Design, General

Adrian Shaughnessy and the 15 Paradoxes of graphic design

Adrian Shaughnessy spoke last weekend at this year’s Semi-Permanent, and had some pretty brilliant, and practical, advice for graphic designers.

Why are they called paradoxes?  Well, because they address statements/beliefs which many in the field take to be true, but which, on closer inspection, turn out to be less true (not necessarily wrong, though). So below are his tips for graphic designers.

1. There’s no such thing as bad clients. Only bad designers. (He went on to add:sure, there are bad clients sometimes, but we probably made them that way.  We get the clients we deserve)

2. The best way to become a better designer is to become a client.

3. If we want to educate our clients about design, we must first educate ourselves about our clients.

4. If we want to make money as a graphic designers, we must concentrate on the work not the money. (If you take projects only for the money, you’ll do less well as your heart won’t be in it)

5. For graphic designers, possessing verbal skills is as important as possessing good visual skills. (It’s all well and good to make good imagery, but if you can’t explain it, then you’re more likely to fail at selling it to the client)

6. Clients will only listen to us, if and when, we bother to listen to them. (The more you listen to them, the more they will listen to you)

7. Most ideas fail, not because they are bad ideas, but because they are badly presented.

8. Designers who use the argument — ‘I know best, because I am a professional’, are usually unprofessional designers.

9. We often imagine that all the good projects go to other people. Not so, in fact, nearly all jobs start off as neither good nor bad.

10. Designers never like being wrong: but to admit being wrong is one of the best ways to gain respect and trust.

11. The best way to do great work is to be tough and domineering with our clients. In fact, the opposite is true.

12. The best way to run a graphic design studio and get the best out of designers is to put yourself last.

13. The best way to self-promote is to avoid talking about yourself.

14. If we believe in nothing, then our clients will have no reason to believe in us. (Basically, stick to your guns!  Chances are that it won’t hurt your business in the slightest)

15. A designer’s brain is capable of much more than making things look pretty. (Designers have much of use to business and other industries - indeed, ‘design thinking’ is becoming increasingly used amongst many circles)

All most true, and dead good advice! I was reminded of it when watching ‘Landscape Man’ on TV on Saturday night - the landscape designer hired was of very much the more old school pattern of thought.  He said that he wasn’t there to do what the client wanted, but rather to persuade them to accept what he wanted to do.  The arrogance astounded me.

Also, if anyone missed the Semi-Permanent coverage, have a look at the #spnz hashtag to catch up :)  I’ve found that The Archivist is a brilliant way to find tweets, and also archive them (very handy given their short searchable shelf-life).  And it does pretty graphs and things :)

UPDATE: And here, have some pics from Semi-Permanent!