Category Archive: Notes

  1. Art Direction and Design

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    What’s the difference between art direction and design? I hold my hand up, even after 10 years working as a designer I was not sure I could explain the difference clearly.

    After discovering and subsequently poring over a terrific article by Dan Mall on the subject, my understanding is better. Now I get it. Here’s my understanding: art direction establishes the emotion a message needs to convey and design is concerned with how that message is delivered.

    This really is a well written and informative article and well worth setting time aside to read the entire piece.

    In case you need more convincing here’s a list of my favourite quotes from the piece:

    Art direction is about evoking the right emotion, it’s about creating that connection to what you’re seeing and experiencing.

    By contrast, design is the technical execution of that connection. Do these colors match? Is the line length comfortable for long periods of reading? Is this photo in focus? Does the typographic hierarchy work? Is this composition balanced?

    Art direction and design work together to communicate the message on an emotional level and a physical level.

    Design is perfection in technique; art direction is about the important, yet sometimes intangible emotion that powers the design.

    Many consider “look and feel” to be synonyms instead of complements, treating them interchangeably. > Creating a design is creating the “look”. The “feel,” however, warrants specific attention from a seasoned > art director to ensure that the message isn’t compromised.

    The article goes on to quote a number of eminent designers on their understanding Chris Cashdollar’s insight clearly comes from the mind of a seasoned art director:

    Art direction is a filter for making judgments; you pass every design choice through it. Start by determining the overall emotion. All the copy, photography, UI elements, buttons, and the kitchen sink should be pinged against this ideal.

    So now that I have a better understanding of the concept of art direction will I be bolting it on to my design process? Well the truth is I’ve always been self art directing my work, albeit subconsciously.

    On every project I’ll spend a lot of time thinking through each design decision I make and making sure each one is appropriate for the message I’m trying to communicate. I mightn’t always get it right but I’m very conscious every decision and pixel communicates something as after all one cannot not communicate.

  2. Design Is a Job, by Mike Monteiro

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    The new release from A Book Apart looks very good. It’s a handbook on how to manage the design process. From getting clients, to getting sign off, to getting paid. It’s written from experience and from the heart.

    There is an astonishing amount of good advice in just the preview chapter. Here are my favorite quotes from that chapter:

    Everything you deliver on a current project and every interaction you have with a current client is business development.

    No one is hiring you to be their friend. They’re hiring you to design solutions to problems.

    While your portfolio is important as proof that you can do what you say you can, it can’t be your biz dev department. You need to convince your potential clients that you’ll be able to solve their problem as well as you solved your past clients’ problems.

    To do this design thing right we’re going to have to redefine what we think of as “our work.” That stuff in your portfolio? That’s just evidence of work. The real work is that plus all the conversations, decisions, and convincing you did along the way.

    No one’s going to know what you think about unless you write and publish your opinions.

    People need to know who you are so they can write you checks. Write! Design! Put yourself out there.

    Unless you’re putting yourself where people can see you and making your opinions known, clients or potential employers won’t be able to find you.

    That was all from just one chapter. If you’re a designer working in client services this book is going to be essential reading.

  3. Avoid Falling In Love with Ideas

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    A Whack on the Side of the Head by Roger von Oech, is a book on creative thinking. It is a best seller on the subject and it also happens to be my latest read.

    I’m trapping the passage below for reference as it really resonated with me. It’s something I’m guilty of a lot. I find I get too attached to one solution and fail to explore other ideas.

    “If you want to be successful, don’t fall in love with a particular type style, because if you do, you’ll want to use it everywhere — even in places where it’s inappropriate.”

    “This also applies to ideas. I’ve seen people fall in love with a certain approach, and then become unable to see the merits of alternative approaches.”

    —Roger Von Oech

  4. Design as Art

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    Design as Art by Bruno Munari

    I’ve just picked up Design as Art by Bruno Munari. I’m only 50 pages in but it’s turning out to be quite a read. Here’s my favourite piece so far:

    A designer with a personal style, arrived at a priori, is a contradiction in terms. There is no such thing as a personal style in a designer’s work.

    While a job is in hand, be it a lamp, a radio set, an electrical gadget or an experimental object, his sole concern is to arrive at the solution suggested by the thing itself and its destined use.

    Therefore different things will have different forms, and these will be determined by their different uses and the different material and techniques employed.

    —Bruno Munari

  5. Inspiration: The Ford logo that never was

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    Here is a great pictoral look at the evolution of the Ford logo.


    While digging around I came across my favourite Ford logo of the lot.


    This logo went unused by Ford. Apparently it was too radical a switch. A damn shame. This would look great even today.

    You can check out Rand’s extensive portfolio over at Paul-Rand.com. Inspiring stuff.