During a recent performance review, I was asked to think about my role as Newfangled’s Creative Director and what part design plays in my life. In other words, do I still have a hunger for design, and if so, why?
I’ve often wondered whether design is something that I simply practice, or is it such an integral part of my identity that I should instead say “I am a designer.” I have had many roles during my life: son, grandson, artist, student, employee, disciple, husband, father. Not one of them alone defines the whole of me; but at the same time they are who I am. My wife would not tell you I merely “act” as her husband but that I “am” her husband.
I believe God has given me the talent to be a designer in order to connect with him and serve others. When I work on my motorcycle, my four year old son John wastes no time in grabbing his plastic tool kit and rushing outside to “assist” me. When I experience the joy of creating something I feel a connection with my Creator, just like my son John feels connected to me.
Milton Glaser, the celebrated designer and illustrator, believes the purpose of art is to “inform and delight.” That’s a pretty good description of how I feel about design. Good design is as much about passion as it is effective communication or technical proficiency. I’ve often put aside professional work to create a card, t-shirt or some other personal piece for my wife or one of my children.
In both my Newfangled and home office I have populated the walls and shelves with beautifully designed objects: posters, 40s and 50s style packaging, souvenirs, toys, and things my children have made. I also have a drawer full of printed samples that I’ve collected over the years: magazine clippings, photographs, postcards and signage. These items inspire me and provide a reminder of what good design is.
It’s difficult for me to see something that’s poorly designed and not want to change it (or at least comment). My wife has looked at me cross-eyed more than once because I’ve killed the mood during one of her favorite films by ranting about the bad letter spacing of the opening credits.
During a recent website redesign, I decided to create an updated logo for the client. I wasn’t asked to do this, but I couldn’t bear to see their poorly-designed logo inserted into a new site. So I spent the better part of a week coming up with a new logo and was preparing to present it to the client (I hadn’t yet considered how I was going to convince the client to pay for the extra work) when the marketing agency involved in the project announced they were creating a new logo as part of a rebranding effort. In the end my work never saw the light of day, but good design reigned victorious nevertheless.
Design has been my profession for over 20 years and part of my life for much longer. I still enjoy the challenge of creating something that solves a problem and communicates a clear message. I still experience joy when I’m making blind contour drawings with my daughter. And, in spite of deadlines, unreasonable clients, and the pressure of being creative within a 40 hour/week framework, I still love design.