John McWade presents a biweekly series that touches on all areas of design, helping designers new and old sharpen their skills and create more powerful work.
- Maya Lim, on her blog awhile back, wrote something very thoughtful and so obvious, it made me sigh. She was comparing the labels on two otherwise-identical pasta sauce jars, Greenway Organic, a little bit formal and buttoned up, and Brad's Organic, bolder, more free-form, name in Lucida Handwriting with a drop shadow. And she asked, all else being equal, which would you choose? Before confessing that she had opened Brad's Organic first.
And in describing her choice, here's what she had to say. Brad's Lucida Handwriting with a drop shadow is something I can't imagine using today, but years ago, back when Microsoft Paint and Publisher were sources of endless fun, back when I spent hours putting up catalogs and making collages, I'm sure I did. I love drop shadows and strokes and fills and crazy fonts. More meant more fun. With its clashing colors and sundry typefaces, Brad's Organic reminds me of that spontaneity and freedom of childhood.
It reminds me of what designing meant in grade school, when no-one laughed at Comic Sans. It reminds me of the joy of creating something on the home computer and watching it slowly emerge from the printer. And it reminds me the excitement of running around to share my artwork with my family. I love this. What a cool reminder, that fun and joy and spontaneity of childhood and of designing.
I made these labels for our apricot jam, just for the fun of doing it. Every time I see a magazine or buy a new typeface, I play with it. The other day, I found a Bauhaus-style typeface called Macrame Triline, very decorative. And the first name that came to mind was Brittney Bauhaus, my producer, the one with the headset in the next room, so I set her name. It looks like this. Totally cool! It'll look great on her surfboard. Because there's so much pattern in it, try it this way.
Who doesn't do this? Who doesn't learn this way? And yet, that play, that delight in making art like a child is so easy to lose, being all grown up and sophisticated. So easy to get lost in target markets and problem-solving and hammered by demands to produce. And yet, at the heart of things, we design because we love designing. The Latin root of the French word amateur means to love. We do it because we love it. Sometimes we even get paid.
When I set this, I was just trying out a new typeface, one with an entertaining letter G. Maya, writing about poetry for Design Observer, drew this lovely bit of whimsy. The designers of these soda bottles were having all kinds of fun. This very sophisticated magazine spread. Someone had fun with this. And this. And this.
This is intense. Fun doesn't necessarily mean childish. Fun is in the heart that the design comes from. And this. Someone had fun putting this together. I'll have to paraphrase, but Michael Bierut of Pentagram, Michael's one of my design heroes, was asked once what he does for fun or vacations or whatever, and he's like, what does that even mean? I design. This is magic. And so it is. Let me close with a request that you post to the graphic design tips and tricks group a design you've made for fun.
It could be client work, it could be for yourself, any topic, any medium, as long as it came out of that place that loves to design. I look forward to seeing it, and I think it'll have a story to tell. And that's your design for today. See you next time.
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