Quotes on design

But, in fact, we are all collective beings, let us place ourselves as we may. For how little have we, and are we, that we can strictly call our own property? We must all receive and learn both from those who were before us, and from those who are with us. Even the greatest genius would not go far if he tried to owe everything to his own internal self. But many very good men do not comprehend that; and they grope in darkness for half a life, with their dreams of originality. I have known artists who boasted of having followed no master, and of having to thank their own genius for everything. Fools! as if that were possible at all; and as if the world would not force itself upon them at every step, and make something of them in spite of their own stupidity. Yes, I maintain that if such an artist were only to survey the walls of this room, and cast only a passing glance at the sketches of some great masters, with which they are hung, he would necessarily, if he had any genius at all, quit this place another and a higher man. And, indeed, what is there good in us, if it is not the power and the inclination to appropriate to ourselves the resources of the outward world, and to make them subservient to our higher ends. I may speak of myself, and may modestly say what I feel. It is true that, in my long life, I have done and achieved many things of which I might certainly boast. But to speak the honest truth, what had I that was properly my own, besides the ability and the inclination to see and to hear, to distinguish and to choose, and to enliven with some mind what I had seen and heard, and to reproduce with some degree of skill. I by no means owe my works to my own wisdom alone, but to a thousand things and persons around me, who provided me with material. There were fools and sages, minds enlightened and narrow, childhood, youth, and mature age—all told me what they felt, what they thought, how they lived and worked, and what experiences they had gained; and I had nothing further to do than to put out my hand and reap what others had sown for me.

 Goethe, quoted in Johann Peter Eckermann’s Conversations of Goethe

“Any design student could do a better job” “I never knew a designer that got hundreds of thousands of dollars to design a logo. Mostly, designers get paid to negotiate the difficult terrain of individual egos, expectations, tastes, and aspirations of various individuals in an organization or corporation, against business needs, and constraints of the marketplace. This is a process that can take a year or more. Getting a large, diverse group of people to agree on a single new methodology for all of their corporate communications means the designer has to be a strategist, psychiatrist, diplomat, showman, and even a Svengali. The complicated process is worth money. That’s what clients pay for. The process, usually a series of endless presentations and refinements, persuasions and proofs, results, hopefully, in an accepted identity design”

Paula Scher

Should a logo be self-explanatory? It is only by association with a product, a service, a business, or a corporation that a logo takes on any real meaning. It derives its meaning and usefulness from the quality of that which it symbolizes.

Paul Rands’ Thoughts on Design

I love systems and despise happenstance. I love ambiguity because, for me, ambiguity means plurality of meanings. I love contradiction because it keeps things moving, preventing them from assuming a frozen meaning, or becoming a monument to immobility. As much as I love things in flux, I love them within a frame of reference – a consistent reassurance that at least and at last I am the one responsible for every detail. And that is why I love Design.

Massimo Vignelli: The Design Canon [pdf]


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