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Words of Wisdom

Here’s a little topic I’ve been saving for a day like today, when it seems no one else is stirred to ignite us with e.g. their dissertation on the Ethics of Visual Space.

We’ve all seen, or at least heard of the Inspirational Posters (which have also been much spoofed). What I’m asking from you today are some pithy words of wisdom that you use to get yourself started on a Monday, to deal with that troublesome client, to put everything in perspective …

These might be statements you made up yourself, or that you heard in a lecture, or were told by someone you admire. Short statements that, were we not such a jaded, cynical lot we might actually make into a poster or at very least scribble on a Post-It and stick on our monitor.

Here’s a couple of mine:

“Never turn down a job you haven’t been offered yet.”

“Don’t consume, Create.”

“Fight ugliness everywhere.”

“Smash the Illusion.” (I use this one when trying to get up the nerve to call someone I want to work with. It helps me get out of the fantasy of working with them, to actually working with them, or … um … not.)

Let’s hear it: words of wisdom for a Monday.

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PUBLISHED ON Mar.01.2004 BY marian bantjes
Andrew Pollak’s comment is:

CHIN UP!!!!!!

it works, try it

On Mar.01.2004 at 12:36 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

not terribly original, but it works:

what would you do if you weren't afraid?

On Mar.01.2004 at 12:47 PM
Michael Ziegenhagen’s comment is:

KEEP ON ROCKIN in the free world!

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:02 PM
David W’s comment is:

There is no job number for fun and laughter.

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:03 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

I have one I use for financial negotiations: If you don't ask, you don't get.

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:05 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

There is no job number for fun and laughter.

Actually, we used to bill that to the department job no.

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:06 PM
Rick’s comment is:

Srini from Unamerican has a poster that I love and have had above my desk everyplace I've worked:

What is stopping you from doing something so cool that it renders you immortal?

Actually, he has a lot of neat-o stuff on his site.


On Mar.01.2004 at 01:13 PM
Rebecca C.’s comment is:


On Mar.01.2004 at 01:14 PM
Rebecca C.’s comment is:

or, backwards:


Either way always works for me.

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:16 PM
M Kingsley’s comment is:

Please note that this post conveniently ignores the concept of Philosophy:

When you work for yourself, words of motivation are unnecessary. That little feeling in the back of your mind, Fear, is motivation enough: fear of destitution, being left behind, moving back into your mother's house, etc. Platitudinal bromides can only offer rationale for the crazy shit one does to keep going.

Mercenary? Perhaps. But remember Cole Porter's answer when asked where his inspiration came from: 'A phone call'.

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:24 PM
Christopher Johnston’s comment is:

Cheer Up, You are alot worse off then you think.


On Mar.01.2004 at 01:36 PM
Brady’s comment is:

"Only the mediocre are always at their best."

- Jean Giraudoux

“I don’t think there’s anything worse than being ordinary.”

- from the film, American Beauty

"I don't want to be immortal through my work. I want to be immortal through not dying."

- Woody Allen

And for Debbie, a variation on your query.

What would you do if you could not fail?

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:45 PM
Sarah B.’s comment is:

"Laziness may appear attractive but work gives satisfaction"

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:45 PM
Krystal Hosmer’s comment is:

Bad mondays:

This too shall pass.

Who cares as long as the check clears?

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:55 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Brady said:

And for Debbie, a variation on your query.

What would you do if you could not fail?

oooooh...goosebumps. That could be a thread unto itself. Thanks, Brady.

On Mar.01.2004 at 01:56 PM
Krystal Hosmer’s comment is:

Borrowed from Sister Hazel Change Your Mind:

"If you wanna be somebody else.. If you're tired of losing battles with yourself.....Change your mind.

" Just give up the state of mind you're in"

On Mar.01.2004 at 02:01 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

Sidney Bechet don't play no "wrong notes".

On Mar.01.2004 at 02:01 PM
Jeff G’s comment is:

If you can't run with the big dogs, then stay on the porch.

This has helped me through numerous challenges, even though it came from one of the worst clothing companies ever.

On Mar.01.2004 at 02:02 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Tom, I think that's Thelonious Monk, at least I have it as Monk.

As Michael Beirut's mother once said, "It's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice."

Also: Geroge Raft, the 30s/40s gangster movie actor once said, on being asked what he did with a large paycheck: "Some of it went on horses, a lot of it went on women, the rest I spent foolishly."

Also: "Eat both donuts."

Long story behind it. Moral: Enjoy what you have now and have faith there will be more in the future, rather than waste the future by hording some tiny bit of something and missing out on more.

On Mar.01.2004 at 02:25 PM
Hrant’s comment is:



On Mar.01.2004 at 02:25 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

If I'm not mistaken, Ken Burns' Jazz describes the story of how Sidney Bechet got into a duel in Paris because someone said he screwed some notes up. He said, in the third person, "Sidney Bechet don't play no wrong notes."

I liked that quote Steven Heller gave me a couple months ago, but I forgot who said it..."work, oh come now."

On Mar.01.2004 at 02:44 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

or, it was, rather... "Work? Oh come now."

On Mar.01.2004 at 02:46 PM
JonSel’s comment is:

From a history of WKCU at Columbia University:

There was a guy on the air doing that standard gibberish about Monk: "and Monk, playing the wrong notes on the piano, is able to create this kind of music....". Anyway, Monk called the Columbia switchboard, and the Columbia switchboard got in touch with me and said that Thelonious Monk had called to say that we should tell the guy on the air, "The piano aint got no wrong notes."

On Mar.01.2004 at 03:05 PM
marian’s comment is:

Sam, I'm particularly fond of "Eat both donuts." [writing Post-It ...]

I forgot one of the all-time greats, from Rick Valicenti: Invest in yourself.

On Mar.01.2004 at 03:12 PM
krf’s comment is:

"it is never too late to be what you might have been" - george elliot

On Mar.01.2004 at 03:14 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

"After a tour of Europe, Bechet found himself back in Paris - and back in trouble. He was arrested and sentenced to 15 months in jail after fighting a duel in a disagreement over a song's chord changes. "

so apparently they probably both said something like this

On Mar.01.2004 at 03:20 PM
Paul’s comment is:

I've always been fond of "Ask for forgiveness, not for permission".

Also, spied on a bathroom wall while I was in school: "sleep is for amateurs."

On Mar.01.2004 at 03:25 PM
amanda’s comment is:

Everybody is original,

if they tell the truth,

if they speak from their true self.

But it must be from their true self and not

from the self they think they should be.

So remember these two things:

you are talented and you are original.

- Brenda Ueland

On Mar.01.2004 at 03:31 PM
amanda’s comment is:

one more:

Make time to play!

- me

On Mar.01.2004 at 03:32 PM
jemma’s comment is:

"don't confuse legibility with communication"

~ David Carson

Great for those days when my clients seem to not have an imagination - It reminds me there is more to my job than putting words on a page.

On Mar.01.2004 at 03:55 PM
James Craig’s comment is:

My favorite of the Despair posters, quite relevant for this discussion.

Motivation: If a pretty poster and a cute saying are all it takes to motivate you, you probably have a very easy job. The kind robots will be doing soon.

On Mar.01.2004 at 04:22 PM
eric’s comment is:

“Later still he’d copy out key lines from a variety of sources in a sequence that — for him — formed a kind of syllogism. And after quoting Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Suzanne Langer, and a few others, he’d often end by quoting himself. It was his answers he was looking for.” — James Rhem re Ralph Meatyard for Influence magazine.

On Mar.01.2004 at 05:05 PM
KM’s comment is:

Simply stepping over the homeless as I make my way out the door puts everything in perspective. No words of wisdom to get my day started!

On Mar.01.2004 at 05:12 PM
scott’s comment is:

Robert Frost:

"The only way out is through."


"What you can do or think you can do, begin it. For boldness has magic, power, and genius in it."

Warren Zevon:

"Enjoy every sandwich."

On Mar.01.2004 at 05:30 PM
Alicia’s comment is:

"The measure of success is not whether you have a tough problem to deal with, but whether it's the same problem you had last year." - John Foster Dulles

Sometimes inspiring, sometimes depressing, always true.

On Mar.01.2004 at 05:34 PM
Valerie’s comment is:

I usually roll my eyes when I see inspirational posters on the walls of offices, but there are a few quotes from the old masters that I like to look to when I'm having a bad day...

-Either define the moment or the moment will define you. (Walt Whitman)

-A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. (Sir Winston Churchill)

-The art of art, the glory of expression and the sunshine of the light of letters, is simplicity. (Walt Whitman) --this one is a good one when for designers.

And in response to Scott's Warren Zevon quote, here's another good one from the late, great Mr. Zevon: "I'll sleep when I'm dead"

On Mar.01.2004 at 06:40 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

These may not be words of wisdom - but my roomate and I have been saying:


with a horrible chinese accent pretty frequently and it gets me pretty motivated to do good work. Sometimes, sound is enough.

On Mar.01.2004 at 07:03 PM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

On a more serious note, I have this in rotation on my desktop (set nicely in two lines of Perpetua)

-The important thing is to acquire perception, though it cost you all you have.

On Mar.01.2004 at 07:12 PM
Rudy’s comment is:

"don't confuse legibility with communication"

~ David Carson

Actually, that one is by Phil Baines (see Emigre #18, 1991).

My favorite by Charles Bukowski:

"Some people will love what you do

others will hate it

but most don't give a damn."

On Mar.01.2004 at 07:16 PM
marian’s comment is:

... or in the words of Dave Mason, and Eddie Vedder (Pearl Jam) before him,

The glass is half full, but it's half full of shit.

On Mar.01.2004 at 07:24 PM
M. Kingsley’s comment is:

marian --

sturgeon's law:

90% of everything is crud

On Mar.01.2004 at 08:07 PM
armin’s comment is:

No idea who said it:

It takes eggs to make an omelette.

I get such a kick out of it because the translation of eggs in spanish is huevos, which in slang terms stands for balls. So, such an innocent saying is all I need to remember that in the end all it takes is to have some huevos to get stuff done.

What a day… sorry to join in so late.

On Mar.01.2004 at 08:42 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Scott reminds me of another great thing Goethe said:

"In art, the best is good enough."

And was it Def Leppard who quoth, "Only time will tell if we can stand the test of time." Ah pith, thy name is m�tal.

On Mar.01.2004 at 09:18 PM
marian’s comment is:

Turn it up to 11.

On Mar.01.2004 at 09:28 PM
armin’s comment is:

Darn. I had it all wrong... the actual quote is:

in order to make an omelette you need to break some eggs.

Which also works quite well with the translation thing. And I still don't know who said it.

On Mar.01.2004 at 09:36 PM
Hrant’s comment is:

> "don't confuse legibility with communication"

"Don't let artists confuse you about the nature of craft."

Nobody actually said that though, because there's no money in it.


On Mar.01.2004 at 09:37 PM
Sam’s comment is:

Marian, there's nothing worse than telling a client "I turned this one up to 11" and have them stare at you blankly. Worst joke I ever made. (It had an "11" in it, at least.)

On Mar.01.2004 at 11:07 PM
Patricia’s comment is:

My favorites....

*If you do what you have always done, you'll get what you've always gotten.

*To reach any significant goal, you must leave your comfort zone.

*To dream anything that you want to dream,That is the beauty of the human mind. To do anything that you want to do,That is the strength of the human will.To trust yourself to test your limits,That is the courage to succeed.

*The credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena …

On Mar.01.2004 at 11:10 PM
saxophonejones’s comment is:

"You are Lisa Simpson." Mr. Bergstrom

On Mar.01.2004 at 11:29 PM
Jason Tselentis’s comment is:

A great painting comes together just barely.


On Mar.01.2004 at 11:46 PM
ps’s comment is:

not much wisdom from my end today...

my friend carlos used to say:

"i have not met a pizza that i did not eat"


On Mar.02.2004 at 12:18 AM
ps’s comment is:

iron maiden:

"if you gonna die -- die with your boots on"

On Mar.02.2004 at 12:20 AM
Dan’s comment is:

—Be excellent to each other. (I say this every Monday!)

—Rise up, gather 'round, rock this place to the ground. (for you, Mr. Potts)

—Will you use your powers for good or for awesome?

—The rhythm is going to get you.

Jeff G, I must have more Big Dog shirts than you.

On Mar.02.2004 at 12:53 AM
kris’s comment is:

Can you see the man who made that?

Can you see him putting it down and standing back?

Can you see the moment when he said "That's it. That's perfect."?

At a time like that you wouldn't care about your job,

Or your mortgage, or the fight you had with your wife.

'Cause when a man holds a thing well made,

There's connection,

There's completeness when a man holds a thing well made.

A Thing Well Made The Mutton Birds

On Mar.02.2004 at 01:15 AM
kris’s comment is:

Can you see the man who made that?

Can you see him putting it down and standing back?

Can you see the moment when he said "That's it. That's perfect."?

At a time like that you wouldn't care about your job,

Or your mortgage, or the fight you had with your wife.

'Cause when a man holds a thing well made,

There's connection,

There's completeness when a man holds a thing well made.

A Thing Well Made - The Mutton Birds

On Mar.02.2004 at 01:17 AM
graham’s comment is:

hrant-i assume you know phil baines work? including something like this-www.centralletteringrecord.org?

On Mar.02.2004 at 03:16 AM
graham’s comment is:

oh-and . . .

glass/bottle, bottle/glass-mr. t. cooper.

can you tell what it is yet?-mr. r. harris

On Mar.02.2004 at 03:37 AM
Jeff G’s comment is:

Dan, if you have one Big Dogs shirt, you have more than me.

Graham, I would love to keep Mr R. Harris in a little cupboard in my office. Whenever I needed some energy or motivation I would open it up and let him loose for twenty minutes.

On Mar.02.2004 at 03:57 AM
Kevin Lo’s comment is:

I'm veering slightly off topic now with pithy quotes, but I've been reading an old ZED magazine (the issue on Design & Morality) and found some things that I thought deserved to be included.

When the ax came into the forest the trees said "Look, the handle, it's one of us."

-Tony Allard

Boats is Saintly.

-as quoted by Robert Bringhurst in his article Thirteen Ways of Looking at Morality, Language, and Design. Amazing article if you get a chance.

On Mar.02.2004 at 04:10 AM
big steve’s comment is:

"No one ever went broke overestimating the stupidity of the average guy."

Three from Camus, The Fall:

How many crimes committed merely because their

authors could not endure being wrong!

Don't wait for the Last Judgement. It takes place

every day.

Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Don't walk in

front of me, I may not follow. Just walk beside me and

be my friend.

On Mar.02.2004 at 04:32 AM
Tim’s comment is:

"The sun shines on a dogs arse once in its lifetime"

"We're not curing cancer here people"

On Mar.02.2004 at 05:11 AM
Ellen Lupton’s comment is:

Think more, design less.

See more free advice at http://www.designwritingresearch.org/advice.html

On Mar.02.2004 at 05:18 AM
Greg’s comment is:

"The world of art is one where little is known for sure, and as a result, it abounds with Authorities. This is one of those things we all have to learn sooner or later: the more you trust Authorities over your own perceptions, the worse off you are. You are the only person with all the data about your own life, so ultimately, every decision about your life has to be your own."

I ran across this somewhere and liked it, so I made a desktop out of it and it stares me in the face every day. Helps me stay grounded.

On Mar.02.2004 at 08:29 AM
Mark’s comment is:

"The grass is always greener where the dogs been shitting"

On Mar.02.2004 at 08:36 AM
Ginny ’s comment is:

I have nothing too motivational. I just tell myself:

"Just Go" (mostly referring to monday's or weekends at the office)

"Just do it" (I'm not referring to the Nike campaign)

and my favorite:

"Procrastination is a waste of time"

On Mar.02.2004 at 08:42 AM
Mark’s comment is:

some more...

when you do the work you love

you love to work

"We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams" ~ Willie Wonka

Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius - and a lot of courage - to move in the opposite direction.

~Albert Einstein

"I am enough of an artist to draw freely upon my imagination. Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world."

~ Albert Einstein

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I awake in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world, and a desire to enjoy the world.This makes it hard to plan the day.

~E.B. White

"Live like you are going to die tomorrow,

learn like you are going to live forever."

~ Ghandi

and some fun ones...

"Don't take life seriously because you can't come out of it alive."

~ Warren Miller

"if at the end of the day you can say I deserve that last beer

in the fridge, then dammit drink it."

A good friend will bail you out of jail, but your best friend will be the one sitting next to you saying "That was f**king awesome!"

On Mar.02.2004 at 08:46 AM
Feluxe Socksmell’s comment is:

Hey, Whatever Works.

On Mar.02.2004 at 10:04 AM
Zoelle’s comment is:

"It is better to fail than to gain something through clandestine means or subterfuge."

This was said religiously by my tenth grade science teacher before he handed out tests.

Another quote by the same instructor, "There is no such color as pink, only prostituted red."

Bumper sticker: Be where you are when you're there.

On Mar.02.2004 at 10:10 AM
surts’s comment is:

Save bottlenecks for after work

On Mar.02.2004 at 10:35 AM
Jason T.’s comment is:

Design = Thinking

On Mar.02.2004 at 04:23 PM
Jen’s comment is:

The best design does not come from knowing 2,000 typefaces and six programs by heart. It comes from having a life and being observant and involved in the world at large. Randall Balsmeyer

Reason might be right; yet no wonder we are glad at times to defy her, to rush from under her rod and give a truant hour to Imagination-her soft, bright foe, our sweet Help, our divine Hope.

Charlotte Bronte

On Mar.03.2004 at 05:11 PM
Daniel’s comment is:

"Quit screwing around and get back to work."


On Mar.03.2004 at 06:50 PM
Esteban’s comment is:

"Lead, follow or get out of the way."

—Thomas Paine

This serves me well for all days ending in "Y"

On Mar.04.2004 at 08:49 AM
Matt Southerden’s comment is:

In respoese to Rebecca C

"...or, backwards: Either way always works for me."

That's as good a quote as any other I see here!!!

What a liberated woman.


On Mar.04.2004 at 11:02 AM
Aaron’s comment is:

I have a hard time getting over my bad work habits. I often get distracted too easily and am consantly procrastinating. (I blame my age - 21) But I have been dipping into the self-improvement genre and have quite a few notes on my desktop:


Challange yourself - make it a habit and start early.

Start with atmosphere - lighting, caffeine & music.

Get uncomfortable and don't be afraid to sweat.

Make your day productive and reward yourself later.

If all else fails:

1. Plan your tasks, list your to-do's

2. Organize, Categorize & Clean

3. Update, Fix, Optimize, Revisit

4. Write, Theorize, Analyze

5. Experiment, Text, Create

7. Research, Self-educate & Gather Resources

I used to just have "Sleep is for the weak." in big letters. I naively thought that I had coined that for a while.

On Mar.04.2004 at 04:35 PM
Armin’s comment is:

How could I have forgotten? One of my all-time favorites:

Don't sweat the petty… pet the sweaty.

- A T-shirt from Urban Outfitters.

On Mar.04.2004 at 06:05 PM
Michael Ziegenhagen’s comment is:


“I pursue the blissful moment of coming up with an idea.”

“Making money was the biggest waste of time.”

“Everything Is An Experiment.”

“Once you learn, move on.”

This one, I have had on my wall for a very long time. An image of it engraved on the M&Co. watch.

“Waste Not A Moment.”

Rock Out! Damn the Man! and stop reading this crap, get back to work!

On Mar.09.2004 at 01:32 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Lots of words of wisdom on design at one + one = three.

On Mar.31.2004 at 09:05 AM
Tan’s comment is:

Ok, so I just got this email that's perfect for this subject. It's kinda like another version of Mau's Manifesto. I especially like #15. Sorry if you hate this stuff, but I love Dave Barry funnies.


1. Never, under any circumstances, take a sleeping pill and a�laxative on the same night. �

2. If you had to identify, in one word, the reason why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be "meetings." �

3. There is a very fine line between "hobby" and "mental illness." �

4. People who want to share their religious views with you almost �never want you to share yours with them. �

5. You should not confuse your career with your life. �

6. Nobody cares if you can't dance well. Just get up and dance. �

7. Never lick a steak knife. �

8. The most destructive force in the universe is gossip. �

9. You will never find anybody who can give you a clear and compelling reason why we observe daylight savings time. �

10. You should never say anything to a woman that even remotely suggests that you think she's pregnant unless you can see an actual baby emerging from her at that moment. �

11. There comes a time when you should stop expecting other people to make a big deal about your birthday. That time is age eleven. �

12. The one thing that unites all human beings, regardless of age, gender, religion, economic status or ethnic background, is that, deep down inside, we ALL believe that we are above average drivers. �

13. A person, who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person. (This is very important. Pay attention. It never fails.)

14. Your friends love you anyway. �

15. Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that a lone amateur built the Ark. A large group of professionals built the Titanic. �

16. Men are like a fine wine. They start out as grapes, and it's up to women to stomp the crap out of them until they turn into something �acceptable to have dinner with. �

On Mar.31.2004 at 11:13 AM
Nick Sinadinos’s comment is:

An architect client of mine posted these words high on the wall of his office where wall meets ceiling so that he could spin in his chair, look up and remind himself...

Not to decide is to decide.

On Apr.01.2004 at 08:55 AM
Branigan’s comment is:

I grew up hearing these from my father:

Sorry doesn’t get it


Actions speak louder than words

Simple, but effective...

On Apr.01.2004 at 09:00 AM
Nick Mucilli’s comment is:

4 things that always ring true in my mind:

1) On the argument of form vs. function:

"Form follows performance. Function is taking a shit. Performance is the art of the working theater of digestion." -Tibor Kalman

2) Along with that are the words of my mentor:

"Quit painting turds. No matter what you do to that it's still going to be a piece of shit, now come up with something better." -George Lim

3) From my wonderful sister:

"I'm twenty eight years old, and sometimes I still think I can pull my sweat pants on over my running shoes." -Natalie Mucilli

4) This is completely irrelevant, and I can't remember who said this to me or why, but it always makes me giggle:

"I don't know, but if it were cookie dough I'd eat it out of your crotch."

On Apr.06.2004 at 10:37 AM
Rebecca B’s comment is:

Anyone got inspirational quotes on Eggs. Yes - eggs. Something spiritual. Thinking about rebirth etc etc. Something poetic - special? Clever etc. Buddhist quotes?

On May.11.2004 at 12:54 AM
Armin’s comment is:

Not buddhist at all, but mentioned earlier in the discussion by yours truly: in order to make an omelette you need to break some eggs. Whatever that means.

On May.11.2004 at 08:50 AM
Katie Darling’s comment is:

Cry when you have to, laugh when you need to,

But never hate; hatred has been the down fall of many great people.


On Jul.19.2004 at 01:52 AM