Join Petrula Vrontikis for an in-depth discussion in this video Panel discussion and Q&A: Part one, part of Real-World Design: Live Presentations from Creative Leaders.
Speaker 1: If you could construct a class for design, graphic designers and it could be anything, if you could, if you could just make it up and teach it, what would it be? Chris: Is this like a made up class or just a class of talking? Speaker 1: You think that they need to know now for the future. Chris: Philosophy. Speaker 1: Philosophy. Chris: Yeah. You know I got accepted to Art Center right after I graduated high school but the timing was so bad that I couldn't find a place to live, so I took another semester at a community college and I took this Philosophy 101 class.
And I keep looking back at my career, my life, and how I look at the world, and how I'm able to sit here and study this bottle and I, I think it came from what, the principles that I learned in that philosophy class. David: I, yeah, I mean that's a, that's a good question. Probably something around strategy. I, I think, you know, one of the, the biggest questions that designers need to think about to ask is why and, and you know before the what and the how and you know you often are taught to craft or make something or come up with a great idea, but you really need the nerves to ask why which then starts to connect to the business side of things is to, why is this guy hiring you, what is his expectation? Not wow, this is so beautiful, I won an award, you know this is so great but the guy at the other end, end is going but I didn't make any money or this didn't really do anything or you know, so the why I think is really important that through the day we don't really teach that I think enough at least from my experience.
I mean I didn't go to design school, so I probably shouldn't be saying that but but yeah it's, it's tough. but, but strategy you know, I think is a very important thing for people to learn. Speaker 1: Any, any idea about a class that you would teach if, if you had, could teach anything. Speaker4: If I can teach anything? Speaker 1: Yeah. Speaker4: Wow. I I don't know. Chris: But you're allowed to have an answer if Speaker4: Okay, I want to hear it. Speaker 1: Chris is going to answer for you. Chris: You know, last weekend I was teaching this workshop where we, we look at a business and we try to reinvent the business and we look at all their paying points, where they want to grow, how they want to grow, the users and, and to teach a business class like that, where you understand how to affect, how to impact the business first, then you design all the parts to it, I think that would be a really cool class.
Speaker 1: Mm. David: This is a tough group. My God, this is like a professional school or something. Chris: David. David: I didn't expect great thinking. I mean at the end of the day, I mean, they're hiring you to bring ideas to the table. I mean, they want you to bring something they don't have, and so you know, that's, that's sort of the challenge, is like you're sort of connecting dots that actually are not so obvious to connect sometimes, and you know, I think that's a huge advantage of a creative person. You don't think in that linear fashion. You don't think in that logical fashion, and sort of what Chris was talking about earlier is that the opportunity is actually to reinvent a lot of these businesses versus just sort of change the facade or whatever it is.
It's to reveal what's authentic and already there but maybe they don't see it. Chris: I think they expect you to listen and you don't. David: Yup. Chris: That's the problem. Most designers and I have the same struggle for the team that's my, my own team. We'll, we talk about our project and somewhere in the conversation, they've already determined what it's going to be. And it's, it's it's like bamboo that bends a little bit but it, it doesn't go that way. And you know, I took one of my class to Cal Cooper's studio, and one of the students asked us an extremely impossible question to answer.
Where do ideas come from? I was like oh I'm sorry, but he actually paused and thought it through and he gave a great answer and I'd like to share that with you. He said, for me, the problem with designers is they don't listen. The brief tells you what it needs to be. The script tells you what it needs to be. The problem tells you what you need, what it needs to be. He said that with his experience, people come because they want to work on The Avengers or Ironman. So no matter what the project is, they're going to make Ironman. It could be for a a tragic love story.
It's going to look like Iron Man with 3D vector graphics. It's just going to be like that. So designers are supposed to listen, to understand, to have a really thorough understanding of the problem and then you have to be honest and, and do your best to try and follow that. David: I mean I, I you know I mean one thing that I'd say is like I, I agree with Chris like listening is really important and I think but on, I, I think of a spectrum like one side is like you can be the yes man and on the other end of the spectrum, you could be like the prima donna designer who's like my way or the highway. And my point is that you know, the listening part is really important, especially if the listening is around the true problem versus the execution.
So it's less again about watching the, what the color is but rather why should it be, clear? Chris: Mm-hm. David: And so I think if, if you have that conversation of what are you listening to and to your point of problem versus the execution they still are looking for your point of view. So as a designer, I think it needs to skew a little bit to the right that you're still bringing that sort of point of view to the table. Chris: well, let me, let me just jump in there. Dr. Holzman talks about having a shared conceptual framework that Dave and I are talking about the same thing.
So the way I find that we avoid a lot of conflict is we write that down and we get everybody to commit to it. Speaker 1: Okay. Chris: And what we tell the clients is when we do their brand positioning, this is a decisional filter for us and and clients are like us. It's like one minute they want to please this customer and that customer and so we have to hold true to something. And so when we look at that and say this is our filter, so if it doesn't fit in here, we don't do it. You can see brands that that over extend whether it's a car company or something else and they start to move into other territories.
They move out of what their brand stands for. They alienate their customers. So we have to stick to it. Speaker4: Client's work is client's work, but like, fruit and commodity, it's personal. It's, it's my own brand that, our own brand that we're creating. So that's what gets me really, not that I don't get excited with client work, but, but that is my personal excitement, and that's what I do to get away from, I guess kind of what, of course, I play video games and I do really good food. David: I, I think if you mean like creatively know just because I think, you know, I'm already so drained just doing the work in front of me, but which is personal, and I really do enjoy it.
I think that you know our time is limited, so we're very sort of should be all very picky about what we work on because that is you putting your blood, sweat and tears into that work but to, to you know, maybe this doesn't answer the question, but for me, it's actually what's personal is to do something really indirectly related, indirectly related, meaning not creative but like, I like to bike, for example and that to me, is my personal time, I guess. Speaker 1: Chris? Chris: So for me I, I am a strange designer in that I really do enjoy business.
So when I, I have free time, I'm thinking about other businesses to try to invent and dabble in, so it's all kind of messy. Speaker 1: In terms of business reading, you're doing a lot of reading. What, what do you recommend for students? Chris: oh. You're going to ask me that question? Some of my students know me. I don't like to read. Speaker 1: Okay. Chris: I like to just steal concepts as quickly as possible. And so you know, I'll, I'll give, for example, there's this book, it's called Influence. It's about how, how to sell and how to avoid people selling to you. And so I gave it to one of my employees and said read this book and give us a book report on it.
So now When I, when I lecture, I quote from the book even though I've never read the book. Chris: And then I'll buy a book and you know my wife hates me for this. I'll leave the book next to her desk and I just leave it there and then she thumbs through it and she's like, this is an amazing book. Chris: there's this book I was speaking somewhere and somebody says, Chris what you're saying is just like Three Feet from Goal. You should buy it. He really insisted I buy it, so I went on Amazon and bought it. I ordered it, I gave it to my wife and she read it. She said, this is exactly what you think! It's great, I don't have to read the book then. Chris: I, I, I, I have a very short attention span, so I read books and I even bought a book called Designers Don't Read.
I read two pages of it already, so it's, I'm making progress. I, I love buying books. I don't know, I'm hoarding them, I don't know in case there's a shortage of books. Speaker4: For me, it's definitely, I mean, back then I, I was in school a long time ago. So back then, if I could do it again, I would say presentation classes is one of the most important things. It's one thing to be able to design something that's great, it's another thing to be able to explain your ideas and, and, and make people believe in it and I think that's really, really important. Speaker 1: David? David: Geez Chris: This is a hard, this is.
David: Yeah. Chris: A good group, my God. David: Start earlier you know if I could go back in time, I would say like I would have started a business earlier. I mean you know when you're young you have very little to risk actually you think you have a lot to risk actually, but you really don't. You know so fail. If you can fail faster, earlier, even better. I think what happens is once you graduate, I have to get a job. I have to pay off loans or whatever it may be and then more obligations come. And you say one day I'm going to do this and that day never comes actually.
So I think you know that, that the day of, you know there's a lot of people who I think are starting to realize like even when you're in school there's nothing wrong with starting to become a maker, or a creator, or entrepreneur, or businessperson. I mean you could have started this in school too you know? Speaker4: Dammit David: Let's try it out and you know, you know you never know. So. I did start my business two months after graduating, so I must have taken that advice. I guess and then the only thing I could do is drop out earlier. I don't. Chris: That would be it. Or not go at all, right? No, you have to go David: Well I started in the dot com boom.
I mean working for another studio. So I, I saw the rise and the fall. So I can say like when you know, coming outta school everyone was a web designer, you know? Literally and it was like amazing. I mean like you go to work and you had no understanding of what that work environment's supposed to be like. When they would be like when do you want to sign up for your massage? And you're like, what? At your desk? And, and for real. David: And you're like wow, this is amazing! I love work. David: You know very quickly you realize that didn't last very long when the dot com boom crashed.
But I, I think that, we, so I started Hello in '99, so if you remember that, it was still good times then, but very shortly after, not so good times. But the answer to your question is we didn't get affected by it too much actually. And the reason for it was because in '99, we actually had a huge opportunity to grow our business and to hire a lot of people and we actually made a conscious decision to stay small. If you remember that was one of my points at the end and there's a lot of benefits to that.
You know I watched Jerry McGuire, so I took a lot of cues from that, you know it's this Idea of stay small, work on a few clients that you really like and that was sort of you know my, my, my focus. And I think that because we're able to stay small, you're able to financially be more efficient, right? You're not, you know, people are very expensive. So if you've got tons of employees, you're going to burn through your capital very quickly. So obviously if you've got the skills yourself, whether as a designer or a business person, then the cost is to yourself and if you can live affordably, you know, your lifestyle's not crazy, you could probably go for a long time.
So if you're thinking about how long you could sustain your worst case scenario as I like to think of it then, then it's easy actually. So if you say, you know what, what if I have no clients for a year? Zero. Can I sustain myself, can I survive? And then if you accept that, then its easy because the odds of you having zero income or zero clients is probably very low actually. So again, part of it is actually making those, that conscious decision about what level of risk are you willing to take on.
The second round of the series, recorded in late 2014, features Erich Joiner from the design firm Tool, Dave Bullock from the crowdfunding site CrowdRise, and Peter Lunenfield from UCLA talking about the power of media in design. The first panel features the 3x3 group: YO | LAI | DO event, featuring Yo Santosa (Ferroconcrete), David Lai (Hello Design), and Chris Do (BL:ND). This transmedia trio presents projects from the fields of branding, web, and motion design, touching on the challenges of running their own firms and the importance of story, inspiration, and constant evolution.
Art Center professor and lecture series leader Petrula Vrontikis guides both panels in round-table discussions about managing client expectations, overcoming professional uncertainty, and much more.