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Kit Hinrichs is one of the most accomplished and respected graphic designers and illustrators of the last fifty years. A master of corporate communications and a consummate visual storyteller, he has been awarded the highest honor in his field: the AIGA Medal. Formerly a partner in the legendary design firm Pentagram, he is reinventing himself (again) with a new endeavor called Studio Hinrichs. In this Creative Inspirations documentary, Kit shares highlights of recent projects, his renowned collection of American flags and American flag memorabilia, as well as the irrefutable wisdom of one who has stayed at the top of his game for five decades.
(Music playing) Kit Hinrichs: Design was, until the last ten, fifteen years, was an add on. It was something - everything has been done by the engineering department. Everything else has been taken care of and it's in the box and we need to kind of decorate the box before it goes out. That's about where design had been relegated at that point. In today's world, they sit at the table at the beginning with everybody about how we're going to make this product successful.
Things like, companies like Apple, their advertising, their promotion, the boxes, the products themselves, all those things works seamlessly with each other. Design, again, isn't just to make it look pretty. It's to make it function better. So we said, "How can we make some of the visual language real and understandable to the business world," and that there is no doubt that the design world needed to understand business as well, and understand what their point of view was.
Delphine and I are co-founders of @issue. And it was founded 15 years ago, Kit: 16 years ago. Delphine Hirasuna: Yeah, 1994. Kit: with the Corporate Design Foundation to build some kind of a bridge, magazine bridge, that linked business and design to each other, because as all designers know, we end up educating our clients one at a time. So we thought, "If there's a way that we could create a tool that would work for both audiences to talk to each other in the process, that could be a valuable thing." We also thought that the idea of the Harvard Business School case study was something that business people understood, in the way it was done, and so the idea that we might be able to do that sort of thing for design, because in all the 10,000 cases at Harvard, they are not on design.
So here is something on a new subject, to a certain extent, to an audience who is not used to reading about it as part of the business story and in a form of which they could be used to. Delphine: We worked on a number of projects together. One day we were talking about how clients don't really understand how designers go about trying to solve their business problems. Having come out of corporations, I was thinking about how designers don't know how to present their story to show business that they understand. And so every major story we did, we tried to - we really did seriously vet it, in terms of 'is it a business success story?' 'Is it a design success story?' Kit: When we did FedEx, it's like, it's not only, I think, it's a good, solid piece of design, we got interviews with guys from FedEx and they said, "Well, by changing the "color of the paint on the planes, they were cooler. They were lighter. They were cheaper to produce. So, it was less heavy to -- so we used Kit: less gas in the process of doing it." Delphine: less fuel.
Kit: It's a very interesting Delphine: less maintenance. Kit: side affect of things on the way. Delphine: Yeah, so trying to give a financial costs thing, I think somewhere in here we said, "Just eliminating the purple field from FedEx's 10,000 tractor-trailers enabled the company to save nearly $10 million and labor and materials." I mean, those kinds of things do resonate with business. And we didn't just present a very precious design, because there are some designs, in my opinion, that are beautiful or interesting, but from a corporate standpoint they don't do anything to increase sales.
So, every story was approached with that way, from that perspective, and our rule was if a story makes it into @issue, it has to be a success both from a business standpoint and a design standpoint. Rather than the designer lecturing the client and saying "you just don't understand how we're trying to solve your problem" or the client lecturing the designer saying "how is this budgeted and what are the metrics on it" and all of that, to say, "can we come up with a neutral vehicle that would really present both the business side of the story and the designer side of the story" in how they went about trying to solve a problem through design.
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