Collected Insights on Graphic Design

Just like that, Graphic Design Month has come to an end. Of course we’ll continue to publish plenty of graphic-design-related features going forward (as usual) but they won’t be as intensely focused as they have been throughout March. It’s been a great month – we’ve delved into the archives of prominent designers to map their development over the years, both personal and design-wise. We’re selling packs of local zines for the love of print and to support indie publishing. We’ve made lists of up-and-coming young talents in the industry as well as independent design studios. We’ve had a humorous conversation about trends in illustration – from faux “semi-generative” portraits to loooong, twisty limbs. Over the last month we’ve also shared a number of in-depth interviews and that brings us to what we’re sharing today: a collection of some of the most inspiring, thoughtful and interesting design insights from these interviews.

Pola Maneli
Pola Maneli

On socially conscious design…  

“I think, especially in this country, graphic design is undervalued with too many designers having to apply their expertise, as Ken Garland wrote, to “selling dog biscuits” rather than to very important social and political projects that are in need of it. Whose fault this is I can’t say but this is something worth mentioning. It’s a profession with a rich cultural history and it deserves that respect.   The minute you tell one story or decide you know something in your work, this is when it can become dangerous because you can perpetuate problematic social constructions or stereotypes that we already have. One must always push to make new connections, to move away from tradition or the stories we have been told and are told time and time again. For a graphic designer, these questions might be even more pertinent.” – Tuscani Cardoso

“With my process, the point…isn’t about getting ‘there’, it’s about trying to make sure that the images I’m responsible for producing don’t add to the already vast library of insensitive and/or misrepresentative depictions of marginalised people that’s already out there. Not enough people want to acknowledge it, but representation matters. The kid me would have loved to see more depictions of black people outside of the stereotypical narratives that were being presented, but he never got that, and even now we don’t have nearly as much of it as I would like.” – Pola Maneli

“As a student I got into activist art and poster making. I was inspired by the work of Emory Douglas, Grapus, Dumile Feni, Thami Mnyele and the Medu Art Ensemble. At the same time I explored the use of illustration as a medium for communication design. I studied graphic design to attain a solid foundation in traditional communication design. I believed that understanding the art or skill of graphic design might inform more unique visuals to go along with what I would later specialise in. Social commentary allowed me to explore these ideals more. By combining images and text to inspire people out of placidity, my work attempts to tackle some of Africa’s most pressing issues in the form of visual art.” – Sindiso Nyoni  

Tuscani Cardoso
Tuscani Cardoso

What is ‘good’ design?  

“Good design is surprising, inventive, intelligent (rather than clever), betrays the joy of its making and somehow looks effortless. In addition, it might be elegant, timeless and simple, but if it’s only those things it’s also likely to be boring.” – Richard Hart

“Work which deliberately seeks to make the lives of marginalised people just a little bit more bearable, but is also considered enough to be able to do so without infantilising those communities or being condescending either.” – Pola Maneli

“Good design is design that is so simple it almost gets overlooked. It’s obvious and innate. It just makes sense – like a beautifully simple solution to a complicated problem.” – Simone Rossum

“Something that you immediately respond to in a positive way. Fully grasping the concept and understanding its purpose. To me it’s something you feel, like warm sun on your skin. Good design can be analysed, but to me it just is.” – Kronk

Richard Hart
Richard Hart

Client vs. Designer:  

“You need to be the one pushing yourself and clients in new directions. People are more than happy for you to be your own cover band.” – Jordan Metcalf

“I always say if designers ran the show, it would suck. If clients ran the show, it would suck. If designers and clients work together, it will rock.” – Kronk

The importance of concept…  

“Design is not just about making pretty. It has a much more significant role to play. You have to design with intent. Truly great design is based on a sound insight – it’s problem solving. It’s a designed solution. It serves a purpose; it’s not just for the sake of prettifying.” – Simone Rossum

“I think what pushed my work forward was being surrounded by talented people and learning how important a concept in your work is.” – Heidi Chisholm

Jordan Metcalf
Jordan Metcalf

On trends…  

“I think trends in design will always be there and many are cyclic. Now that I have been in this field for a decade, it has become more noticeable. To me, using a knowledge of trends can be good, but the real skill is to evolve these and make something new and not look like a “me too” or derivative designer. This is often the harder path to go down though.” – Kronk

“I hate trends! The very word sends shivers down my spine. That might be a bit harsh, but I do feel that the internet has created this massive glut of very competent design work that all looks the same. This has been going on for years and it feels very destructive to me. I feel that young designers just entering the game go online to Behance or Flickr or whatever and there is this overwhelming sense of what people are doing and it all looks the same and it’s very seductive and easy to emulate and so they do. And sure they do it well – often brilliantly – but it just has no soul whatsoever.” – Richard Hart

Kronk
Kronk

  Do what you love because you love it:

  “The lesson is to not abandon good ideas to the edges of an illustrator art-board just because one art director doesn’t like it. Make the work you want people to pay you to make.” – Jordan Metcalf

“Self-initiated work usually gets you the real work, and this was the case with my first job after university. The head of Equal Education had seen my work on the Barometer Magazine and asked if I could assist in designing a publication they were writing. The publication argued the need for every school to have a library (at the time only 7% had libraries – I don’t think this figure has shifted much in the five years since then). To humanise quite a dry argument we interviewed learners affected by the issue and then put their quotes alongside their portraits as chapter openers throughout the publication. This piece of work combined photography, infographics and text to convey an argument, and set me on a social design trajectory for the next four years.” – Gillian Benjamin

“I’d like to think that [creating outside of my day job] is helping me develop my “creative voice”. We all bring our own experiences, ideals, and points of view to our everyday job, but there isn’t always room for them (with good reason) when there are business objectives on the table. It’s important to know who you are creatively outside of work. It’s also helped me to have a little hands on knowledge as an art director, when working with illustrators or typographers, without overstepping of course.” – Moe Kekana

Heidi Chisholm
Heidi Chisholm

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