Saturday, May 27, 2006

Skeet shooting in the dark

Recently I was asked to design a logo for a non-profit organization, and the challenge at this point is to define the problem, more than it is to create the solution.

The project is still ongoing (it's pro-bono, so ostensibly I can take the time I need, rather than meet a short deadline). But identifying visual symbols that will relate to the concepts that the organization wants to portray has been quite difficult.

To this point, I've shown two concepts, and neither were what the client is looking for (The first was, but once they saw it, decided against it). It's a classic "I'll know it when I see it scenario." I call it skeet shooting in the dark.

As a designer, it's critical that we are able to deal with ambiguity. We need to be able to invent meaningful symbolism merely than create surface decoration.

Over 20 years ago I formulated my General Theory of Design: "Design consists of creating things for clients who may not know what they want, until they see what you've done, then they know exactly what they want, but it's not what you did."

Thankfully in my experience, the antithesis of the Theory has been true in most instances: "Clients who know what they want will provide a design brief, and evaluate all designs based upon that brief."

Regardless, (and this is where leadership meets design) those for whom we work expect us to lead them. That's why they hire us!

The solution to the ambiguity problem seems to be time and concentration. Once I find that the assignment has turned into a skeet shoot, it's time to think about it in a completely different way.

Maybe I do need to assign it a deadline. There's nothing like a deadline to inspire!

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

The creative economy - design is king!

The business world is taking notice (again).  They call it innovation. We call it design.  In the end, everybody benefits from the influence of good design.

Christina De Paul recently spoke at the Akron Roundtable, which is always on WKSU (one of the best classical radio stations in the world, IMO).

Christina De Paul is the  Dean of Corcoran Gallery of Art.  Her topic, The Creative Economy, laid out a convincing argument for the value of design in our economy in every aspect (this is spite of her flat and unemotional delivery – pinch yourself a couple of times if you decide to listen to it).

Designers are on the leading edge of the innovation economy. Innovation technology, the synthesis of technology and design for users, will continue to be and is the competitive advantage that the most insightful businesses will use.

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Saturday, May 13, 2006

Leaders are those who recognize it

Are leaders born, or can you make the decision to become one? Whether your view is from the bottom up, the middle or the top – It's clear that your decisions make the difference.

Last week the staff at Brian Sooy & Co. attended 360° - The Measure of a Leader, sponsored the Maximum Impact organization. I'm not sharing my opinions here, but my observations on what was shared. Here are a few highlighted points that we learned:

  • You have a leadership role and responsibilities, no matter where you are in an organization. You may not recognize it.

  • Don't confuse leadership with a strong personality

  • Wide leaders make wise decisions and then manage them (A key tenet of John Maxwell, founder of Maximum Impact.)

  • A leader needs to know how to deal with ambiguity

  • A leader must be a creative thinker – anticipating needs and thinking beyond perceptions

  • A leader is a steward of equipment and resources

  • Behavior and performance is more important that words

  • A great leader is aware of the big picture and the details (the forest and the trees)

  • The most relevant: Learning to lead yourself is the place to start.

Of note: One of the presentations used posters from is a series of demotivational products, and is a well-executed parody of the success posters genre.

If you look through the posters at the web site, there is a poster that addresses every major leadership point presented in the 360° simulcast. How brilliant is that!?

Don't despair. Every designer can be a leader. Now get back to work.

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Saturday, May 06, 2006

From Parchment to Postscript

In 2004, my family and I attended a fascinating exhibit entitled From the Dead Sea Scrolls to the Forbidden Book: A History of the Bible.

Unfortunately, the exhibit is no longer on display in that form, and it seems that information about the exhibit can now be found at Ink & Blood.

If you're really interested in seeing fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, an exhibit is currently mounted at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage entitled Cradle of Christianity: Treasures from the Holy Land. this exhibit sheds light on Christianity’s earliest days: from its emergence against the background of Jewish society in the land of Israel during the 1st century, to its development alongside Jewish communities over the following six centuries.

While the actual fragments of the scrolls that we saw were about the size of a quarter (why bother?), the most fascinating were the examples of Bibles on display from the 10th to the 20th century (The Lunar Bible). Perhaps if you have a keen interest in Christianity, historical book design, archeology, or biblical history, these exhibits would fascinating.

The stories of the men who were killed and persecuted for translating and printing the Bible was very moving, and had the most impact on me.

At this same time, I was completing the design of the Lucerna typeface, commissioned by Tyndale House Publishers for the Second Edition of the New Living Translation Bible.

What struck me the most as I stood looking at the Bibles, reading the stories of the translators, and considering their impact on history – is that nobody was trying to kill me (that I know of) or persecute me (other than the left-wing side of the political spectrum) for contributing to publishing a Bible.

It seemed to me to be a strange culmination of events: I had purchased my first Macintosh (The SE30) in 1990, and released my first typeface intended for Bibles in 1995 (Veritas). Seven years later, I began Lucerna, and the first Bibles typeset in it were released in 2004.

It's difficult to describe the sensation I had while standing in the middle of all this history.  The Lucerna Project was significant both personally and professionally, and I am aware that I have been given the opportunity to contribute to the history of the Bible.  But why me?  I'll always be grateful for the opportunity.

Perhaps the next chapter of the exhibit could be called From Parchment to Postscript...

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