I was taught to handle both ends of the type spectrum. Meaning, you can hand-draw type, which is lettering, where you’re handling three or four words at the max. I was also taught that a good designer has to be able to handle 300 words or more on a page in typesetting. A good designer needs to handle both.
I tell my designers, “I’m not training you to be a designer beyond school, I’m training you to be a creative director hopefully someday.” Where they can handle all levels of type and whether it’s directing someone for lettering for a specific magazine cover, or you’re directing a staff that has to handle a lot of content. And handling of the content is being overlooked, if you will, in the education part of the design industry.
That’s what we try to bring back, the fundamentals, because it is a little bit more on the ‘technical’ side rather than the ‘art’ side. And I think that for a lot of programs in the universities, and graphic designers starting out, their perspective of what design is in the beginning too, they don’t expect that technicality. I tell them, that’s the beauty of graphic design, the balance between the technical and the art.
That’s why we pride ourselves in the fundamentals like, just going from Roman to Bold. Or a subhead let’s say.
I was taught there’s a process of building up hierarchy on a page and you always start with the body copy. And then you move up to the subhead, then the header, and you work your way up the page. Because everything’s relatively proportioned to one another as you build it. And so there’s a definite process in that.
Designers these days, they don’t like process. They want to jump to making it look good. So I try to drag them through that process a little slower so it sticks in their mind, because I’ve watched a lot of interns and designers come through my office trying to do layout, composition, typesetting, image manipulation, all that, in one shot and waste a lot of time and money.
We were taught the way to layout something, especially for print, is: format, grid, type, composition; and then you can go into—when everything’s copyfitted and everything’s arranged–go back and add images and color last.
If you get your process in place, it can be applied to anything. Whether it’s designing for a yacht, or a magazine spread, or a mobile app, it’s the same mentality because type is always involved. Some of those examples might have more type than others of course, but you always want to have the same mentality because the type always goes on first.
It’s not just the design of the yacht, it’s about the experience of the patrons reserving it. It’s also what the name sounds like and how it appears everywhere. Where does it appear? Does it appear on the back of the boat? If you take that into consideration, consideration of the type, even if it’s only five characters, it should be dealt with as a channel of communication rather than just a logo mark.
You have to emphasize the value of what’s being read there. And that’s what a lot of business execs don’t understand, is that there’s more in those five characters than you think. It’s not just representing the voice of your company and how you sound, it’s how you look, how you speak, whether it’s succinct, professional, luxury, whatever it is, a split second, in that little mark.
And where you place it, needs to be thought out. I know it seems trivial sometimes, it seems like such a small thing, but it’s really important. Especially for branding these days.
An excerpt from my interview with Prescott Perez-Fox on the Busy Creator Podcast.