Thursday, November 20, 2008

AIGA: "Is There Anything Funny about Graphic Design?"

Here is a great article I came across, while looking for some motivation for my current projects:

"Is There Anything Funny about Graphic Design?" by Steven Heller

Groucho Marx’s description of diversity in verbal humor applies as well to graphic wit and humor, but one difference between verbal and design humor is apparent: the latter cannot always be measured by laughter alone. As a selling tool, graphic design humor might be described as a loss leader—a means to grab attention and lure the customer or client into the store. Humor, then, cannot be too outrageous, lest the purpose be defeated. Even as a political weapon, humor similarly functions to sell a message, sometimes by ridicule, but is often subtle or sardonic, not side-splittingly funny. At best, humorous design will force a laugh, bring a smile or cause a double-take, which is nothing to be ashamed of. Indeed, like hypnotic suggestions, the goal of graphic wit and design humor is to subvert the subconscious and thereby earn a market share of memory.


Play is a kind of abandon, yet, as we know from small children, play is their work. In the initial stages of a project (and possibly throughout), the designer ostensibly becomes an adult child, allowing attachments to shift capriciously from one plaything to another. In design, however, playthings are type and image, which are really puzzle pieces to be more or less instinctively moved, juxtaposed, and even mangled and distorted until a serendipitous relationship between formal and contextual problems is achieved. Even the most rigidly systematic design solutions are born of play.

As I've mentioned previously, I am still very much influenced by these sorts of approaches to design, where the human condition is not just a small component, but the very core of communication. Things like this inspire me, and inform what I would love to do for the rest of my career as a designer-hopeful. It is easy to say this, the idea of touching the viewer in a memorable way, but just as Heller suggests, it takes a certain type of knack, a certain type of outlook, to be truly achieved.

I also believe that this can be developed (it does not require design-magic!), not solely within the confines of design blogs and articles, but through extensive living and consideration, through a crisp observance of every nuance in life and its qualitative... qualities; through health and well-being, intelligence, culture, laughter, loss, children, the elderly, French bulldogs and orange cats, as well as just to be an all-around good person.

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