Starting Your Own Graphic Design Practice: From Lawyers to LinkedIn

Graphic design programs don’t offer many courses on the business aspect of design. The assumption is that you will learn the ropes while working for a firm, for example, how to correspond with clients, how to take a project from start to finish, and how to use good phone etiquette such as stating the name of the studio when answering a call.
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The YOU in Your Work

When other people recognize your work, it is a great compliment. They may recognize your humorous attitude coming through the work or see a visual treatment that you have brought to many of your solutions in the past. These distinguishing characteristics reflect your style, which can come through you unconsciously. In fact, your style is you.

The places we’ve been and things we’ve seen, felt, or heard all broaden our vision as designers. They also define us. For example, a trip to Vermont to see the foliage could add to your color pallet; an unfortunate visit to a hospital’s emergency room could shock you into realizing how efficient people can be under pressure. In either case, both experiences will be internalized: you will realize that a recent design has a color you never thought about using before, or it has an energized immediacy about it. These influences can come from everywhere. Can you trace them back? The fact that some place or thing might feed your work is, in effect, acknowledging connections with your larger culture, community, and environment. A good example of this dynamic is a visual series on the impact of the Iraq war by Maria Uroos. She grew up in the Middle East and felt a need to create a visual dialogue about the changes in life, culture, and religion that she saw there. Her tools include text and image, metaphors and analogies, elements and principles. All convey thoughts about the region where she lived, fleshed out into a form that is meant to extend conversations. Each piece begins with her.

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In a design experiment by Janet Lee, whose family is in retail fashion, two activities are merged into one composition. She created a montage of typography with a dress form, color chips with fabric swatches, and single-edge cutting blades with scissors. The art historian E. H. Gombrich (1909–2001) wrote, “Anyone who can handle a needle convincingly can make us see a thread which is not there.” The connection this designer makes to retail fashion isn’t necessarily there either, but is more a myth that forges a connection to something more personal and perhaps more meaningful to her. She uses that same ability to tell stories and making connections when creating works for her clients.

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In another piece, Rick Valicenti examines his own future role as a graphic designer. The poster’s purpose is to announce a design lecture in Vancouver, Canada, and the character pictured—a jester that is full of remorse—is a portrait of Valicenti himself. Hanging off his hat is a flickering sign that reads “HUGE.” The ghostlike, wispy image of an old man beside his own face hints at his later life. Together, the images make a social comment about whether this effort is all there is in Valicenti’s future, and for that matter, in the profession as a whole. In other words, designers can be practical problem-solvers (such as finding a way to announce an event), but also passionate artists whose work also matters in terms of making a positive difference in the world.

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From Guide to Graphic Design, by Scott W. Santoro, Pearson Education

Also posted on LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/you-your-work-scott-w-santoro

Cooper Union’s Lubalin Center 30 over 30 Exhibit

dorfsman

Photographed from an exhibit wall at the Lubalin Center in NYC in which designers were asked to comment on various iconic designs as part of the center’s collection. Jessica Helfand and I both wrote about art Director/Designer Lou Dorfsman’s ad, circa 1961, for CBS. The text under the largest “ha” reads, “He laughs best who laughs last”—an ad explaining the broadcasting company’s success in focusing on comedy television.

Poster for Tomorrow

Pratt student, Ian Rousey, (an undergrad in the design program) won entry into a worldwide competition in which designers were asked to interpret the phrase “Death is not Justice.” Ian’s poster was completed as an assignment in my Graphic Design 2 class. It is an ingenious use of type and the research of statistics on the death penalty. Shown is the poster (left) sitting next to others being presented on the site. Congrats Ian. See the official site at <http://www.posterfortomorrow.org>

Brno, the Czech Republic

Photo from a presentation made this June 2010 in the city of Brno, the Czech Republic, as part of the Brno biennial. The event included the jurying of a large poster show, exhibition of Worksight designs, and lecture (as part of the symposium), answering the question posed: Are Ideas Enough Today?

An animated icon was made of each presenter, which included An animated icon was made of each presenter, which included Petr Babák (CZ), Oded Ezer (Israel), Andrzej Klimowski (UK/PL), Sato Koichi (Japan), Lizá Ramalho + Artur Rebelo (Portugal), Karel Martens (the Netherlands), Rick Poynor (UK), Igor Stanisljević (Croatia), John Walters (UK), Martin Woodtli (Switzerland), Alan Záruba (CZ).

The Czechs have a rich history of graphic designers creating groundbreaking work including Ladislav Sutnar who taught at Pratt Institute from 1946 to 1949. I received a BFA in graphic design from Pratt and now teach there, and the Czech audience was happy to see a photo of the school and current student work from my senior design class.