I took a “Graphic Arts” course all four years of high school with a wonderful and passionate teacher (Mr. Erik Leise) who adamantly rejected the name “Graphic Arts” because in reality it was focused on Design. My work fluctuated in quality over the course of my tenor as his student, likely because I was too caught up in the chaos of high school to fully dedicate myself to my design work. Regardless, I have felt enriched in the years since as a result of being in that course and becoming more conscious of the ubiquity of design.

When I read Massimo Vignelli’s and Chip Kidd’s booklets, I couldn’t help but think of Mr. Leise because many of the principles described within were ones he preached. They also reminded me of Dieter Rams, a German designer whose product designs for Braun heavily influenced that of contemporary Apple products, and his ten principles of Good Design.

Dieter Rams’ work compared to Apple products

His principles are as follows:

  1. Good Design is innovative
  2. Good Design makes a product useful
  3. Good Design is aesthetic
  4. Good Design makes a product understandable
  5. Good Design is unobtrusive
  6. Good Design is honest
  7. Good Design is long-lasting
  8. Good Design is thorough down to the last detail
  9. Good Design is environmentally friendly
  10. Good Design is as little design as possible

Many of these principles, if not all, were featured in Vignelli’s booklet, especially in terms of design being detail-oriented and timeless. I found Vignelli’s point about the visual pollution created by the increased abundance of digital design tools to be incredibly accurate. This is true for almost any art form that has been made more accessible by digital technologies. It is important not to use fancy new tools simply because you can but rather when they are purposeful and essential to the final product.

I also enjoyed the references Vignelli makes to music throughout his booklet. As with design, specifically the primary colors and shapes, there is a finite amount of building blocks available in music. Therefore, the artfulness of either medium comes from the presentation. All design will live or die by the parts that make it up and it is the job of a good designer to constantly be seeking new ways to express ideas with the timeless tools available to them.

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