an increasing rise of technology and votech schools that offer programs in what they like to call "graphic design" but is really "lessons in design software". Growing numbers of people are going to these schools to get an education in what they actually believe to be true "graphic design". I have had many conversations with people who attended these schools and they really think they know the world of graphic design...until you start talking to them about design. They never receive any formal training in design where one learns the language of form (design principles and how to use them), just the techy stuff and they may never understand what they are doing. And they go off to make bookoo bucks from clients who believe they are graphic designers just as much as the faux designer believes it. But all they really have is the software skills and the shallow ability to realize and mimic the latest trend. So they know what people want, trend and prettiness. What sets them a part from good design is they have no ability to think like a designer so they look to the latest trends and simply mimic whats hot. And people gobble this up.

I shant worry however because Paul Rand said something in one of the videos Steve Heller posted that made me realize I do not have to feel as if these poor excuses for designers are going to take over the design world and keep me out of work because what makes good design is a sense of timelessness. Great design is timeless, not trendy. Trends die yearly, good timeless design has been around for centuries. It is not that in order to be timeless one must be completely original and disregard all trends. Paul Rand said it best, "Don't try to be original, just try to be good."

So one may ask, "what is good design?" To me (and to Paul Rand), good design is when a designer takes the language of form and combines it with content until he/she creates a perfect harmony or fusion of content and form, a perfect marriage of content and form. Genius comes in when a designer is able to find this perfect balance of content and form. When someone can look at a finished piece and can clearly see an obvious deeper meaning in a seemingly simple form fused with an equal amount of content, the designer has succeeded. Brilliance!

Paul Rand said that "the abstract characteristic of a picture is its form, the concrete is the content...without content there is no form and without form there is no content...A work of art is realized when its form and content are indistinguishable, when they are in synthesis, when they are fused." SO if you just have form, all you have is style. And style is not bad as style is what attracts the viewer to a piece, it is the aesthetics that make the piece worth looking at ("The degree of interest in a picture is often determined by its abstract quality...") but what makes the entire piece function is the content fused with a dollop of glue that is the genius of the designer. The genius is the ability to find a way to harmoniously fuse the content and form so that they function.

What I find so interesting about design and why I feel SO proud to be a part of the design world is that when one has hoaned in on that genius of solving the problem of effective visual communication, one has the ability to communicate with the ultimate universal language. I know the universal language has been known as math but I say that it is not so universal because not everyone does understand it...I certainly don't know how to communicate mathematically, because it can be so complex. But from the beginning of man, visual language has been a very effective method for communication, especially if you can pull it off just right with a "less is more" simple but completely effective approach. I have always been really hard on myself for not knowing other languages. I studied Spanish and German for a couple of years and could attempt to communicate with those languages but they are only good for communicating with Spanish and German speakers. It just recently dawned on me that I already know a language that communicates to EVERYONE! If a designer is good enough, they can communicate with anyone in the world effectively. This is what I will strive for every day as an artist/designer; not to be good but to be GREAT.

To simply sum up: "To design is much more than simply to assemble, to order, or even to edit; it is to add value and meaning, to illuminate, to simplify, to clarify, to modify, to dignify, to dramatize, to persuade, and perhaps even to amuse." ~Paul Rand

Take a look at this poster by Paul Rand and tell me how long it takes you to understand the message. This is a good example of great graphic design: