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Rules of Engagement

From our dear UPS discussion:

Jon: A lesson I learned in school: if it ain’t working in black and white, it ain’t working. I still find it very valid. David W: Great, when is the last time you got a fax from UPS. With electronic distribution of brand assets, logos no longer need to be “camera ready”. Is there a b/w version of the MSN logo. Yep. Is it the most important version and should it have driven the primary logo? No.

That is probably the first thing they teach you at Logo School: it must work in black and white. I do still abide by that rule all the time, but times, they are a changin’. For good and bad. In schools, less emphasis is put on Graphic Design theory and history and much more on technical (i.e. computer software) know-how. As a result, many Designers have little knowledge of any of the basic rules of Design. Let’s use this thread to “illuminate” people, I’m sure there are rules most of us haven’t even heard about.

— What rules of Graphic Design do you know?

— How or where did you learn about them?

— Which ones do you follow unconditionally?

— Do you like to break them and feel naughté?

And as an added bonus question, are there any “House Rules” where you work? For example, rumor has it that some big branding consultancy doesn’t allow the use of Zapf’s Optima or flush right text… go figure!

Thanks to David W for the topic.

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ARCHIVE ID 1543 FILED UNDER Design Academics
PUBLISHED ON Aug.06.2003 BY Armin
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
luumpo’s comment is:

Speaking as a recent graduate, I didn't learn mostly technical stuff - it was mostly theory and history. But that was because I had one bad-ass prof. and I listened to him. The other two were screw-ups and I've forgotten almost everything they've taught me.

As for rules I've learned: once my prof. showed me Eric Gill's Essay on Typography and I haven't used justified text since. So it wasn't taught to me as a rule, just highly suggested.

On Aug.06.2003 at 09:15 AM
Dan’s comment is:

That's a really interesting point, that technical limitations make the rules as much as or more than good, solid "design principles." The technology-related rule that I'm wondering about these days is the thing our teachers all said: "Come to the computer with your idea sketched out."

I agree that the computer can't come up with a concept for you, but when it comes to working out the design, I have to say that my thumbnails have become more and more half-hearted. I'd feel guilty if I didn't do them, but they don't really serve that much of a purpose when I look back at them (at least no more than visualizing the idea in my head and then putting it together on the computer).

On Aug.06.2003 at 09:17 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

Rules I follow:

: sketch it first, even if it is not pretty

: nail the concept first, not the layout

: look at it in different sizes (for logos)

: look at it upside down (for kerning)

: get it right in black and white (logos, again)

: when it's not working onscreen, go back to paper

: and never use Optima, despite Zapf being the master

My main House Rule, though, is this: the cat can't sleep on the keyboard.

On Aug.06.2003 at 09:40 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

- The computer is *not* just a tool

- Pencils are still useful, though

- Graphic design is a business. Remember that.

- The client is *always* right. If you think they're wrong, you didn't do your job convincing them of 'right' (yea, yea, exceptions noted...)

- Project Management. It's important. Figure it out.

Our school taught very little computer skills. This was good in that it let us focus on theory and practice, but it was also bad because we were pumping out a lot of techno-idiots that couldn't use the tools of the trade. (no...you see you NEED to convert your type...oops...you forgot the images that you had imported...no...RGB isn't the best for printing...no, 99 layers in photoshop isn't a good idea...no...you can't separate CMYK into two pantone colors...yes...a PDF...I need a PDF...MAKE A PDF DAMMIT!...)

As for general rules, it is important to learn to learn them. I remember looking at a student's portfolio a while back. An amazing portfolio...really great style. Very trendy, but executed incredibly well.

Most were school projects, but then we got to one of his real clients...a septic tank installation company. He had made an identity and set of brochures for a septic tank company using the MTVesque uber-trendy (did I use 'uber' correctly there?) style. He failed to realize that rule #1 is to see what the client needs. ;o)

(Last I heard, he's a big-shot designer in a reputable firm, so who am I to judge, eh?)

Anyways, I see a lot of portfolios akin to that. Lots of clearly fictional student projects with lots of great style, but very little practical design. This isn't unlike many new architecture graduates either.

And my point? Umm...oh yea...rules...students should learn them, or else they can't justify their solutions that break them.

On Aug.06.2003 at 09:47 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Oh...unconditional rules I follow:

- Whenever possible (software accomodating) I hang my punctuation.

- Form follows function

- When possible, design in a group setting

- Don't indent + space your paragaphs ;o)

- Check for widows/orphans

- in publication design, make that grid!

- get the content *first*...then design (though that rarely gets followed in real life).

On Aug.06.2003 at 09:50 AM
luumpo’s comment is:

As an aside, what is wrong with Optima? I don't like the face, but what is up with people banning it?

On Aug.06.2003 at 10:04 AM
Bram’s comment is:

A few guiding principles I've tried to follow over the years —

from my typography teacher: conflict (contrast) creates interest;

from Bringhurst: "typography exists to honor content;"

from the business world: your real client is your client's client;

from Wurman, ask questions, even (and especially) the obvious ones;

from Gill: "the problem is the problem."

And. . . maybe not an office-wide rule, but within the bounds of my office, there's no horizontal scaling of type allowed.

On Aug.06.2003 at 10:11 AM
Armin’s comment is:

>there's no horizontal scaling of type allowed.

Nor vertical. If there is ever accreditation in the US, designers who scale type horizontally or vertically should, by all means, not be certfied, accredited and if possible banned from doing any more business as a Graphic Designer. And lastly, he or she should be taken to the town's square and be humilliated publicly.

On Aug.06.2003 at 10:15 AM
kyle’s comment is:

Some of the rules I picked up:

-> Don't use more than two fonts in a design. (I still feel guilty if I break this rule)

-> If you use two fonts, one should be sans and the second serif. (I never liked this rule, but I think it's good when you're starting out)

-> Fill a page with sketches before you even think about touching the computer

-> My favorite: push your ideas/concepts as far as you can, because it's easier to reel in a great idea than to keep pushing a weak idea.

As for my learning experience, it was a lot of theory, some technical (on computers and off) and a dash of history. I sometimes wish I had more of the history to draw from, but I don't think it's hurt me overall.

On Aug.06.2003 at 10:19 AM
Bram’s comment is:

... and: spelling counts; read what you design.

On Aug.06.2003 at 10:23 AM
jonsel’s comment is:

oh yeah, along with that scaling issue: just because you can make type look like a fish, doesn't mean you should.

On Aug.06.2003 at 10:42 AM
Nathan’s comment is:

As a web designer:

- Avoid designs which require horrible table layouts to achieve.

- Avoid using images for buttons. It is maintenance headache.

- Design the information architecture before designing the look and feel.

- The customer is not always right, and some customers you don't want to keep. It is however part of our job to try to steer them into the right direction through reasoned explanation, not "because we know better and we say so".

On Aug.06.2003 at 10:57 AM
Amanda’s comment is:

- always start with a thumbnail/sketch

- check for widows

- look at the design upside down

On Aug.06.2003 at 11:02 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Some rules for Tan's design house

1. No disproportionate scaling of anything -- fonts or images. Penalty by shame and banishment.

2. Always use points and picas if there's any type involved. Inches are for wusses and amateurs.

3. Work mathematically -- using x,y positioning values, not snap to guides. A file packed with guidelines is meaningless to anyone else who needs to work on the file.

4. Avoid typesetting laziness and shortcuts. Stylesheets should be correctly built. A clean file is a mark of a master designer.

5. When designing logos, avoid handwriting, scripty fonts or distressed fonts. If you need handwriting -- write it. If you need distressed -- distress it yourself.

6. A logo should be considered to be the minimum, most effective signature for a company. The more minimalist it is, the more effective. That's the primary reason why the 1-color rule still applies most -- not because of fax and reproduction issues.

7. Never, ever use blur drop shadows for print.

8. For display type, if you need a hard drop shadow -- create a proper one in illustrator and align the corners properly. Don't be lazy and dupe and shift a shadow in the layout.

Had a friend who worked at Vignelli in NY. Story goes the old man only allowed five typefaces in the house for everything that was done. Everything. Totally true -- just ask Michael Beirut.

On Aug.06.2003 at 11:08 AM
David W’s comment is:

The more minimalist it is, the more effective.

Whuh? That looks like a fact and sounds like a fact, but that's no fact.

On Aug.06.2003 at 11:14 AM
Adam Waugh’s comment is:

"Best way to start a design is with a bottle of wine". --Weingart

On Aug.06.2003 at 11:26 AM
Tan’s comment is:

I didn't mean to state it as an empirical, scientific fact -- just one I happen to believe in. Of course there are exceptions to every rule -- but the idea of "less is more" is nothing new to design. I strongly believe it's most applicable in logo design.

obviously David, you can disagree.

On Aug.06.2003 at 11:30 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

>The more minimalist it is, the more effective.

>Whuh? That looks like a fact and sounds like a fact, but that's no fact.

Agree with Dave. Sometimes less is just...less.

On Aug.06.2003 at 11:32 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Sometimes less is just...less.

And sometimes more is just plain stupid.

I side with Tan on this one.

On Aug.06.2003 at 11:34 AM
David E.’s comment is:

I once saw an old design book (circa 1970, i think) that reproduced several ad agencies guidelines for their in-house typesetters. I was amazed at how many very specific rules they had for specific faces, such as "With Franklin Gothic, between the sizes of blah blah, punctuation must be scaled to blah blah." It made me realize that so much information that typesetters once knew (thay designers never needed to know) has probably been lost. I'd love to see someone do some research and compile different sets of rules that typesetters once followed.

As far as education goes, I know that Art Center (to their credit) doesn't emphasize computer skills at all in their design classes (except for, of course, web design). They do offer classes in basic software programs for students lacking in that area.

On Aug.06.2003 at 11:55 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

And sometimes that “more” is a bit of a rip-off.

On Aug.06.2003 at 12:09 PM
jumpingcow’s comment is:

if they pushed therory rather than practice at your institution, consider yourself lucky. anyone can take a $100-a-credit course at community college or buy a $30 book to learn photoshop. but learning how to think is invaluable.

i studied advertising at penn state. i took a course called "graphic design for communications majors." on the first day of class, the prof tells us, "you'll probably need to use quark in this course. i don't know how to use it; but you might want to learn." but i still feel like i got a great educations, the above quote notwithstanding, because they focused on conceptual thinking, instead of being tied to software.

of course, this can be a big pain your first year in the game, and you'll piss off a lot of sr. designers along the way... but you'll get to be a senior designer yourself a lot faster that way.

anyway... "rules of design?"

� system fonts are for suckers.

� option-8 is your friend.

� better to under-correct an image in photoshop than to over-correct it.

� please, god, no fake bold or fake italics.

� and the most important one:

80% of design is a matter of personal taste.

On Aug.06.2003 at 12:13 PM
David E.’s comment is:

Had a friend who worked at Vignelli in NY. Story goes the old man only allowed five typefaces in the house for everything that was done.

I don't think I'd have any problem living by that rule. One of the best things I was taught was to pick a small core group of typefaces and make them your best friends...meaning, get to know them really well and rely on them. If anything, I stick to that rule a little too much. Maybe I need to expand my horizons.

On Aug.06.2003 at 12:13 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> And sometimes that “more” is a bit of a rip-off.

Which if you look, at and squint your eyes, it itself is a ripoff — everything goes back to Rand.

On Aug.06.2003 at 12:18 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Tan beat me to the typography rules, but only because my computer crashed in the middle of writing them out here. And yeah, its true about Vignelli--Helvetica, Bodoni, Century, Times Roman, Futura. While I disagree on a personal level, for the sake of functionality he's right (as long as he allows for Helvetica Neue, because of its vast range).

Anyway.

1. Yes, points and picas. Not only are inches a sign of amateur design, they weaken the page structure on a very basic level I think. If you make measurements and decisions based on the same units for your type, then proportionally things will be more cohesive. To take it one step further, some people insist on 72.254 points per inch, but I personally prefer 72. I guess it doesn't make too much difference.

2. H&Js. Don't use Quark defaults--its easy to do, and totally understandable, but there are a couple of other settings that greatly improve readability, and on a secondary level, the look of large text blocks. I suggest for most instances to set your minimum spacing to 60%, optimum to 70%, and 80% as your maximum. I personally try to avoid having ANY hyphens whatsoever, but that's a personal thing. 80% 100% 100% is also a decent setting.

3. If you use hypens, don't have one on the first line of a paragraph or column, nor should there be one on the bottom of a page. Do not end lines with a preposition--break in phrases to the best of your ability. Do not end two consecutive lines with the same word.

4. Do not use auto leading, its untouched and unrefined. Whatever you use as an alternate is probably better; I like to at least add 4 pts to 8 and 10 pt type, and I tend to go up proportionally from there. It all depends though.

5. Track out body text that's smaller than 12 pts, usually to about "3" in Quark. I'm not sure what that translates to in InDesign. Conversely, track it in for display copy. Both measures improve readability.

6. Paragraph spacing. I dislike full returns, but I also can't stand it when people use too LITTLE space between paragraphs. Lately I've been using the size of the typeface as my "space after," and its been working well.

7. Use small caps for abbreviations if the typeface includes them. Old-style numbers if its an old-style face.

8. Hierarchy. I'm a proponent of the no more than two fonts guideline--look at it this way. You can separate one type element from another through a couple of things: spacing, size, weight, color, style (caps vs. lc vs. u&lc) and face. You only need to do one to make it work, anything else is overkill.

9. Style sheets are good and every office should develop a system for building and naming them. This is a lifesaver.

For everything else, I'm pretty open. Yeah, some people are big fans of sketch first then do--me being one of them. But why people think that there's but ONE way to design and approach a project mystifies me. You know Guy Billout? One of the coolest illustrators ever? He was conducting an impromptu class one time, and a buddy of mine was in it--my buddy don't like sketching, he prefers to just start off in Mya or whatever he's using. Billout looks at his work and asks if he started on the computer as opposed to sketchpad. Yes, he replies. Billout says "That's fantastic! I bet you get a lot of gief for that, but don't stop. If that's how you work best, then keep doing it."

Good advice. Find what WORKS FOR YOU, not for someone else. There are many different ways to approach design, and sketching first isn't necessarily the best. It's like the cliche about your first ideas always sucking. Sometimes yes, but not in every case.

On Aug.06.2003 at 12:22 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>Story goes the old man only allowed five typefaces in the house for everything that was done.

Going a bit off topic again, but I did a typeface based on those 5 fonts. I believe he refers to them as his "Mafia" of typefaces. So I did this deconstructive typeface (based on Vignelli's love for the style) and called it Mafia. I think I even emailed it to him when I finished it... long time ago.

On Aug.06.2003 at 12:25 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> So I did this deconstructive typeface (based on Vignelli's love for the style) and called it Mafia.

dude, what the hell were you thinking sending it to him? Doesn't it seem like making a mockery of his philosophy? I like the face, but I wouldn't have expected a positive response from Vignelli.

big balls Armin.

----

While I'm at it, a point about justified text.

Unless you've worked at Rolling Stones or an equally notable editorial, no one is allowed to use justified text. It's not that it's evil -- it's just one of those things that only skilled typesetters can pull off correctly. Most people can't, so rivers and bastard hyphenations result. Students are the worst culprits.

Anyone here have rules they live by for left just. ragging? Do you prefer in-and-out patterns, gentle waves, or castle turrets? Type geek test here.

On Aug.06.2003 at 12:42 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>dude, what the hell were you thinking sending it to him?

He probably just ignored the email. This was like 5-6 years ago. I barely knew who he was and this was when David Carson was my ultimate hero. I wouldn't send it to him again today.

>Doesn't it seem like making a mockery of his philosophy?

I would call it a "Pro-active critique."

On Aug.06.2003 at 12:47 PM
Jonathan ’s comment is:

On the original note.

Currently, I am at a student at the California College of the Arts (was California College of Arts and Crafts) where they teach a good amount of history and theory. I am pleased with amount of actual design theory they provide there with and excellent group of well known professors. Of course we learn the in and outs of the software, but it is not the focus of the curriculum. Some schools still teach the fundamentals of good design.

On a later note.

One well known designer is know for "More is more."

On Aug.06.2003 at 01:16 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Any color combination rules? Or stuff like purple=royalty, red=love?

On Aug.06.2003 at 01:34 PM
Paul’s comment is:

One rule that I always seem to be arguing about is: "Don't use a logomark in a sentence." Marketing managers always want me to do this, and no matter how effectively I convince them in December that it is a lousy idea, come June they don't understand again.

I'd love to know what others think about this "rule". Do you have difficulty explaining it? Is it merely dogma or does it really make sense?

Sometimes I hear myself going through some variation on a "Your logo is a symbol that represents the character and values of your product/organization!" spiel, and I wonder how many designers in other conference rooms around the world are saying those same words at that exact moment...

On Aug.06.2003 at 01:42 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Any color combination rules? Or stuff like purple=royalty, red=love?

In packaging:

green: decaf, low-fat

silver: tartar control

black: premium

yellow/red combo: pain relief

light brown: organic, healthy

anything "violating" a package in red: new

fun, isn't it?

On Aug.06.2003 at 01:43 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

>Anyone here have rules they live by for left just. ragging? Do you prefer in-and-out patterns, gentle waves, or castle turrets? Type geek test here.

I prefer to let the first line guide the following line lengths, break in phrases, and go for an in-and-out pattern. I find that this style is not too distracting and reads quickly and easily, whereas the gentle waves look too soft and castle turrets are too regular. This is pretty objective territory, but interesting nonetheless.

As far as justified text, I agree. But InDesign now has a feature in which you can allow for individual glyphs to be compressed or expanded by small increments--its possible to get away with a 97%-103% range, which really isn't too bad. This solves a lot of problems that justified text poses otherwise.

You set your financials in justified style, right?

On Aug.06.2003 at 01:51 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>black: premium

Every time I see this brand of ice cream I always think "Man, that is a good use of black to make it look more premium." I do, really. The quality of the illustrations helps too, but that black cap is quite "premium" to me.

>silver: tartar control

Nice! It's like using white for packaged shit.

>fun, isn't it?

Very!

On Aug.06.2003 at 02:00 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> You set your financials in justified style, right?

...actually, never. There are just too many rounds of revisions for annual financials that'd make justified text impractical. I'm not a big fan of justified anyhow. Brochures now and then or a print ad, but nuthin large.

On Aug.06.2003 at 03:14 PM
David E.’s comment is:

For display type, if you need a hard drop shadow -- create a proper one in illustrator and align the corners properly. Don't be lazy and dupe and shift a shadow in the layout.

Tan, could you explain this? Why are drop shadows done in a quark layout inferior? I've always done them this way...just curious.

Actually, my own rule for drop shadows would be never, unless running type over a photo with too many contrasting areas for the type to be readable.

I have to admit, i've scaled photos disproportionately many times to make my life easier...and no one's ever noticed. ;) I dont do it with type, though, ever.

On Aug.06.2003 at 03:19 PM
David E.’s comment is:

Any color combination rules? Or stuff like purple=royalty, red=love?

I've done work for the Hispanic market where purple is always avoided, as it's associated with death and funerals. Im sure many other cultures have color sensitivity issues as well.

On Aug.06.2003 at 03:22 PM
Brent’s comment is:

I've done work for the Hispanic market where purple is always avoided...

someone should tell the Chicago Tribune that.

...doesn't exito mean success?

On Aug.06.2003 at 03:29 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Tan, could you explain this? Why are drop shadows done in a quark layout inferior? I've always done them this way...just curious.

sure David. I guess 'hard shadows' is a slightly incorrect term -- it's more of a dimensional shadow. See the example below. Notice the edges. Btw, this took 5 secs to do so it's not that much more work.

The advantage is that the corners are smoother, the type holds better over an image because it's cleaner, and....well, it's just more correct.

I rarely use hard shadows except on a cover or poster now and then. I remember getting this rule from a Herbert Bayer book or some other type text when I was in school. Always made more sense to me.

On Aug.06.2003 at 03:40 PM
Tan’s comment is:

I just remembered -- the shadow rule came from a thing I read on Woody Pirtle eons ago.

On Aug.06.2003 at 03:46 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

I didn't catch up with this until the end of the day, so most of my rules are already taken. but here goes:

1 Never use Optima or ITC Garamond.

2 Never scale type horizontally or vertically.

3 Never spec linen paper, except to be funny.

4 If it's almost the same, make it exactly the same.

5 If it's big and ugly, it's not big enough.

or

5 (alternate) If it looks wrong, make it bigger. If it still looks wrong, make it red.

6 "Its" is a possessive; "it's" is a contraction of "it is" (not really design but bad spelling ruins good design)

and for you students out there...

7 The cover letter should look like the resume.

Now, about those five typefaces. I worked for Massimo for 10 years. We actually used more than 5 typefaces. But he had a point. Here they are:

1 - 3

Always on the list:

Bodoni, Garamond #3, Futura.

4 (old)

Popular when I started (1980), not so popular by the time I left (1990):

Helvetica

4 (new)

Late eighties replacement for Helvetica:

Univers

5

Be careful with this one:

Century Expanded, preferably from Berthold. Never Century Schoolbook or Oldstyle.

Okay to use for special occasions:

Clarendon, Janson Italic (not Roman!), Egyptian Bold, Avant Garde (even in the 80s), that lovely condensed sans serif on page 105 of Lettera Volume 1 by Armin Haab and Alex Stocker, and (gasp!) Optima (all caps only -- check out the graphics at the restaurant Palio in Manhattan).

Never used for some reason, although I don't really know what's wrong with them, among many others:

Bembo, Sabon, Perpetua, Beton, Franklin Gothic, News Gothic.

I think Massimo actually thought these were the "best" typefaces. I thought that since most readers couldn't tell the difference between Garamond, Sabon and Bembo, why not just pick one, use it all the time, and come up with better design concepts with the time you save?

Great topic, by the way.

On Aug.06.2003 at 04:34 PM
jim coudal’s comment is:

Know when to leave well enough alone.

On Aug.06.2003 at 04:51 PM
Jeffb’s comment is:

Stationary means it don't move

Stationery means I get paid to put your logo on it.

j

On Aug.06.2003 at 04:53 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

....actually, never. There are just too many rounds of revisions for annual financials that'd make justified text impractical. I'm not a big fan of justified anyhow. Brochures now and then or a print ad, but nuthin large.

Its frustrating but possible--we did it on both Ryder's and Snap-on's books this year. Whether or not we do it AGAIN remains to be seen...

On Aug.06.2003 at 05:16 PM
Rick G’s comment is:

3 Never spec linen paper, except to be funny.

This cracked me up.

Stationery means I get paid to put your logo on it.

So did this.

-R

On Aug.06.2003 at 05:27 PM
Tan’s comment is:

The whole Optima hatemail here reminded me of a little excerpt from the an old branding book. It's amazing that Optima has universally branded an entire industry.

...and don't misunderstand, I'm not defending the font. I detest it also. Just thought this was interesting.

On Aug.06.2003 at 05:41 PM
Krystal Hosmer’s comment is:

� system fonts are for suckers.

� option-8 is your friend.

� please, god, no fake bold or fake italics.

� and the most important one:

80% of design is a matter of personal taste.

Oh, do I ever agree with these! Especially the first one.

My other personal rules:

� No Helvetica, Arial or Courier unless there are death threats being leveled at you.

� CONTRAST!!!!! What's the point if you can't read the type?

� I also agree with that mention of NOT using Quark's auto hyphenation. No hypens for me, thanks.

not design rules persay but....

� It's ok to walk away from a client that is more trouble then they are worth.

� NEVER, EVER sign an unlimited hours retainer. My firm has done this twice and aside from the obvious opportunity for client abuse, it really makes us designers feel as if our design is not worth a damn thing because mgmt. feels that it is ok to GIVE IT AWAY in order to keep media or consulting business.

On Aug.06.2003 at 05:47 PM
David E.’s comment is:

I do packaging and branding for a company that makes cosmetic type products...and i've done several thick and thin san serif logotypes. I've never used optima, though...I always start with a serif face and chop them off.

What i want to know is, why is ITC Garamond so universally hated? It works so well for so many things (like print ads and direct mail). I mean, you obviously wouldn't use it for an elegant look, but it certainly has it's place.

On Aug.06.2003 at 06:41 PM
Katie’s comment is:

I have to say it with the others...this is a great topic. I always wonder if I'm destined to perpetually break some design rule that I've never learned.

Some of the most important rules seem to be the most obvious but nonetheless, I see them broken all the time. For instance, I think that it's imperative to actually read the content which you are designing. I've worked with so many people who, when questioned about their designs, reveal that they haven't even bothered to read the content.

Yikes.

On Aug.06.2003 at 06:45 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

Here's a little tip: If it's a print piece, print it out before sending to the client. Seems obvious, but these days, with PDF being the normal mode of delivery for revisions, it's too easy to forget. What seems to work on screen doesn't always work when printed.

And, you know, I used Optima once. For a logo. I customized it, though, to be less pointy and more uniform in width. Does that make me a bad person?

On Aug.06.2003 at 07:57 PM
felix’s comment is:

Which if you look (squint)...everything goes back to Rand.

Rand Shmand. C'mon, Armin! Next time youre in NY come by the studio and I'll let you have your way with my design annuals from the 50's and 60's. Designers that endlessly point to Rand for all things holy arent squinting enough.

On Aug.06.2003 at 08:27 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

why is ITC Garamond so universally hated?

That ridiculous x-height does it for me. It just strips any elegance from the face that a proper Garamond should have. It's typical of Ed Benguiat's work; he loves those big x-heights.

On Aug.06.2003 at 08:29 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

Yes, points and picas. Not only are inches a sign of amateur design, they weaken the page structure on a very basic level I think.

Inches a sign of amateur design? Sorry, Tan, with all due respect, I had to laugh at that rule. ;o)

Granted, I'd have to agree that North American paper sizing (based on inches) is silly compared to the European rest of the world system.

Never spec linen paper, except to be funny.

Oh yes! I forgot all about linen paper. That at thermographed business cards. Blech!

Late eighties replacement for Helvetica:

Univers

I find a full set of Univers to be the Swiss Army Knife of typefaces. If you can afford it, get it.

On Aug.06.2003 at 08:50 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> Designers that endlessly point to Rand for all things holy arent squinting enough.

I mentioned Rand simply because of the fact that he did the Enron logo, which is angled like the Polaroid logo, which is very similar to the Altria logo. That's all, Rand is great but I don't "endlessly" cite him as holy.

> Next time youre in NY come by the studio

Only if there is some grandpa slush waiting for me.

On Aug.06.2003 at 10:18 PM
Amanda’s comment is:

since we are talking fonts & I tend to sidetrack - I have been obessed with frutiger lately. Anybody hate it? like it?

I agree that ITC Garamond is evil.

Funny font story. When I was in school we had a combo editorial illustration & design project. This one gal used *gasp* HOBO for her title jazz on the layout. When crit time came around the instructor looked at her design, shook his head, and the only thing he said was "Class, NEVER UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES USE THIS FONT IN YOUR DESIGNS. Please. Oh please." the he just moved on to the next one.

eehee, I wonder what her mark was.

That is just about as bad as comic sans.

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:37 AM
Dave’s comment is:

Really great topic. So many good, useful, and humorous rules. I've come in late and I see most of the rules I try and follow and alot of new ones. Thanks Bradley. I've always wondered about tweeking the H&Js. I've been using 85%, 90%, 110%. I'll have to try your settings.

Some of these are less design specific:

Always start with your Headpad. Pencil-schmencil.

Print the type out. If its print, always print it, then take a good look at it.

Never say never. Always avoid always. (A. Ma)

Part of business is being there and you can't be part of business if you're not there.

If you don't stand for something, you will fall for anything.

Almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.

Don't say "I intended for ... " or "this is supposed to be ..." You either did or you didn't.

Think about oblique strategies.

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:48 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> Yes, points and picas. Not only are inches a sign of amateur design, they weaken the page structure on a very basic level I think.

Inches a sign of amateur design? Sorry, Tan, with all due respect, I had to laugh at that rule. ;o)

hey Darrel, I don't mess w/ your pixels man. Besides, Bradley's who you actually quoted, so I'm not alone.

The fact is, for any print designer who works on type-intensive projects like annual reports, catalogs, or editorials -- points and picas become your one obsession in life. You start using it for everything. A business card is a nifty 21p wide by 12 p tall. You think 51p x 66 p instead of 8.5 x 11". Hell, I'm 402 picas tall, or 4824 points.

My wife, who is a print production designer, is worse. She used to work on a ton of annuals and catalogs. She remembers and converts everything into even more precise points, not just picas.

Think I'm kidding? Ask some of the other print nuts out there. Guys, am I alone here?

One more thing, since 1 point converts beautifully to 1 pixel (Illustrator file to Photoshop)-- being able to work comfortably in points and picas makes it easier for a designer to work in both print and web.

I stand by my assertion Darrel. Inches is for amateurs -- at least it does for print.

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:03 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Oh, one more thing about the beauty of points and picas: the system is a base 12 increment, which makes it divisible by 2 or 3.

Inches is base 16, and metrics is base 10. Neither are divisible by 3, so eventually, you'd have to deal with fraction increments. What does that mean? That means if you need to divide an 8.5x11" sheet of paper into 3 folds, you're screwed unless you use picas. Because 11" / 3 = 3.666666667 while 66picas / 3 = a perfect, precise 22 picas.

This is just one example out of hundreds more.

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:15 AM
Keith Tam’s comment is:

Gread thread!

The rules I (try to) live by:

1. Read the bloody content before you do anything with it! 'Typography exist to honor and elucidate content.' —Bringhurst

2. Our job is to communicate, often on our clients' behalf. Design for the users first, then design for ourselves. (Never deny our egotistical side as designers; design for ourselves too!)

3. Without contrast, we're dead.

4. Modernism is dead. Design for our time, but avoid superficial trends.

5. Use logics and intuition when you design — you're never merely 'solving problems'.

6. There are no inherently bad typefaces, it's how we use them that matters most. But there are indeed badly made typefaces. Typefaces with the same name made by different foundries are not the same.

7. All typefaces used must be paid for!

8. Work from the typography up: details first, big concept next. Address the textual content and its visual form and evaluate the users' requirements before moving on to the big concept.

9. Be passionate!

10. All rules are meant to be broken, as long as we learn them first. Nothing is absolute; forget about what 'good' design is meant to look like!

etc, etc...

there's no horizontal scaling of type allowed.

Did you know some typefaces were designed with horizontal/vertical scaling in mind? For example Gerard Unger's Coranto, Vesta and Gulliver, and Jean-Fran�ois Porchez's Costa? They can be scaled by certain degrees without being distorted. Clever, eh?

The computer is *not* just a tool

Couldn't agree more. Especially when it comes to typography. If you don't know about the software and the technicalities of digital typefaces (to a certain degree), it is hard, if not impossible, to create well-executed typographic designs.

Don't use more than two fonts in a design.

Nonsense. It all depends on what you want to achieve. My version would be, use no more typefaces than you really need. But that could be anything!

Always use points and picas if there's any type involved. Inches are for wusses and amateurs.

I totally agree. For a mathematically-challenged idiot like me, picas and points make much more sense than those bloody fractions! But sadly, it seems that hardly anyone in my generation (ahem, I'm 25) know about picas.

Never, ever use blur drop shadows for print.

Maybe not for type, but there are times when you want to set an object onto a different visual plane. Soft shadows would come in handy then.

Had a friend who worked at Vignelli in NY. Story goes the old man only allowed five typefaces in the house for everything that was done. Everything.

Never believe him! We need as many typefaces as we can get our hands on, why not?! We need variety in life, and besides, many typefaces are designed for specific purposes, for example signage, or small text like footnotes, etc. There are many typefaces out there for a reason. How about for marketing and branding? Imagine using nothing but Bodoni, Times Roman, Helvetica, Century and Univers for corporate identities?!

System fonts are for suckers.

Not always. There are plenty of good system fonts around. Look, you're reading from a system font right now (Georgia). In web design system fonts are your friends ;-)

Option-8 is your friend.

Sometimes. But oftentimes it's too big and too black. I find myself using Option-Shift-8 a bit.

Unless you've worked at Rolling Stone or an equally notable editorial, no one is allowed to use justified text. It's not that it's evil -- it's just one of those things that only skilled typesetters can pull off correctly. Most people can't, so rivers and bastard hyphenations result. Students are the worst culprits.

I generally hate justification for its uneven wordspaces — very distruptive for reading. It's hard for clients to understand this, as they think the columns are cleaner, hence more inviting to read. Couldn't be more untrue. But as someone else pointed out already, InDesign is the key to good justification.

Anyone here have rules they live by for left just. ragging? Do you prefer in-and-out patterns, gentle waves, or castle turrets? Type geek test here.

I tend to break for sense rather than for form. I tend to leave the rag as it is unless it's unbarably unsightly. If I had to choose, I prefer in-and-out patterns. I try by best to avoid widows and orphans.

Never use Optima or ITC Garamond.

Optima is one of the most beautiful sanserifs created. We could only blame its overuse. Though I must admit it's a rather difficult type to use well. Perhaps only Zapf can use it? There's a new version of Optima called Optima Nova created by Akira Kobayashi of Linotype in close collaboration with Zapf. It's an improvement, I think. It now has true italics, small caps, oldstyle figures as well as a display version with lots of ligatures.

The same us often said about Palatino. But I think it's just because it's the system Palatino (Linotype?) that we most often seen. That version is absolutely dire, no doubt. But there are other cuts of Palatino that are much more graceful.

ITC Garamond is not that bad, really. IMHO it could be used very well. Just look at the Dorling Kindersley eye-witness guides.

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:19 AM
Keith Tam’s comment is:

Errata:

'Great thread!' not 'gread'.

'Option-Shift-9' for the midpoint, not 'Option-Shift-8'.

'unbearably', not 'unbarably'.

Sorry :-P

K.

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:26 AM
Sam’s comment is:

Glad to see someone mention H&Js, although I would suggest that you need to customize your standard setting based on the typeface, point size, and measure of your text (and take into consideration the text itself: lots of foreign names will give you more troubles than basic fiction).

I start with a +/- 15% on the space value (top row of 3 boxes in Quark), usually something in the neighborhood of 85 / 100 / 115. 100% is a good place to start because it's the precise width of the spacebar character built into the typeface you've chosen, and with most typefaces you can assume the maker set that width for a reason.

But don't stop there! I usually make 5-6 sets of H&Js for each book I typeset. The general rule use is, the optimum space value decreases and increases by 5-10% for each set of H&Js, and the min/max values go under/over the optimum by 10-15%.

For the character space, my feeling is only 0% across the board is correct. Giving Quark leeway to adjust the character spacing means you lose control over letterspacing, and we know what Frederick Goudy said about that. (Naturally, you must edit the kerning tables to fix localized letterspace problems.) I have used -.5% and even -1% for Emigre faces because they can looked letterspaced at the normal setting. I never give Quark a plus/minus value for character spacing.

Once you do this, you have a set of H&Js that work like style sheets in the paragraph formats box (and work dynamically if you hold down option when you click "apply"). It's the easiest way to fix loose lines, widows, bad hyphenation, bad word breaks, rivers, everything.

If justified text was good enough for Gutenberg and Aldus, maybe there's something to it...

Don't even get me started on baseline sink.

On Aug.07.2003 at 08:46 AM
Armin’s comment is:

How about rules for layouts and grids? Anybody use the Golden Mean?

On Aug.07.2003 at 09:12 AM
Dave’s comment is:

Don't even get me started on baseline sink.

Please Sam, get started. I usually want to baseline paragraphs, but I have difficulty with the space after, if i want space after a paragraph it has to be a full return. Do you use Quark's snap to baseline? Any tips for baseline usage?

On Aug.07.2003 at 09:38 AM
Sam’s comment is:

Well, it's a problem to have anything other than a full linespace after a paragraph because the baselines are likely not to align across columns or spreads or back-to-back on pages. Depending on what the text is, baseline alignment may or may not be more important than the space-after.

I would warn folks against using Lock to Baseline Grid because you lose control over typesetting. Better to keep an eye on the grid alignment manually--it's analog, but reliable.

My baseline sink trick is a little hard to describe. You have to have the first line of the baseline grid start one line higher than the first text baseline. Then set the text box baseline sink to match the leading. Then snap the text box to the top baseline grid line. Voila, the text is on the first text baseline. This achieves 3 things:

- if you lower the text box (say a picture is on the top half of the page), you can snap the text box to any baseline grid line and the text will rest properly on the next baseline.

-if you have a head in the first line of the text box that's bigger than the text type, or if you have a superscript, the whole line (and the whole text box) won't get pushed off the baseline. (If the head is really big, double the baseline sink, add another grid line at the top, and snap.)

-captions, sidebars, any other text boxes on the page are easy to base-align in the same way. If captions have less leading, you can at least have the first line of the caption base-align with the text.

Also: An easy way to have a consistent space between picture and caption: use space/align to set zero space between picture box and caption box, and baseline sink (in the text box, not the text itself) the caption to whatever you want. If the boxes are touching and the sink is right, you know the space between is the same throughout the document.

On Aug.07.2003 at 10:35 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> How about rules for layouts and grids?

I like to use odd number column grids, either 5, 7 or 9. There's built in asymmetry, and of course, the more columns, the more flexible the grid -- up to a point.

Gutters vary from 1p to 1p3.

Other basic stuff. Inside margins for perfect bound books/annuals should be 1p3 - 1p6 more than outside margins to compensate for the spread gutter.

Layout rules are more visceral for me. Rhythm and pacing should be filtered from macro to micro -- ie. first the pagination, then grid, and then layout. The rest is like typographic/layout Feng Shui.

And I agree w/ Sam. I don't trust lock to baseline grid. Takes too much control away. Better to align manually by the numbers always. All book designers live by their H&J's.

Any editorial designers out there? A seasoned designer for a good magazine or newspaper can put the average designer to shame with his or her bag of typographic kung fu.

On Aug.07.2003 at 11:29 AM
Rick G’s comment is:

Hmmm, a day later and the topic is still hot.

1) Univers can do almost anything. I don't like it much, but few faces are as versatile. Helvetica Neue is my go-to type, though I think it might have been stained by it's current trendiness.

2) House Industries: Nice to look at, cheeseball to use. I am so glad the "Crackhouse" days are over.

2.5) Licko does great work, but damn is it hard to use.

3) I've had a longstanding love affair with the rule of thirds, but really, who hasn't? Hooray for Pythagoras.

4) The client is almost always wrong. Ha ha, at least my clients have been.

-R

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:16 PM
Rick G’s comment is:

Its, damnit. I meant ITS

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:16 PM
Amanda’s comment is:

this thread is so darn geeky, I loves it.

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:21 PM
Armin’s comment is:

I am impressed by how much Optima gets banned. I think it is ugly (to me, it stands for fake elegantness), so I understand it, but complete shut down? And after all the work that Linotype put on the reworked Optima Nova.

>There are no inherently bad typefaces, it's how we use them that matters most.

Dude... Hobo? And great typefaces in the wrong hands can be disastrous too.

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:29 PM
David E.’s comment is:

Tan, do you use picas for vertical measurements too? I always thought it only applied to column and page width. At least thats the standard for newspapers (ive worked for several). Height is always measured in inches.

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:43 PM
Keith Tam’s comment is:

Yes, Hobo. I've never used it before and yes, I think it's ugly. But I believe that even Hobo could be put into good use. I've never seen it used in a good way though :-P

Optima. It was a good idea at the time — quite an achievement in fact — and it's still one of the few in its genre. I really like how its used (all caps) for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Now that's a good use of Optima.

to me, it stands for fake elegantness

I know exactly what you mean. Zapf's calligraphy is much freer and 'genuine' than his typefaces. Many of his supposedly calligraphy-inspired typefaces lack the flow and rhythm found in his calligraphy. Zapf Chancery is the worst, IMHO. But Zapfino is certainly an improvement and does justice to his calligraphy, especially with all the ligatures made possible with OpenType. Yet type is still type, not calligraphy.

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:44 PM
Rick G’s comment is:

ha ha ha, Yeah, the Hobo story ruled.

There's another similar typeface that's an affront to mine eyes whose name escapes me at the moment. In NYC every "African Products" store uses this on their awning. Anyone know which one I mean?

I love that quote by Benguiat, "I've never designed anything that I've ever been happy with when it's finished". Being the crank that he is, he also had that great one-liner about Avant Garde, and how the only thing that looks good set in it are the words, "Avant Garde". ha ha, oh Ed!

No Optima. Stone Sans if you need that sort of thing. Oh, and absolutely no Verdana on any web page, ever. Verdana is Chicago-dot-com, y'know?

-R

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:50 PM
Keith Tam’s comment is:

And great typefaces in the wrong hands can be disastrous too.

Agreed. And regrettably that's seen more often than simply 'bad typefaces' themselves. It' funny how almost all of us here agree that certain typefaces are plain bad. It's almost as if you use a widely-agreed 'bad' typeface then you're considered a bad designer. And many supposedly 'good' designers would use Helvetica, which IMHO is worse than ITC Garamond, Optima or even Hobo. Helvetica is an example. Everyone uses it — it's trendy, man! Ultra thin weight set solid, in a tiny point size and coloured gray. Stuff like that.

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:54 PM
David E.’s comment is:

Licko does great work, but damn is it hard to use.

I agree. In fact this is the way I look at typefaces: I never judge them as good or bad, I only know what I can or can't do with them. Every time i try an emigre face, all I can see is the typeface, so I go back to one of my standard choices. Once I used Senator in a project, but only after seeing how someone else used it.

I dont think there's much reason to use more than a few typefaces. And if you think Vignelli's being overly conservative by only using 5, consider that Why Not Assoc. uses GillSans and Perpetua for practically everything.

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:54 PM
Keith Tam’s comment is:

And great typefaces in the wrong hands can be disastrous too.

Agreed. And regrettably that's seen more often than simply 'bad typefaces' themselves. It' funny how almost all of us here agree that certain typefaces are plain bad. It's almost as if you use a widely-agreed 'bad' typeface then you're considered a bad designer. And many supposedly 'good' designers would use Helvetica, which IMHO is worse than ITC Garamond, Optima or even Hobo. Helvetica is an example. Everyone uses it — it's trendy, man! Ultra thin weight set solid, in a tiny point size and coloured gray. Stuff like that.

On Aug.07.2003 at 12:56 PM
David E.’s comment is:

i might as well mention my vote for ugliest typeface: University Roman. I get sick to my stomach just thinking about it.

On Aug.07.2003 at 01:01 PM
Jeff’s comment is:

Haven't seen this mentioned. Baseline shifting up a bit for hyphens within lining numerals, or for en/em dashes adjacent to caps.

On Aug.07.2003 at 01:05 PM
David E.’s comment is:

The computer is *not* just a tool

I dont agree at all. Maybe it's a whole bunch of tools all rolled into one? I dont know. But I think whoever said that it WAS just a tool meant that it wont design for you, and it's no substitute for a proficient designer.

And since there are still way too many people who think otherwise, I think that saying will be valid for a long time.

On Aug.07.2003 at 01:19 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

I have to admit, I'm hesitant to read the comments on this post for fear that I'll internalize even more rules than I already have and thereby become less likely to break them.

On Aug.07.2003 at 01:20 PM
jumpingcow’s comment is:

okay, here's a REAL geek question:

say you're stuck on a desert island. your tibook only allows you to bring 7 faces. what are they?

On Aug.07.2003 at 01:25 PM
Sam’s comment is:

i know what you mean, rebecca.

On Aug.07.2003 at 01:32 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Tan, do you use picas for vertical measurements too? I always thought it only applied to column and page width.

oh no, David...points and picas are just as integral to vertically as it is horizontally. Think about leading. Typographically, if you think about it, proper leading is based on varying x-heights and ascenders and descenders of each font. The proportions of a font's design is based on points and picas, so its vertical positioning is dependent on it as much as its horizontal's.

Also, a common design mistake for designers is to forget vertical alignments across spreads. Then there's vertical line count, and as Sam mentioned, baseline sinks, folios, etc.

Lots of typographers will say that there's a intangible, cohesive relationship and balance achieved by working in points and picas with type. It's like the Golden Mean. You just have to have faith in its existence. Bradley kind of touched on this point also.

The zen of typography lies in points and picas. Once you step in, you'll never know how you did without.

> And great typefaces in the wrong hands can be disastrous too.

god, don't get me started on chopstick fonts.

> There's another similar typeface that's an affront to mine eyes whose name escapes me at the moment. In NYC every "African Products" store uses this on their awning. Anyone know which one I mean?

it's probably Remedy. Like Mason, it became cliché almost immediately.

> say you're stuck on a desert island. your tibook only allows you to bring 7 faces. what are they?

sorry, but if I was stuck on a desert island, I'd want whatever font would get me the hell off the island. SOS out of coconut shells would be an awesome font :-)

On Aug.07.2003 at 01:59 PM
David E.’s comment is:

I have to admit, I'm hesitant to read the comments on this post for fear that I'll internalize even more rules than I already have and thereby become less likely to break them.

nahhh, you'll know when to break them...breaking rules is the easy part. For me, the more "craft" i can get into my work, the more i enjoy it...and I've learned a lot from this thread...i'd love to see more stuff like this here.

say you're stuck on a desert island. your tibook only allows you to bring 7 faces. what are they?t

Adobe Garamond, ITC Garamond, Helvetica (but i get to bring the whole family, right? including Nue and Compressed), Gill Sans, Frutiger, Trade Gothic or News Gothic and Aviner

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:06 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Rick, do you mean Lithos?

You also see a lot of Neuland, even though it's a Rudolph Koch design from 1923.

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:10 PM
Armin’s comment is:

>say you're stuck on a desert island. your tibook only allows you to bring 7 faces. what are they?

Filosofia, Mrs. Eaves, Trade Gothic, Clarendon, Interstate, Cooper Black (even if I didn't use it, I could still look at it) and Unibody (because I would still need to run Speak Up).

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:11 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

For instance, I think that it's imperative to actually read the content which you are designing. I've worked with so many people who, when questioned about their designs, reveal that they haven't even bothered to read the content.

Hey, you'd be surprised how many CLIENTS don't bother to read the content! If you want to stop a meeting cold, just say something like, "I inserted that initial cap on page 11 where the subject changes from the strategic initiatives to the implementation plan..." While everyone is frantically shuffling their manuscripts you can usually sneak a few decent design ideas through.

(By the way, I'm guessing the default typeface for African products is the same that's used for African-American literature: Neuland. No idea why.)

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:18 PM
corey’s comment is:

Something I learned at school that no one else I work with did was that there is a difference between apostrophes and foot marks, and there is a difference between quotation marks and inch marks.

If that was already said earlier, I apologize, I got about to entry number 53 and went blind from reading so much type off a computer screen. I'm sure there's a rule somewhere about projecting bright white light directly into your eyes making things difficult to read, surely there is.

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:38 PM
graham’s comment is:

rules? what rules?

these ones, of course:

1) if you can't dance to it, it's not funk.

2) i always like to shed one tiny tear over every piece of work as it goes out into the world to make it's own way and perhaps one day shine like a little golden star.

3) is the magic number.

4) chives for calm, spirit level for fear. mango for food.

5) make it chrome.

6) feed the birds (tuppence a bag).

7) brad dexter.

8) nobody beats the biz.

9) you can run, but you can't hide.

10) and in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:41 PM
jonsel’s comment is:

I wonder how many younger designers understand production and printing rules. These go for clients as well.

A few:

: Not knowing that PMS colors print differently as CMYK

: Not knowing that some PMS colors are unattainable at all in CMYK (hello, reflex blue)

: Not understanding that Pantone colors print differently on coated and uncoated papers

: Always size your final photography to actual size at twice the dpi of the linescreen, THEN place in Quark

: Reader's spreads are not printer's spreads

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:47 PM
Dave’s comment is:

8) nobody beats the biz.

I don't know about that one. Over here in the states, it's "Nobody beats the WIZ" I'm the WIZ and nobody beats me!! As I pace back and forth, arms pumping.

Unless of course, you are talking about The Biz, if you mean Markie, that's right! damn strait! Nobody Beats the Biz! ;-P

i am not that sorry for this useless posting cause nobody beats him.

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:58 PM
Rick G’s comment is:

1) The awful incense-shop font I was thinking of but couldn't because I hate it so much my brain was clouded: Banco.

2) Helvetica Neue, Futura, News Gothic, Base 9 & 12 (instead of Gill Sans) and oh, I dunno... OCR-A. Serifs? I don't need no serifs.

3) Feet high and rising

-R

On Aug.07.2003 at 02:59 PM
graham’s comment is:

sir markie in the house for sure.

On Aug.07.2003 at 03:00 PM
Tan’s comment is:

alright, my earlier sarcasm notwithstanding. My desert island fonts (and use)

1. Trade Gothic -- to label my cans of rations

2. DIN -- to make legible trail signs to fresh water

3. Meta -- to paint a Euro-stylish name on the side of my bamboo raft

4. Mrs. Eaves -- to make artful entries in a journal that someone would later make into a biographical movie starring me and Winona Ryder as my lovely wife

5. Adobe Garamond and Expert -- in case I ever grow tired of using Mrs. Eaves (conceivably never)

6. Cooper Black -- just in case I need to make baseball jerseys for an island little league team or open a deli

and lastly...

7. Bodoni -- for when Pentagram finally decides to ask me to be a partner and open an office on the island

On Aug.07.2003 at 03:24 PM
graham wood’s comment is:

7 fonts . . . hmmmm . . .

1) yul brynner

2) steve mcqueen

3) charles bronson

4) james coburn

5) robert vaughn

6) horst bucholz

and . . .

7) brad dexter

sorry.

but seriously . . .

1) univers

2) clarendon

3) dante

4) old english

5) shelly

6) baskerville

7) something grot but probably not bureau (but maybe)

and that is all you need.

On Aug.07.2003 at 03:35 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

Minion, Quadraat, Franklin Gothic, and Meta.

The rest are for sissies. ;-)

On Aug.07.2003 at 03:46 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

My 7?

Akzidenz Grotesk -- Berthold foundry

Garamond 3

Trade Gothic

Franklin Gothic

Calvino

Sackers Gothic

Hoefler Text

I like my gothics. I also like Stephen Farrel's typefaces, because they are awesome and inventive and inspiring but I can only choose 7, so...

I am now going to go sit by myself and wonder when, and perhaps if, I will ever get another date...

On Aug.07.2003 at 03:49 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

Most of my design rules are covered, but here's one we all know and you still see broken sometimes. Only track out all-caps. Or as Goudy famously put it "Anyone who would letterspace lower case would steal sheep."

A few technical printing notes to put down in writing.

- Don't specify hairline rules, pick a weight, at least .25pt.

- Don't force bold or italic (duh).

- Mark up those printouts that go to the printer. Really really well. Every screen tint. Every overprint. Every spot color.

- Reinforce dark solids, particularly on uncoated paper. If its CMYK, put screens under solid black. How much is up for debate, 60c 40m 40y makes a nice rich black. Some say just cyan is enough.

As for my fonts: Avenir. ITC Legacy. Trade Gothic. Mrs Eaves. Sabon. Egyptienne. And Brush Script so the others have someone to laugh at.

On Aug.07.2003 at 03:56 PM
Amanda’s comment is:

* frutiger (condensed included)

* helvetica (neue & rounded included)

* garamond

* baskerville

* andale mono

* snell roundhand

* chicago, for the hell of it.

On Aug.07.2003 at 03:57 PM
Sheepstealer’s comment is:

My desert island list includes:

> Frutiger (when smaller than 8pt)

> Helvetica (for vhen I'm feeling sviss)

> Filosophia (for those funky unicase letters)

> Priori (Because I love it today. by next week I may put it on a raft and send it out to sea)

> Bell Gothic (because the K doesn't touch)

> Original Garamond (I believe this is Matthew Carter's cut of Garamond -- done for bitstream)

> Mrs. Eaves (not only a beautiful type family, but the name of my dog)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Although I love Mrs. Eaves, I will never again use it because I saw it a month ago in a Walmart commercial.

ss.

On Aug.07.2003 at 04:08 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Assuming I'm doing only print work:

Adobe Caslon

Agency (incl. Agency Open)

Clarendon

Deepdene

DIN

Futura

Garamond 3

Memphis

Nicholas Cochin (just edging Interstate off the list)

Walbaum (Monotype)

This is not nearly enough, though. Not nearly.

On Aug.07.2003 at 04:17 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Boy, we can make a whole book out of this thread. I say we keep adding to this great list. So, let's try rules for client interaction: what are some big do's and dont's for one of the trickiest, and many times, the most frustrating facet of our profession.

Hey! I like this moderator role, nobody challenges my opinions. In reality, I wish I could be contributing more meaningful things but this catching up routine is keeping me very busy.

On Aug.07.2003 at 04:36 PM
Tan’s comment is:

One of my first art directors gave me this wise little piece of advice when I started working in an agency: when you talk to a client, try to use "we" and "us" instead of " I " and "me" for everything.

Instead of saying "I created this logo...", start saying "We created this logo..." and not "I believe or think" but "We believe and we think" so on. It doesn't matter whether you're the only one who worked on it, or if you didn't touch the project at all -- it's always "we" when it comes to addressing the client.

There's many good reasons for this. First of all, unless you're the head cheese or more famous than Sagmeister, a client did not hire you specifically, but hired the firm you work for. A marketing manager could care less about what you think. But if you use "we" and "us" when speaking about the work, it puts the full weight of the entire firm and team behind your opinions and statements. You'll find it easier to sell ideas and work to clients.

Secondly, using "we" creates a sense that a larger team is working on the project, eventhough the truth may be it's just you bearing the full burden. This is hard because it's tough not to claim ownership of something you've created. But trust me, it doesn't matter if the client knows who did it, just as long as you were able to sell them on it. Masking the size of the team also takes away a client's tendency to call you directly for every little type change because they know you're it.

And lastly, using "we" all the time will help you keep you from being pigeon-holed for a type of project you may be good at, but hate doing. If the client thinks you're the only one in the office who can make Powerpoint templates, then you're screwed. Using "we" can spread the wealth more in the office, so to speak. Definite advantage there.

Try it.

On Aug.07.2003 at 06:53 PM
darrel’s comment is:

Holy crap! 100+ comments!

One more thing, since 1 point converts beautifully to 1 pixel

(Warning: Anal geek talk...)

Actually, that is only true of the original Macintosh. It hasn't been true since then. Pixels aren't a static size. They can be any size the monitor manufacturer makes them (and change based on user settings as well).

I see your point, Tan...people love points. However, no amount of arguing is going to convince me that it really matters how a person measures a page and that there's an easier to use system than the metric system. (Though inches + fractions are a clumsy way to do things) ;o)

As for my 7 fonts...hmm...

1) Futura (or house's Neutra Face)

2) Univers (the full set)

3) Verdana (provided I have wireless internet access on the islant)

4) Georgia (see #3)

5, 6, 7) My serif faces. I'd have to think about that...

Tan...good suggestion re: the 'we' thing.

On Aug.07.2003 at 09:02 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

Regarding Tan's rules of first person plural rather than first person singular, I've (or, um, we've) also learned to extend that to include the client as well. As in, "I'm afraid that if we switch to a more neutral color, we'll lose a chance to reach a younger audience. Remember, we want to keep our core users, but convert some people who may have been quick to dismiss us before." This is a nice technique to get everyone on the "same side of the table" if not the "same team" (ahem) although if you do it wrong it has a little of the nurse's "and how are we feeling this morning?" sound to it (yuck).

On Aug.07.2003 at 09:33 PM
Skip’s comment is:

I've worked in newspapers for the last three years doing design and prepress (and also some editor-in-chiefing, but that's another story).

We used picas for both horizontal and vertical, simply because we had a number of people laying out pages who weren't designers, and getting them to work with one strange unit never mind two (inches are common but a tad unwieldy in Canada) was a task. However, many newspapers do use inches for the vertical for exactly that reason: copy is often measured in column-inches. We used word counts, though; thus, we didn't care.

On that note, elegantly designing something that will accomodate any variety of layouts and photos every issue and will be laid out by non-designers, is one of the most enlightening challenges. You really do need to make everything foolproof, and consequently, you gain a greater appreciation for the finer details.

As for the nitty-gritty, many good suggestions are included in this, a collection of style rules from the Type Club of Toronto annotated by Nick Shinn, who I think I saw floating around here... I hope he doesn't mind me tooting his horn; the article is great, methinks.

And no, I'm pretty sure a lot of young designers don't understand all the fun inherent in PMS, CMYK, linescreen, dpi, trapping, overprinting, paper types and weights, why Export to PDF simply won't do, and other prepress goodies, etc, etc. Not in my experience, anyway. Newspapers are a great place to learn, though, because every issue is a real run, and mistakes are often overlooked simply because it's gross, ugly newsprint. If everything fails, just try again next issue.

As for my seven:

Kepler

Linotype Aroma

Frutiger

ITC Fenice

Avenir

Escrita

Rotodesign Dingbats or Mini Pics Lil Dinos

And yes, read the content. And yes, correct spelling and grammar are of paramount importance. Now that I've said that, I wonder how many errors I've made in this simple post... sigh.

On Aug.07.2003 at 10:46 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> This is a nice technique to get everyone on the "same side of the table" if not the "same team"

...ahh, devilishly crafty Michael. Great tip. I have a presentation tomorrow that I'll try it in.

I feel dirty.

On Aug.07.2003 at 11:42 PM
Nathan’s comment is:

I (we) like the "we" trick as well. Works nicely.

Another trick in the area of customer persuasion is avoiding the use of the words "but" or "however" when responding to customer requests. Instead of:

"We understand that you wish to use Comic Sans for your annual report, however that will not be very readable and will not draw the reader's attention very well."

use something like:

"We understand that you wish to use Comic Sans for your annual report. We would like to suggest an alternative which will both improve readability and will better draw the reader's attention."

even though you mean:

"What the **** are you thinking?"

Basically, as soon as you use either of those two key words, the listener is put on the defensive and will start looking for a response before they even hear the rest of the statement. Subtle, but works well.

---

When asking for a client's approval for some request, giving a reason that "we think this is the better way to do it" is never enough. Always explain the reasoning behind the request, giving specific reasons why it is the better approach, or why it is needed. Pulling rank on a customer can have pretty disastrous consequences.

---

Although I am in the web design field and not the print design field, this last thought might apply as well. When we begin a customer engagement, a good chunk of the initial requirements gathering workshop is in fact client education. We like to give them the basic building blocks of what makes for good design. When we go to them later for approvals or decisions, they have some of the vocabulary that they can use and can provide feedback that is more useful than "I don't like it".

On Aug.08.2003 at 02:37 AM
Michael B.’s comment is:

The main rule I follow for working with clients is: never expect them to recognize good design by looking at it. This was really a revelation to me coming out of design school, because I had must spent five years learning to do exactly that -- recognizing good design by sight -- and forgetting that to most people this is a fairly rare talent.

I realized that graphic design is like wine. It can be good and bad, expensive or cheap, appropriate to a situation or not. Some people are wine experts, and can tell one vintage from the next (and are willing to pay for the difference). More of them just know a little bit: drink white wine with fish, use the type with the little feet when you want to look old fashioned.

When the sommelier brings the wine around, some people taste it and accept it (always acting like they know something about wine). Some want to show off for their dates (or are just plain assholes) and send back perfectly good bottles. And sometimes the wine is bad.

So, similar to what Nathan said, when I'm presenting, I never start by saying "We like this one" or "This looks better" and I'm never surprised when the poor client can't tell good design just by looking at it.

(By the way, I never talk -- even with other designers -- about "educating the client." I think it's crap. Almost every time, I find that I'm the one who needs the educating. The more I know about the client's business, their audience, their problem, the more trust I gain, and the more effective I can be at putting my work in terms they can understand. And selling it.)

On Aug.08.2003 at 06:05 AM
jumpingcow’s comment is:

i asked the question but never provided the answer.

desert island fonts:

1. univers

2. meta plus

3. mrs eaves (mostly b/c it's a beautiful face, but also because of the shout-out in radiohead's "hail to the thief")

4. helvetica (incl. neue and condensed)

5. futura (whole family, incl. XBO)

6. caslon 540 (when in doubt...)

7. cezanne (because while on the island, i'll need an annoying display font. and plus, i'll never have to look at crap turned out by "designers" who don't know what "all those funny numbers in the box at the bottom of quark" mean, or what an alternate character is.)

honorable mentions go to gill sans and the mix.

On Aug.08.2003 at 07:24 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> By the way, I never talk -- even with other designers -- about "educating the client." I think it's crap.

Uf! Shaking the foundation of many designers with that comment. First time I hear somebody say — at least out loud — that "educating the client" is crap. While I do agree that we are the ones who need to be educated first in their business, their clients, their history (marketing included) to effectively help them as consultants I think it is also important, not to educate, but explain to them how what we do could be valuable for them. And I'm not saying, that we should try to explain why Optima sucks, rather why the choice of Optima could potentially suck and make their business suck even more. Without saying "suck" preferable.

Ok, I have a question, what happens when a client swears like a sailor? At marchFIRST we had a client who hailed from New Zealand (not that that makes it ok) and he was profane (Tan has nothing on this guy), he even told a lady project manager that our work "sucked dick". Wish I didn't have to use that word, but it has baffled me to this day that a CEO would say that. And in that meeting everybody was left silenced, are there any tricks or rules of conduct for uncomfortable situations as this?

On Aug.08.2003 at 08:41 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> Tan has nothing on this guy

...hey, I've only said "fuck" to a client once, ok? And yes, it felt good.

Anyway -- profanity is not that shocking to me I guess. It's more funny and stupid, but not shocking. It's so clearly inappropriate that no one should take it seriously.

There are other worse offenses from clients -- most often, they are insulting without knowing that they're insulting. Clients can also be tremendously passive-aggressive. Of course I'd be offended to hear that my work "sucked dick" -- but I'd be just as offended to hear accusatory tones or consdescending comments from any of my clients.

But where I'd be really uncomfortable is if a client used racial or overtly sexist language or references in a meeting. No one should tolerate that kind of offense or abuse. That's when you need to decide if your team's dignity is worth the job.

And I had a client who told boldface lies on a regular basis. That's the end of the relationship as far as I'm concerned -- when a client openly lies. That signals the end of trust and mutual respect.

The truth is that there are tons of idiot clients out there.

Swearing is nothing. Anyone have a client that stepped way past ethical or moral boundaries? Drugs, strip joints, or other illegal activities, including SEC violations stuff?

On Aug.08.2003 at 09:09 AM
Armin’s comment is:

> Swearing is nothing.

I agree, it's not that bad, it's one of the best ways to express feelings. I guess I failed to mention that his expression shocked me more because it was directed at a woman. Hey, if you wanna swear, swear the fuck away but show some respect.

>strip joints

I have a friend back in Mexico (not a designer) who has lots of money and 75% of his new clients are signed after a big night out in Mexico's finest strip joints. He pays for everything. Everything.

On Aug.08.2003 at 09:18 AM
Brent’s comment is:

are there any tricks or rules of conduct for uncomfortable situations as this...

I worked at Flair communications for about two years where everyone (clients and employees) swore like a sailor especially our CEO. best remedy for it there was to remove yourself from proper etiquette and act like it's normal, and with it being so prevalent, it basically is. so i guess my advice is, swear back?

On Aug.08.2003 at 09:24 AM
Tan’s comment is:

here's a creepy/funny story.

We had a meeting with a huge, very well-known communications company client (three letter name) to review some UI stuff for a website. For the presentation, the client decided to use his own laptop because he needed to log onto his personal account for examples, etc.

So it's hooked up to the projector, and as we're reviewing the info from his browser -- a few of us noticed that one of his top favorite marked was....you guessed it...porn. He never noticed, but it was totally embarrassing. None of us could look him in the eye ever again.

Moral of the story -- never, ever use your own personal account for a presentation. If you do, for god's sake, take www.bigjuggs.com (it was actually something much more raunchy) off the favorite bar.

On Aug.08.2003 at 09:36 AM
big steve’s comment is:

wow... I am really excited to see someone choose House's new NuetraFace for the island - I was thinking it since the question was raised, but was afraid to say it.

On Aug.08.2003 at 10:03 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

Gawd, this is going to sound stupid...

Michael mentioned something about what a rare talent it is to recognize good design--yeah, I agree, because I spent a lot of time in school and I'm spending time now, on the job, STILL developing a strong eye for good design.

Now here's where I start to sound stupider:

What exactly is the value in recognizing what is good and what is not good design? I'm just playing Devil's Advocate here, but I think its safe to say that a potential investor won't forgo a massive stock purchase because the kerning was crappy in a headline on one page of an annual report. I've seen plenty of executives and brand managers who use ATROCIOUS collateral, lousy two-bit business cards, and whatever else and make a swell profit at whatever they're doing. Why change, they say? This isn't broken.

To a degree, I'm reminded of what Watson Jr. (I think it was him) said about design--it can't sell a bad product, it can just maximizing the selling potential of a good product. So is that it? I don't know. I'm a designer so I feel like I should "get" the value of good design, but...uh, well, I guess I don't yet.

There's a lot of stuff out there that I like just because. From the perspective of most professional designers, its childish and trendy and overly stylized. I think its cool. I like what I like. I know next to nothing about wine, but I've always heard that wine experts often say, quite simply, that you should drink wines that you enjoy.

So what's the value of good design? I ask this in all regards--annuals, ads, packages, stationery, etc. It's kinda like what Luke Sullivan was talking about in his book years ago, about how "Don't Squeeze the Charmin" and Mr. Whipple was god-awful advertising but it sold TP like nothing else.

On Aug.08.2003 at 10:08 AM
big steve’s comment is:

I have never worked as a design professional, but when working as a sys admin I did quite a bit of "questionable" illegal things with my boss, strip clubs were on tame days - i guess it helped that i didnt respect him at all.
I definately did worse with professors throughout high school and college though - a certain pig roast comes to mind...

On Aug.08.2003 at 10:13 AM
Nathan’s comment is:

> By the way, I never talk -- even with other designers -- about "educating the client." I think it's crap.

Then I think you are missing out on a valuable tool. I have had clients come away from a requirements workshop thanking us profusely for the education component. From what we taught, they recognize that we are experts in the field, and they become very receptive to subsequent input and ideas from us.

When we "educate the client", we are doing it in conjunction with requirements gathering. We will introduce a number of concepts, then will have them perform a guided exercise such as a simple heuristic evaluation or design critique on sites related to the customers' business. The clients' evaluations and critiques help us understand their tastes and their thinking process. Over the course of the day (or two) they go through up to half a dozen exercises. They are usually quite tired at the end, but they then recognize that we know what we are doing while we have the information we need to proceed to design.

On Aug.08.2003 at 11:26 AM
David E.’s comment is:

Thanks, Skip, for posting that style guide. It's really good. It's interesting that there are a few things mentioned in it that are contrary to what I was taught.

Does anyone know of any books that cover more advanced aspects of typesetting? Obviously there are many that cover the basics.

On Aug.08.2003 at 02:09 PM
Patrick’s comment is:

> Does anyone know of any books that cover more advanced aspects of typesetting? Obviously there are many that cover the basics.

Whenever I have a question about typography, I always find an answer in The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst.

On Aug.08.2003 at 02:48 PM
Kenneth FitzGerald’s comment is:

Thanks everyone for a great discussion. The parts that most interest me are the appreciations for a design education that teaches you how to think. It's what I aspire to do (it's an open question as to my effectiveness, of course).

The comments on teaching/learning theory are particularly important to me. I'm encouraged that many people say they value that. But it leads me to wonder why the most frequent criticism of teaching and writing that strays from the immediately practical (not to demean advice on, for instance of this, H&J's, which I like to get too!) is that it's "theoretical". (Admittedly, it's the criticism I get the most, from students and Eye magazine book reviewers both, so I'm not dispassionate about it.)

Am I missing something? Should I not be seeing a conflict here? What do people mean when they say "theory"?

On Aug.08.2003 at 03:46 PM
Skip’s comment is:

Bringhurst and Designing with Type by James Craig (ISBN 0823013472) are my two favourites. Bringhurst seems to pick up right where Craig leaves off, since Craig is quite introductory.

I find that Bringhurst is nice for answers about convention. He is very comprehensive but is very rule-based (as in, "Don't break these rules! Ever!"). Advanced typography, it would seem to me, is revolting against traditional conventions (many outlined by Bringhurst) and still making it work. To do that is where the theory comes in (to tie it all together): understanding how and why things do what they do and how the reader/viewer becomes — and remains — a part of those interactions.

The plethora of rules we have listed are usually just derivatives of what the reader/viewer feels is logical, comfortable, approachable, pretty, beautiful, etc, etc. These are the things that become theory, methinks.

When I start people learning about typography, we don't even go near the computer until the end. The practical is meaningless unless you understand the theory. ie. You need to identify tight kerning and understand the ramifications of that before you figure out how to change it. Practical knowledge is important, but everything practical is done for a reason: design with purpose tends to be my mantra. Those reasons come from understanding the theory.

I'm not sure if I've come even close to providing an adequate answer (?).

On Aug.08.2003 at 04:13 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

I don't say many things are "crap" since, not being from New Zealand, I try to keep my remarks very polite. But I still stand by my conviction that "educating the client" is crap. When I hear designers say it, it's so often in the sense of "It's not my fault if these bozos don't appreciate me and my unique design vision. It's their fault. If they were properly educated, they'd applaud my every whim." I think it's condensing and, by the way, almost pathetically counterproductive. Now, like Nathan, I've been in many situations where I know my client has felt that engaging with the design process has been intellectually, culturally and aesthetically enlarging for them. A good designer makes it so. But in the end, when it comes to education, I still say: Designer, educate thyself.

On Aug.08.2003 at 07:40 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

I meant condescending, not condensing, although maybe it is condensing.

Okay, while I'm at it

1 Bodoni (after ten years at Vignelli and thirteen at Pentagram, please)

2 News Gothic Light (like ice water after cutting the grass on a hot day)

3 Bembo

4 Futura

5 Trajan

6 The whole Knockout series (sort of cheating, sorry)

7 Neue Helvetica (because every once in a while I still get in that mood)

On Aug.08.2003 at 07:46 PM
maddenness’s comment is:

Biz Markie & "Blah Blah Blah". Brilliant.

Who would win in a fight for Worst Font of All-Time: Comic Sans or Hobo?

Does anybody out there love Chicago (the font) for nostalgia reasons? how about those good 'ole 286s? How about New Century Schoolbook?

Surely someone has seen misprinted type? What do you think about this guy's stuff? More art than design? Reminds me of Stanley Donwood, Radiohead designer. By the way, he missed the smart quotes near the end of the booklet in Hail to the Thief. Oops.

On Aug.09.2003 at 12:53 AM
marian’s comment is:

Funny, I think I read the whole thing, but didn't see anything like my rules of dashes:

hyphens are for joining things together

en-dashes are for ranges (from this to that)

em-dashes are for keeping things apart

The apostrophe thing is important too. I always do a final comb-through to catch those primes that get imported from Word documents. And double spaces.

But design stylewise, I've been breaking nearly every rule in the book, lately. I'm so tired of tasteful design.

As for clients, I always encourage them to speak to me in terms of what they need, or what's not working and why rather than what they want or like. Eg: tell me "This part need more emphasis" not "Make this bigger and move it to the top".

Also, I always tell them why I did what I did, and when I need to disagree with what they request, I try to find something else to agree with first. When it comes to client changes, it's often "Yes, yes, no, yes, yes, yes, no ... " with explanations, of course.

I actually AM on a desert island, and going out on my own I'm starting a new collection of fonts. I'm hoping to keep it lean and clean. So far my wish-list includes

Adobe Caslon Pro

Plantagenet Novus

Shaker

Akzidenz Grotesk

ITC Bodoni

Monarchia

Mini 7

On Aug.09.2003 at 12:58 AM
Tan’s comment is:

You know, the best client relationships I've ever had has been built on mutual respect and trust. That respect goes both sides of the table. Give and take like a dance. Cliché, but true.

And in the end, the responsibility for success or failure of a project also falls on both sides, no matter the circumstances. But the ability for a good designer to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear has everything to do with the designer -- the client's responsibility lies elsewhere.

To claim a need to "educate the client" infers that you are sharing knowledge one-way, in order to direct a client to go somewhere you want to go. By doing so, you already have a design agenda going in -- so a client's involvement is limited from the start. It's a very passive-aggressive way to design.

The great designers I've known or have read about never seem to complain about the lack of sophistication or design education in their clients. They never give lectures about how they "educated" a client. They just quietly produce great work and make tons of money.

I'm convinced it can be that easy.

Anyway, so in the end -- yes, I can see how the term educating a client is indeed a load of "crap". I concur.

On Aug.09.2003 at 01:43 AM
Nathan’s comment is:

To claim a need to "educate the client" infers that you are sharing knowledge one-way, in order to direct a client to go somewhere you want to go. By doing so, you already have a design agenda going in -- so a client's involvement is limited from the start. It's a very passive-aggressive way to design.

First of all, when I brought this up, I included the caveat that I work in the web design field. Perhaps there are differences across that distinction in how we experience the term "educating the client". I personally do not like that term in the first place, since I agree that it does imply a one-way communication. As I mentioned earlier, our goal is actually to solicit more information from the client, not to lecture.

When we go through the education component of a workshop, we may go through the following areas:

- Information design principles

Explain why we start with the information design phase and describe what this phase entails. In this step we introduce the core information design principles.

- Architecture

Present some of the technologies available and how they impact the solution. Flash, JavaScript, and positional cascading styles would be some of the technologies considered.

- Visual design

Introduce some principles of visual perception, how visual design should enhance site usability, and how visual design should support the goals of the end-user.

Obviously elements of these do not make sense in the print field. In the web field, they are needed, and teaching some of this right off tends to save a lot of headache later on.

As far as great designers not complaining about the lack of sophistication in their clients, I can't say I have heard them publicly complaining either. I think that behind their publicly consumable project briefs exist the same battles that any other designer goes through, although they may be more refined in their project execution and in guiding the client. Is it not part of the job of the designer to guide the client down a path that is going to work for them? How does any designer, great or unknown, guide the client who wants to use Comic Sans in their design? In my mind that guidance would involve "educating the client" in some way or another.

That being said, I think I understand where Michael and Tam are coming from, and I agree with their principles. I just think that we are on somewhat different wavelengths regarding what education entails. I can live with that. :-)

On Aug.09.2003 at 05:17 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

to educate or not to educate?

I have really been thinking about this one. I see Michael's point, but I was also thinking about things that I had to learn about, and how I learned. Specifically other things that are somewhat visceral and emotive--like design. The best example I could come up with was jazz. Jazz is something you can listen to and enjoy, sometimes with ease--think Ella or Benny or Louis; and then other times it is really challenging and out there, think Coltrane, some Miles, Art Inst of Chicago, etc. Those artists don't always come easily or intuitively--in my case, someone had to take me there--or help educate me. To truly understand what they were reaching for and why they were doing what they were doing. A dear man recently told me the same thing about fine art. "Every artist doesn't need to know everything that came before them, but it helps."

I think understanding the context of something adds to the experience of it. There are so many levels to everything--design included, don't we owe it to people, clients, whatever, to help them see what we see? To help them grow? To see more than they would've seen before we showed them?

On Aug.09.2003 at 07:58 AM
graham’s comment is:

good, good thread, and lots of things i can't help but agree with-some of which contradict each other.

each bit of work tends to be a bit different so rules per se don't often help. particularly true of client things-i think it would be mainly boring and sometimes wrong to try and do it all the same all the time. just reading a book, herzog on herzog, interviews with werner herzog-he's asked about this, about rules/learning in respect to film, and the point is about living (i know-sorry-i'm on this again)-and i think the things touched on here-porny clients etc. and debbies points above, and similar things-are really the crux of it. for me, the fact that a client would have a porn site bookmarked and reveal it in a presentation (for example) would define the 'rules' of that particular job more so than any brief or 'deliverable' because there is something revealed, something true.

the wrecked and sparkling constant motion of the mind and all emotions living experience, going away and going back, stimulated, resting, starting again and being like you've lived a thousand years-the only education of any worth is to do with experience, joy and understanding-not excluding anything but giving weight to the way a line crosses another against the sky, or how the hangover is today, or where is the joy in this, where is it?

it is because there is specifity in what we do-needs, uses, givens, restrictions, practicalities (such a solid ground)-that we can allow ourselves to respond and react with immediacy and with heart to the people we work with and for; if this makes any sense, then it goes some way to explaining why i believe the idea of proscripted 'rules' (and everything that implies, like accreditation etc.) is anathema to any kind of creative endeavour.

whatever gets you through the night.

On Aug.09.2003 at 10:50 AM
Brent’s comment is:

I think understanding the context of something adds to the experience of it.

i agree, but when does it come to a point where i just don't care enough to be educated? example: i've never liked ed fella's work, but i've never bothered to allow myself to become educated as to why it's held in high regard because initally i'm put off. i don't think the average client/consumer is going to want to be educated to something that they're not even the slightest bit comfortable with initailly on a visual level.

On Aug.11.2003 at 09:21 AM
David E.’s comment is:

I always took "educating the client" to refer to the process of design.

I once worked with a client who wanted to "book a block of time", so he could stand over my shoulder and "move things around". Would he treat his doctor, lawyer or garage mechanic like this? Of course not—he's educated enough to know better.

While most people have a pretty good idea of what their mechanic does (and what they're paying for) when they take their car in for repairs, most of the world has no real idea of what is involved in the design process. How could this type of education not be benificial to clients? I mean, what's he going to do when the brochure is only half finished and the designer jumps off a bridge?

On Aug.11.2003 at 11:37 AM
Brent’s comment is:

initially ... jeez. i need to slow down a bit.

On Aug.11.2003 at 11:41 AM
Michael B.’s comment is:

By the way, and sorry it's (slightly) off topic, but one more reason to hate ITC Garamond is that it completely screws up the otherwise pitch perfect visuals of "Down WIth Love," which I just saw on a plane. Nice titles, beautiful art direction, fabulous costumes, all perfectly in period, and then the cover of the book that gives the movie its title: you guessed it, ITC Garamond, not to be invented for five years yet.

On Aug.13.2003 at 12:33 AM
Jason Milstead’s comment is:

We are the last generation that will learn from the teachers who lived in the pre-computer era. I was lucky enough to have Mr. Bieloh (Nicknamed the Type God) probably the greatest type/design teacher in these United States. He taught me certain rules like ragging my text in a long, short, long, short, long, short fashion and never go beyond 10% the original width or heighth that the typeface was designed for. I now work in a high pressure toy company with an emphasis on whipping stuff out as quickly as possible, but I still follow the rules Bieloh set forth to me all those years ago, and yes, I do feel naughty when I break his rules.

On Aug.23.2003 at 06:52 PM
Andy’s comment is:

This is related to client interaction at a macro level.

I run a small graphic design and print shop in New Delhi, India and one of our clients is the training wing of General Electric. We've benefitted tremendously from this relationship because by virtue of printing their training mauals, we have access to them! My staff and I pour over these manuals soaking up pertinent knowledge and concepts.

There's one paragraph that I've never been able to get out of my head. I've subsequently used it as the foundation of my company's long term planning:

"We want to make the quality of our work and service so special, so valuable to our customers, so important to their success, that we become their only real value choice. We must move from becoming suppliers to becoming business partners."

On Sep.21.2004 at 08:06 AM