Speak UpA Former Division of UnderConsideration
The Archives, August 2002 – April 2009
advertise @ underconsideration
---Click here for full archive list or browse below
God is in the Big Idea

Intern: This logo is my favorite.

David Weinberger: I love the idea, but the name is just not legible.

Intern: Paul Rand said, “logos don’t have to be legible.”

David Weinberger: um…

David Weinberger: ummmmmmmmmmmmmm…

David Weinberger: hhhhhhhhhhhhmmmmmmm…

David Weinberger: Right. So Paul Rand doesn’t work here. Let’s go ahead and make that logo more legible, thanks.

I used to work with a designer who would rattle off, “God is in the details,” oh, about 70 times a day. I still cringe when I hear this Mies van der Rohe quote. I am now agitated after typing it in.

Just because you happen to know a quote and like a quote, doesn’t mean that the quote is an absolute truth. In this case, maybe God is in the big idea. Also, by using this particular quote, you are implying that the person has not taken into account the details when, in fact, they very well may have, although you just don’t like the outcome. Either way, I would rather some constructive criticism.

So forget the fact that Paul Rand actually said, “The design must not conflict with the legibility of the logo,” what is your favorite design quote? Which design quotes do you hate? Which ones do you use for designers and which ones for clients? Have you adopted any from the Speak Up poster contest into your daily vocabulary?

“Sharing what you have is more important than what you have.”
Albert M. Wells, Jr.

Maintained through our ADV @ UnderConsideration Program
ARCHIVE ID 2320 FILED UNDER Miscellaneous
PUBLISHED ON May.25.2005 BY David Weinberger
Neil’s comment is:

It's not totally a design quote, but my current favourite is "the person you love is 72.8% water." Kind of keeps things in perspective, doesn't it? :)

I guess the one that I keep in mind with me every day that keeps me going is that W.C. Fields chestnut: "Better here than in Philadelphia".

(With apologies to any Philadelphians in the house)

On May.25.2005 at 09:07 AM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

Also, not specifically design related (sorry), but apropos of almost everything:

Life is too important to be taken seriously

Oscar Wilde

On May.25.2005 at 09:26 AM
*cg’s comment is:

I read this one a while back in the book "What is packaging design" and in times of crisis is it all we really can ask for?

"Give me the creative freedom of a tightly defined brief."

also another favorite in times of uncertainty

"How long is a piece of string?"

On May.25.2005 at 09:34 AM
Joseph’s comment is:

yeah, i think i can definitely speak for a lot of people on this one. I absolutely hate "think outside of the box." That one is always rattled off by people who want mediocrity. I also hate "why reinvent the wheel?" Everytime i hear that one i quickly retort, "because we'd still be driving on stone carved circles."

The one I love: "We're all born originals- why is it most of us die as copies?" Edward Young.

On May.25.2005 at 09:42 AM
JonSel’s comment is:

"You cannot not communicate."

I ascribe this to Rand, but I really have no idea where I first heard it. I use this any time someone asks me to make "something pretty" or "don't make some big concept out of this". Everything has a message, whether intended or not. You might as well make it say the right thing than take a chance on misinterpretation.

On May.25.2005 at 09:42 AM
Christopher Risdon’s comment is:

I believe it was David Ogilvy who said, "Everything bold is nothing bold." Sorta elementary, but I heard that when I was young and just learning, and thought it helpful.

While working with a company that had a lot of consultants who used a lot of sayings and lingo ('strawman', 'faciliate', etc.) , one guy liked to say, "we have to eat our own dog food." (not quite a quote as a saying) Even though I understood what it meant, it still seemed really odd. I caught myself saying it three times in one week once and decided that I needed to avoid working with consultants. ;-)

Of course, then there was my dad who has my favorite personal quote. A cynical ad agency account executive - who, in the eighties, when trying to encourage my creativity, took me to a book store when I was 16 years old and bought me a CA annual and said, "Here, this is where all the good creatives steal their ideas from."

Again, this was the 80s advertising industry, so he was probably snorting coke off a stripers tits during his lunch break. (Kidding dad!...sorta) He also liked to use this quote, "Advertising would be fun, if it weren't for the clients."

On May.25.2005 at 09:46 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

I've tried to start noting quotes I see more often:


I need to do more of it. Of those recently posted, this is perhaps my favorite:

I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.

That is *supposedly* Bill Cosby, though I've seen variations of it and never was able to say for sure. And, I'm sure plenty of notable designers have said something just like that too.

On May.25.2005 at 10:25 AM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

This one is for Tselentis:

Design is 90% process, 10% execution

As for my corporate mojo:

Success today

On May.25.2005 at 10:29 AM
ron H’s comment is:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge"

Mark Twain

On May.25.2005 at 10:58 AM
ron H’s comment is:

"Imagination is more important than knowledge"

Albert Einstein

On May.25.2005 at 10:59 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

"I have had to learn the simplest things last.

Which made for difficulties."

--Charles Olson, from the poem "Maximus to Himself'

On May.25.2005 at 10:59 AM
ron H’s comment is:

Oops. I credited the quote to the person - see correction above. They have a similar look so the wrong person popped in my head.

I have always liked that quote even though I think that the both imagination and knowledge are very important when working together.

On May.25.2005 at 11:02 AM
Blake E. Marquis’s comment is:

"Measure twice, cut once."

Shepard Fairey

On May.25.2005 at 11:06 AM
Patrick’s comment is:

Really good design quotes are hard to come by, I can't think of one at the moment. Personally, I'm sick of the pat sayings that get repeated and repeated. I've actually been working on speaking in specific terms rather than relying on clichés.

My biggest pet peeve in meetings is mis-spoken sayings. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "That's a good concept. Let's flush it out." You mean flesh it out? If it's such a good concept, why don't we put meat on the skeleton of the idea, not send it down the tiolet. I swear it's said wrong 90% of the time.

And when I heard the "Fast. Cheap. Good. Pick two." used on a mainstream TV show, I knew it was overused.

On May.25.2005 at 11:13 AM
Jonathon’s comment is:

I thought that Norm Abram said "Measure twice, cut once".

My favorite quotes for any occasion:

"Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds" - Albert Einstein

"Small type is a privilege, not a right" - Tan Le

On May.25.2005 at 11:16 AM
bernie’s comment is:

My professor at University once said, "If it's a choice between conspiracy and stupidity 9 times out of 10 it's stupidity."

On May.25.2005 at 11:46 AM
len’s comment is:

now that you mention him...

"Make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler."

Albert Einstein

this is taped on my monitor.

On May.25.2005 at 11:47 AM
Jeremy Mickel’s comment is:

I like the 'Fast, Cheap, Good. Pick two' quote. I think it rings true and puts things in perspective for clients.

"Design is a plan for arranging elements in such a way as best to accomplish a particular purpose."

"Whoever said that pleasure wasn't functional?"

Charles Eames

On May.25.2005 at 11:51 AM
El Jefe’s comment is:

"Those who don't do anything are always the ones who try to put you down." -Henry Rollins

This got me through a lot of tough times, be it when people asked me about starting my own business to why I am a veggie. Petty, maybe, but true to a degree.

"Gulloping (sp) piggies make things good" -Stefan Sagmeister

He said this in a class I was taking with him and for some reason it stuck, especially because he said gulloping instead of galloping. For me, it meant you do not always have to take everything so seriously, you can have fun with all projects, and it is small personal details that make something wonderful that not everyone will notice or care about.

Terms that are thrown around without care that now make me furious... "we want it to be edgy (insert finger air quotes), gritty, clean, and have lots of white space." Whenever an art director tells me that, I do the opposite and they love it.

On May.25.2005 at 11:52 AM
marian bantjes’s comment is:

"You've let design get in the way."

- Rick Valicenti

On May.25.2005 at 11:52 AM
Ben Whitehouse’s comment is:

"You wouldn’t say an axe-handle has style to it. It has beauty and appropriateness of form, and a this-is-how-it-should-be-ness. But it has no style because it has no mistakes"

-Charles Eames

On May.25.2005 at 12:03 PM
brian corchiolo’s comment is:

To stand up for all those people from Philly.

"All things considered, I'd rather be in Philadelphia."

W.C. Fields

Is the epitaph

On May.25.2005 at 12:07 PM
Kevin’s comment is:

sorry to go off track but this:

the person you love is 72.8% water.

just reminded me of a t-shirt my friend made for the fauna foundationin.

As for something relating a bit more to design, I don't know who this is attributed to, but I read that it hung prominently in Marshall McLuhan's office (himself being one of my favourite source of quotables):

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

On May.25.2005 at 12:07 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Back in the mid ’70s I read an interview with the then nearly unknown actor Rip Torn. His big break was a movie called “Pay Day” where he played a C&W singer who would pay off his band and then win back the money in a poker game. Torn told about being at a party when the host’s twelve-year-old son approached him with the corpulent son of a famous film critic who said “Did you read my dad’s review of Pay Day? He thought it sucked and so did I.” Rip Torn’s reply has become a sort of a mantra:

“Fuck you, fat boy. I already spent the money.“

On May.25.2005 at 12:28 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

A variation on the same theme—I heard this from Nic Venet, an old record producer but I’m sure it wasn’t original with him. It’s also not specifically a design maxim but useful for designers nonetheless:

“When you pay your dues, get a receipt.”

On May.25.2005 at 12:38 PM
gloria’s comment is:

my favorite design quotes/maxims are: "Concept is king" (B. Canniffe), and "No job is too small" (E. Lupton).

(and kudos to the person who stood up for Philly)

On May.25.2005 at 12:59 PM
Tan’s comment is:

This is still one of my all-time favorites:

"The key to success is under the alarm clock."

— Benjamin Franklin

...another favorite, in honor of this week,

"Do, or do not. There is no try."

— Yoda

...and last, but not least,

"Luck is when preparation meets opportunity."

— Vince Lombardi

Not necessarily design-specific, but all are applicable.

On May.25.2005 at 01:04 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

On May.25.2005 at 01:05 PM
Sonyl’s comment is:

Less is not more. Less is a bore

— Robert Venturi

I actually absolutely hate this quote (and the resulting work that Venturi has done) but it's good for discussion about Postmodernism.

On May.25.2005 at 01:12 PM
Clint’s comment is:

my personal mantra when the design road gets rocky:

Consider the source.

this always takes me a step back away from the work or situation and enables me to perceive the problem from the other person's point of view.

and when that fails me I call up a saying that I've heard attributed to Plato:

No serious man ever spoke seriously about seriously things.

and in no particular order here are some others:

Graphic design is the business of making or choosing marks and arranging them on a surface to convey an idea.

Richard Hollis

Be niggardly with decorations, borders and such accessories. Do not pile up ornament like flowers at a funeral... Get acquainted with the shapes of the type letters themselves. They are the units out of which the structure is made —�unassembled bricks and beams. Pick good ones and stick to them.

William Addison Dwiggins

[On first seeing Edward Johnson’s letterforms] I was caught unprepared. I did not know that such beauties could exist. I was struck by lightning, as by a sort of enlightenment... and for a brief second seemed to know even as God knows.

Eric Gill

The type which, through any arbitrary warping of design or excess of �color’, gets in the way of the mental picture to be conveyed, is bad type.

Beatrice Warde

For modern advertising and for the modern exponent of form the individual element - the artist’s own touch - is of absolutely no consequence.

Lazar Markovitch Lissitzky

The more uninteresting a letter, the more useful it is to the typographer.

Piet Zwart

...graphic design, in the end, deals with the spectator, and because it is the goal of the designer to be persuasive or at least informative, it follows that the designer’s problems are twofold: to anticipate the spectator’s reactions and to meet his own aesthetic needs.

Paul Rand

...once more it was affirmed that typography is not self-expression, but that it is founded in and conditioned by the message it must convey, and that it is a service art and not a fine art, however pure and elemental this discipline is.

Herbert Bayer

Design can critically engage the mechanics of representation, exposing and revising its ideological biases; design also can remake the grammar of communication by discovering structures and patterns within the material media of visual and verbal writing.

Ellen Lupton/J. Abbot Miller

Whatever the information transmitted, it must, ethically and culturally, reflect its responsibility to society.

Josef M�ller-Brockmann

"being average is a fantastic way to go out of business..."

Polly LaBarre

On May.25.2005 at 01:12 PM
Tan’s comment is:

oooh...oooh....how could I forget this great one,

"You only have one life to live. You can either make it chicken shit, or chicken salad. "

— Vince Kozonski: the movie Cousins

On May.25.2005 at 01:14 PM
ben’s comment is:

"Wish in one hand, poop in the other, see which one fills up faster"

On May.25.2005 at 01:16 PM
Sonyl’s comment is:

Oh! I almost forgot about this one:

The problem is the solution

I don't know who said that one, but I heard it from Alan Mickelson, a prof of mine.

On May.25.2005 at 01:20 PM
Daniel Green’s comment is:

my favorite design quotes/maxims are: "Concept is king" (B. Canniffe)

A long time ago, I learned that there are two maxims in graphic design (though I have no particular individual to attibute them to).

Maxim No. 1

Concept is everything.

Maxim No. 2

Execution is everything.

Of course, they may be everything, but they're not the only thing.

On May.25.2005 at 01:24 PM
Sam Potts’s comment is:

"Vini, vidi, vici. (Shephard Fairey, I think)

Also, the great conductor Herbert von Karajan once said of his orchestra, "I give them all the creative freedom they need to do exactly what I want." Great advice for dealing with clients as well as employees.

And Gunnar's Rip Torn story reminds me of George Raft, who when asked what he did with a large sum of money once said, "I spent most of it on women, and a lot of it on the horses. The rest I spent foolishly."

On May.25.2005 at 01:26 PM
Ross’s comment is:

How about a quote I have learned to deplore?

The Executive Director of my organization likes to pull out this quote from time to time (usually when she gets frustrated with us designers setting design rules and guidelines).

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"

- Ralph Waldo Emerson

God, I hate that quote.

The key word in this quote is "foolish." If there is no thought behind your consistency, then yes, I understand the appropriateness of this quote.

Maybe she thinks that all design consistency is foolish? :)

On May.25.2005 at 01:27 PM
Lee’s comment is:

this isn't really related to design (or is it?), but it's my favorite (more of a sports quote):

"It doesn't take talent to hustle"

On May.25.2005 at 01:54 PM
James Reeves’s comment is:

"I have found that all ugly things are made by those who strive to make something beautiful, and that all beautiful things are made by those who strive to make something useful." - Oscar Wilde, 1890s (as usual)

"We deal with the material in a free manner; in short, we employ everything that can make a busy passerby stop in their tracks." - Vladimir Stenberg, 1928

On May.25.2005 at 02:14 PM
Michael Holdren’s comment is:

"Presentation is everything."

I'm not sure who said it first but my friend Steven Zavala likes saying it, and it stuck with me. Remembering it has helped through some difficult situations.

On May.25.2005 at 02:22 PM
r agrayspace’s comment is:

Theres a better way to do it. Find it.

Not sure who to attribute this to, but I like that its restless.

On May.25.2005 at 02:23 PM
chad r.’s comment is:

“Rules are meant to be broken, only exceptionally.”

- Ed Fella

... always moves me to "think oustide the box."

On May.25.2005 at 02:29 PM
mogo’s comment is:

La perfection est atteinte non quand il ne reste rien � ajouter, mais quand il ne reste rien � enlever. Antoine de Saint-Exupery

(Perfection is attained not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away)

On May.25.2005 at 02:29 PM
Kevin’s comment is:

Not a famous quote, but something my prof said to me once that really resonated:

"The antiquated notion of design as problem-solving should be buried and replaced by the idea of design as problem-revealing"

On May.25.2005 at 02:55 PM
Darrel’s comment is:

"A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds"

...which reminds me of a supposed quote by Frank Lloyd Write where he's talking about the Guggenheim project (and backlash) and bringing out the term 'Incubus of Habit'. I remember hearing it on a PBS documentary, but haven't been able to find that exact quote. (Google turns up an amazing number of web pages that mention both FLW and the band Incubus...oddly enough...)

...which reminds me of another FLW quote:

Form follows function - that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.

...which of course, leads us to the well known

form follow function

I whip out the latter two whenever a project veers into long discussions about stock art and color swatches.

On May.25.2005 at 03:32 PM
Nicholas’s comment is:

Not a design quote but I like the irony.

89% of all statistics are wrong

On May.25.2005 at 04:00 PM
Viviane’s comment is:

Not exactly a quote, but something my father often says, and I've found myself saying to interns and associates on many occasions:

Ask the lazy person to do something and he becomes an adviser.

(and still doesn't get it done...)

On May.25.2005 at 04:06 PM
Kurt’s comment is:

I like the elevation of this:

Design is thinking made visual

Saul Bass

One of many favorites

On May.25.2005 at 04:19 PM
Jeff Gill’s comment is:

m. kingsley’s comment is:

I hate quotations. Tell me what you know.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson


Mark, this made me think of Tony Blair's quote at some important juncture in the N Ireland peace process: "This is not a day for soundbites--I really feel the hand of history on our shoulder"

On May.25.2005 at 04:26 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

OH! I forgot! one more:

That depends on what your definition of is is.

--William Jefferson Clinton

On May.25.2005 at 04:58 PM
KM’s comment is:

"You don't see with the eyes. You see with the brain."

Paul Bach-y-Rita

On May.25.2005 at 05:04 PM
KM’s comment is:

I can't remember who said it:

"Good design goes to heaven. Bad design goes everywhere."

On May.25.2005 at 05:10 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

A quote I should live by. Wish all my extended Family members at Speak Up and Design Observer would ascribe too. I have purposely taken the quote out of context for this occassion. Listen Up. TRUER WORDS WERE NEVER SPOKEN.



On May.25.2005 at 05:32 PM
John Hartwell’s comment is:

From Porter Garnett (1871-1951)

The Ten Commandments For Designers

I. Thou shalt not imitate.

II. Thou shalt not cater.

III. Thou shalt not seek effectiveness for its own sake.

IV. Thou shalt not seek novelty for its own sake.

V. Thou shalt not employ expedients.

VI. Thou shalt not exploit thyself nor suffer thyself to be exploited by others.

VII. Thou shalt not concern thyself with the opinions of any but the sensitive and the informed.

VIII. Thou shalt not give to anyone the thing that he wants, unless for thyself the thing that he wants is right.

IX. Thou shalt not compromise with popular taste nor with fashion nor with machinery nor with the desire of gain.

X. Thou shalt not be satisfied.

On May.25.2005 at 05:52 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

(and kudos to the person who stood up for Philly)

It should be noted that the famous quote from W.C. Fields’ tombstone is not on his tombstone. (And Mrs. Fields, Marshall Fields, and Neiman-Marcus never charged $250 for their cookie recipes.)

On May.25.2005 at 06:02 PM
Greg’s comment is:

A quote I can only ascribe to my father -

“The only thing you get from riding the fence is a butt full of splinters.”

I'm not sure it’s his, but it helps when I've got a creative block.

Also, in response to the Mave’s “everyone shut the hell up” quote from Mr. Bass -

“The very greatest is the alphabet, for in it lies the deepest wisdom; yet only he can fathom it, who truly knows how to put it together.” -Emmanuel Geibel

Funny that I got that quote from a book DM recommended to me.

On May.25.2005 at 06:40 PM
Sonyl’s comment is:

One more... a poster in a studio in school:

Practice safe design. Use a concept.

On May.25.2005 at 06:44 PM
amy p’s comment is:

"Cool is conservative fear dressed in black."

Bruce Mau

On May.25.2005 at 07:12 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:


Rarely do attempt to clarify what I say. I'll make an exception in this case. Evidently your Humor meter isn't working.

The Bass quote was EXACERBATED by another quote on another site.

"I know it's popular in some quarters to dismiss talking about design, writing about design, thinking about design — basically anything but actually doing design — as meaningless and self-indulgent".



Truer words were never spoken.

Again, The quote was taken out context.

On May.25.2005 at 07:36 PM
Pesky Illustrator’s comment is:

What a day.. Some of these are my instant favorites. May I add one?

Enjoy every sandwich.

Warren Zevon

On May.25.2005 at 08:46 PM
Stuart McCoy’s comment is:

"Wish in one hand, poop in the other, see which one fills up faster"

My dad always told me this one and I finally figured out a response since I hated it so much.

"I'm not about to crap in my hand so I'm guessing the wish hand will fill up first."

I also always hated haring the word whimsical when uttered in the context of design.

On May.25.2005 at 09:06 PM
Michael B.’s comment is:

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

On May.25.2005 at 09:57 PM
Nick Mucilli’s comment is:

"Forms follows performance. Function is taking a shit. Performance is the art of the working theater of digestion"

-Tibor Kalman

On May.25.2005 at 10:07 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

> "Vini, vidi, vici. (Shephard Fairey, I think)

Sam, it is "Veni, vidi, vici: "I came, I saw, I conquered".

This was Julius Ceasar's message to the Roman Senate after he defeated Pharnaces — eastern Turkey, 47 BCE.

Rather than quoting Ceasar, Fairey could have said, "Veni, Vidi, Graffito".

Yes, I know I'm mixing Greek and Latin...

On May.25.2005 at 11:04 PM
Joe Marianek’s comment is:

"Success comes in cans. Failure comes in can'ts."

On May.25.2005 at 11:37 PM
Marcus Kingslicus’s comment is:

A typo, Mark. You might've also pointed out that it's pronounced "weeny, weedy, weeky" which certainly puts the kaibosh on all that Italian studliness we hear so much about.

And as long as I'm slagging the Old World, just saw this on Flickr: "If it's 3am in New York, it's still 1938 in London."

On May.25.2005 at 11:38 PM
koleslaw’s comment is:

"i want it clean and simple."

On May.26.2005 at 12:23 AM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

>A typo, Mark.

And a funny one at that, dear Potticus.

Would your version translate to: "I drank, I saw, I conquered"?

In which case... vini, vini, sleepy.

On May.26.2005 at 12:58 AM
Shahla’s comment is:

The imagination/knowledge quote upthread was what I had as my yearbook quote — came to equate them later in my life, like Ron said.

Coincidentally, my daughter’s (Class of 2006) yearbook was just delivered and one of the quotes of a member of the Class of 2005 is wonderful:

I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance.

~Friedrich Nietzsche

On May.26.2005 at 12:58 AM
Paul R.’s comment is:

Rob Roy Kelly

"if you cant make it good, make it big, if you cant make it big, make it red"

On May.26.2005 at 01:40 AM
Jason Tocci’s comment is:

Recently, I sat around my apartment all day long, putting off work, eating take-out Chinese food from the place around the corner, watching Law and Order (because you can find an episode of Law and Order at pretty much any time of the day), and feeling generally guilty and lazy the whole time. When I finally got around to opening my fortune cookie at the end of the day, it said:

"Idleness is the holiday of fools."

Normally I get mad when fortune cookies refuse to tell me the future, but I saved this one.

On May.26.2005 at 01:45 AM
Matt Squire’s comment is:

A Creative director once said to me 'Grids, who needs grids, as long as everything lines up with something', quite ammusing I thought, and quite true to an extent

On May.26.2005 at 05:21 AM
Lai’s comment is:

5x Jason.

That fortune cookie really got burned in your brain...

Back to our original post, I really like this one. It's a good twist of the overused "God is in the details".

It perfectly captures that moment when after a job is finished you notice you've missed something...

"God is in perfection, but the Devil is in the details."

On May.26.2005 at 05:36 AM
Greg’s comment is:

Evidently your Humor meter isn't working.

It is. I was being funny back. Didn't that come through?

The quote was taken out [of] context.

Aren't they all?

On May.26.2005 at 07:54 AM
R Berger’s comment is:

From the owner of a shop I used to work for, on the occasion of clients who were pains in the asses (obviously not to the client directly):

"Fuck You, Pay Me."

On May.26.2005 at 08:46 AM
Armin’s comment is:

In regards to removing visual elements off a design (for one reason or another) upon client demand, me paraphrasing Michael B. paraphrasing Massimo V.:

"You can always take the wings off a butterfly, but all you are left with is a bug."

Hopefully I didn't butcher that too much.

On May.26.2005 at 08:47 AM
ml’s comment is:

from the serenity prayer:

"...grant me the courage to change what I can, accept what I cannot and the wisdom to tell the difference"

On May.26.2005 at 09:04 AM
jana’s comment is:

"graphically yours..."

David Bowie

"It's always better to be looked over than overlooked."

Mae West

On May.26.2005 at 09:57 AM
BB’s comment is:

My biggest pet peeve in meetings is mis-spoken sayings. I can't tell you how many times I've heard "That's a good concept. Let's flush it out." You mean flesh it out? If it's such a good concept, why don't we put meat on the skeleton of the idea, not send it down the tiolet. I swear it's said wrong 90% of the time.

I swear it's an epidemic. I hear it almost daily. Along with "irregardless." Ugh.

On May.26.2005 at 11:05 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:


what about "type fonts" ?

or "graphics design" ?

makes me want to shoot myself.

On May.26.2005 at 11:37 AM
Eric Heiman’s comment is:

"The biggest challenge that faces a designer isn't the quest for novelty, but coming to grips with the fact that much of we do has little content."

Michael Bierut

On May.26.2005 at 11:59 AM
nick’s comment is:

"A banana, now that's good package design"

-Darrel Austin


"Design is not a product to buy and sell. It is a cultural dialogue that can be manipulated into anything we want, to convince and trick anybody who encounters it into changing their views to whatever we so desire. We are cultural propagandists and general mindfucks."

-Art Chantry

On May.26.2005 at 12:17 PM
Oliver’s comment is:

From William McDonough:

"Being less bad is not the same as being good."

From my first design professor, Norman Schmidt:

"If you're going to make a contrast, make it an obvious contrast."

On May.26.2005 at 02:06 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:



From MEAD Forty Years of Annual Reports.

"Don't Try to be ORIGINAL.

Just Try to be GOOD.

ORIGINALITY isn't something that YOU DECIDE

you're going to be.

That is the PRODUCT of your BRAIN".


On May.26.2005 at 02:46 PM
Dennis r.’s comment is:

"We, the unwilling, led by the unknowing, have been doing so much, so fast, with so little, for so long, that we are now qualified to do the impossible with nothing, and finish before we started"

It's an old quote, very fitting for the design field at times

On May.26.2005 at 03:04 PM
Doy Cave’s comment is:

My favorite quote for clients and everybody...in just about any given situation:

"I think you're trying to go around your elbow to get to your a**."

It just works in a variety of contexts...

On May.26.2005 at 03:19 PM
Doy Cave’s comment is:

My favorite quote for clients and everybody...in just about any given situation:

"I think you're trying to go around your elbow to get to your a**."

It just works in a variety of contexts...

On May.26.2005 at 03:20 PM
LeMel’s comment is:

Many smaller clients come to designers with the wrong requests: "We need a brochuer." "We need a cover for this book." "We need a t-shirt." ...when instead they should be exposing the problem to be solved. Usually my initial work on any project is to redefine the problem. From Fast Company June 2005 Design issue:

"Don't tell me you want a bridge, show me the canyon!"

- Guiseppe Delena, Ford Motor Co.

Also, this great quote by one of my design heroes from the New York Times:

"Amidst all the attention given to the sciences as to how they can lead to the cure of all diseases and daily problems of mankind, I believe that the biggest breakthrough will be the realization that the arts, which are conventionally considered "useless," will be recognized as the whole reason why we ever try to live longer or live more prosperously. The arts are the science of enjoying life."

- John Maeda

On May.26.2005 at 03:49 PM
vibranium’s comment is:


--David Brent.

On May.26.2005 at 03:58 PM
Oliver’s comment is:


I have that Maeda quote taped up beside my desk!

On May.26.2005 at 04:08 PM
Doug Fuller’s comment is:

A favorite:

"Nothing succeeds like mediocrity because everyone understands it so well."

Keeps me sane when clients ask for their logo in blue on linen paper.

On May.26.2005 at 04:10 PM
Randal’s comment is:

It's confusing to me which of these quotes are ones people like and which ones they hate.

Essentially we are talking about Forbidden Words (as Life in Hell has it).

But it might be more useful to think of forbidden phrases:

  • Eskimos have 23 words for snow...
  • Thinking outside the box
  • Edgy
  • Homeland (anything)
  • Freedom (anything)
  • Architecture is frozen music
  • The good is the enemy of the Great
  • ...90% perspiration
  • Exciting new...
  • ...it's a no-brainer...
  • Cool...
  • __osphere (as in blogosphere)
  • Meme
  • Culture of Life (anything of Life)
  • Voted off the Island
  • You're Fired!
  • It's all about the bling-bling...
  • Most advanced...
  • Bring it on!
  • Word!
On May.26.2005 at 04:23 PM
Betsy’s comment is:

Two that hang above my desk:

"It takes 500 small details to make one favorable impression."

- Cary Grant

"If you don't know 6 ways to abuse a tool, you don't know how to use it."

- Somebody wonderful said this, but I don't know who.

On May.26.2005 at 05:20 PM
Rian Murnen’s comment is:

If you cant make it good, make it big. If you cant make it big, make it red.

When I was in school, we used this variation in reference to fine art all the time:

If you can't make it good, make it big. If you can't make it big, make it golden (gold-leaf).

On May.26.2005 at 05:25 PM
david e.’s comment is:

My biggest pet peeve in meetings is mis-spoken sayings.

i work with a guy who often uses the phrase "slippery slope" to mean a difficult situation. Drives me nuts.

Here's one quote I love from jazz great Dizzy Gilespie that applies to design:

"I've spent my whole life learning what not to play."

…and a great quote that i thought made a good defense of computer-driven post-modernism in graphic design:

"When men got structural steel, they didn't use it to design steel copies of wooden bridges."

Ayn Rand

On May.26.2005 at 08:20 PM
Tan’s comment is:

>mis-spoken sayings.

I love this scene and quote from The Princess Bride.

[Vizzini has just cut the rope, but The Dread Pirate Roberts is still climbing up]

Vizzini: He didn't fall? INCONCEIVABLE.

Inigo Montoya: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

On May.26.2005 at 09:00 PM
m. kingsley’s comment is:

>Eskimos have 23 words for snow...

Randal, this has been famously debunked; appearing on linguistics blogs over a year ago. (Here are two examples.)

Use these well the next time someone mentions the Inuit (don't call them Eskimos) and snow.

>The good is the enemy of the Great

I cringed and laughed when I saw this. In my French studies, I've been tortured by the proverb "Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien." It translates to "better is the enemy of good" and idiomatically means "leave well enough alone". To me, it's a perfect example of the disconnect between English and French logic. My teacher can't understand why this bothers me, and I have yet to gain the nuance necessary to properly convey the American-ness of thinking otherwise.

On May.26.2005 at 11:10 PM
DesignMaven’s comment is:

"I do not believe in Styles anymore.

When there is a Way. There lies the Limitation".




On May.27.2005 at 02:15 AM
gotowo’s comment is:

Now that design is more like a business than a fun job, clients continually throw market shares and useless statistics as part of a brief - as if it really influences a design, but my favourite saying is '79% of all statistics are made up on the spot' - think about it

On May.27.2005 at 02:59 AM
gotowo’s comment is:

On an ad for the Porsche Cayenne - if you can't work out why you need 450hp to pick the kids up from school, you are not giving the problem your full attention

On May.27.2005 at 03:06 AM
Tom’s comment is:

"Design is a good idea"

I think I saw this on one of Emigre's t-shirts.

btw, anbody remember that rhyme about "if the client… bla bla bla… make his logo bigger… If he still complans… bla bla bla… use his picture?

On May.27.2005 at 05:51 AM
marty’s comment is:

Not sure if this is a quote about design, perhaps more about evolution, but here goes:

"A chicken is just an egg's way of making another egg".

On May.27.2005 at 06:01 AM
Toby stokes’s comment is:

"Design is a contact sport"

Robin Craigie

(my mate from college)

On May.27.2005 at 08:59 AM
Dino’s comment is:

"This looks like dog breath"

A former art director when he was not happy with a layout.

On May.27.2005 at 10:35 AM
Yumanti’s comment is:

“Stay gold, Ponyboy. Stay gold.”

-Johnny Cade, "The Outsiders"

I believe Ponyboy goes on to be a graphic designer.

On May.27.2005 at 10:47 AM
Bradley’s comment is:

"Culture is an alibi of imperialism."

--Jean-Luc Godard

On May.27.2005 at 10:50 AM
Bryony’s comment is:

“If you don’t believe in what your are doing yourself, you ultimately set yourself up to fail.”

Debbie Millman

Design Stories from New York

On May.27.2005 at 11:07 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Intern: This logo is my favorite.

David Weinberger: I love the idea, but the name is just not legible.

Intern: Paul Rand said, “logos don’t have to be legible.”

I suppose God is, indeed in the details since we don’t know why the idea and name legibility are incompatible. As a general rule, I would expect such a conversation to go something like:

Intern: This logo is my favorite.

David Weinberger: I love the idea, but the name is just not legible. Redo it so the name reads.

On May.27.2005 at 12:13 PM
Harry’s comment is:

Two favorites from Ghostbusters that keep me going.

"No job is too big, no fee is too big."

Peter: Egon, this reminds me of the time you tried to drill a hole through your head, you remember that?

Egon: That would have worked if you hadn't stopped me.

On May.27.2005 at 03:52 PM
David Weinberger’s comment is:

Gunnar, I'm not sure I know what you mean. Isn't that how it went?

On May.27.2005 at 04:02 PM
Armin’s comment is:

Since we are getting into details and davidweinbergerisms…

I find it funny — as in ironic, eat your words funny — that just over a year and a half ago dave — the same dave that is now asking an (assumignly fictitious) intern to make a logo legible — was going on about how logos can be illegible and how you don't need to be able to read them. C'mon! Who else is laughing? Tan?

Okay, back to quotes…

On May.27.2005 at 04:20 PM
debbie millman’s comment is:

heh heh

On May.27.2005 at 04:36 PM
David Weinberger’s comment is:

Armin, I was saying that the Aiwa mark wasn't supposed to be legible. This very real intern did, in fact, intend for the name to be legible, it just wasn't. Eat my own words? C'mon. You don't really want to play the "Let's go back in the archives" game.

Incidentally, it took me a good hour to get my post to look the way it does. I think congratulations are in order.

As for the quotes, yeah, just a bunch of bumper stickers to me, for the most part.

On May.27.2005 at 04:38 PM
David Weinberger’s comment is:

Hey Deb, ganging up on me? Is that nice?

That's fine, "You mess with the bull, you get the horns" - Breakfast Club

On May.27.2005 at 04:44 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> C'mon. You don't really want to play the "Let's go back in the archives" game.

I have nothing to hide or be afraid of: I am a man full of contradictions. And you can quote me on that!

Good job on the coloration.

On May.27.2005 at 05:04 PM
Tan’s comment is:


So it's "Do as I say, not as I do." is it David?

Again, Ha!

On May.27.2005 at 05:19 PM
Bennett Holzworth’s comment is:

A few quotes that made me cringe.

"Read only left-hand pages." Bruce Mau

"I don't pay you to build your portfolio, I pay you to make the logo bigger."

This quote was from my first encounter with the owner of the company that I worked for. I was just out of school and I was presenting a brochure design to him. Luckily, I rarely ever saw him. He was one of the most paranoid people I have ever met.

On May.28.2005 at 12:04 AM
JT 3’s comment is:

Dern it Armin! I was poised to thieve that Massimo quote from Michael when you swooped in! arg. Anyway, here's John Maeda on Simplicity:

Is a Swiss army knife with 2000 features any better than one with just ten?

On May.28.2005 at 01:09 AM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

Here's one more that I like:

That's why I think there are two types of people in this world - people who can start things, and people who can finish things.

And while I place great value on the finishers, its the starters who are rare because they can envision what isn't there.

-Ed Frank

On May.28.2005 at 10:39 AM
randal’s comment is:

m. kingsley’s comment is:

>>Eskimos have 23 words for snow...

>Randal, this has been famously debunked;

>appearing on linguistics blogs over a year ago.

PRECISELY - that is what I was saying! It is a STUPID QUOTE, which is what I said in my post if you actually spent the time to read it.

This thread has quickly devolved from complaining about how quotes help people avoid thinking for themselves to coming up with new quotes to help people avoid thinking.

English actually has over 200 words and phrases that mean "drunk" and over 150 for "pregnant". I really don't doubt that the Inuit have 23 words to describe snow (English has over 15 - 20) but it is still a stupid quote. It also makes clear the way that quotes are bad -- that it is used in essence to stop conversation and stop thinking. The only possible good response to a statement like that is "cosmic, man!" Even if if is true it is essentially a useless piece of knowledge.

On May.28.2005 at 11:30 AM
gregor’s comment is:

Quotations are useful in periods of ignorance or obscurantist beliefs.

--Guy Debord

On May.28.2005 at 11:57 AM
szkat’s comment is:

what a fun post. i have a few:

- there's this site, which isn't so good for quotes but IS rather funny

- "we love, because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19

- the Cowboy Code:

1. The Cowboy must never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.

2. He must never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.

3. He must always tell the truth.

4. He must be gentle with children, the elderly, and animals.

5. He must not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.

6. He must help people in distress.

7. He must be a good worker.

8. He must keep himself clean in thought, speech, action, and personal habits.

9. He must respect women, parents, and his nations laws.

10. The Cowboy is a patriot.

On May.28.2005 at 12:31 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

David: Paul Rand said, “logos don’t have to be legible” but Paul Rand didn’t say they ought not be legible. Were you saying that you loved the idea but the idea precluded legibility? If not, it seems like the only thing between the dead designer and yourself agreeing here is your intern not wanting to do the work to make her idea right and real. In that case, I’ll offer up a lyric from an old Michael Franks song: “What good is your song if it ain’t in my key?’

On May.28.2005 at 12:53 PM
Nary’s comment is:

Sorry, not regarding design, but good to know in general:

Make sure the words you say

Are soft and sweet

For you never know from day to day

Which ones you'll have to eat

An old old philosophy prof said that to my class on the first day. I never forgot it.

On May.28.2005 at 02:49 PM
Christy Weese’s comment is:

I just watched the Debbie Millman presentation on the GDC site - worth checking out if you have time ( http://abnorth.gdc.net/millman ) and it had a couple of interesting quotes. One was a football coach Debbie quoted (can't remember the poor guy's name) who said "I never lost a game, I just ran out of time."

The other was Debbie's assertion that "Fabulous talent is equivalent to operational excellence," which creates an interesting contrast to Milton Glaser's Rule No. 4: 'Professionalism is not enough', or (the hotly contested) The Good is the Enemy of the Great (http://www.icograda.org/web/feature-past-single.shtml?pfl=feature-single-2.param&op2.rf1=103)


On May.29.2005 at 03:04 AM
Michael Surtees’s comment is:

One was a football coach Debbie quoted

Christy, the quote was from Vince Lombardi

On May.29.2005 at 03:38 AM
ian’s comment is:

Good enough is good enough if your standards are high enough.

i don't have the name in front of me but it's from the director of design at Herman Miller

On May.29.2005 at 02:52 PM
Randal’s comment is:

“A witty saying proves nothing.”

-- Voltaire

“A man thinks that by mouthing hard words he understands hard things.”

-- Herman Melville

“All generalizations are dangerous, even this one.”

-- Alexandre Dumas

"I hate quotation. Tell me what you know."

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Famous remarks are very seldom quoted correctly.”

-- Simeon Strunsky

“Almost every wise saying has an opposite one, no less wise, to balance it.”

-- George Santayana

“One original thought is worth a thousand mindless quotings.”

-- Diogenes

“What's the use of a good quotation if you can't change it? “

-- Robert Holmes

“I always have a quotation for everything— it saves original thinking.”

-- Dorothy Sayers

"The ability to quote is a serviceable substitute for wit."

-- William Somerset Maugham

“Quotation. The act of repeating erroneously the words of another. The words erroneously repeated.”

-- Ambrose Bierce

“Wise men make proverbs, but fools repeat them.”

-- Samuel Palmer

On May.29.2005 at 04:59 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

For anyone who can’t get enough of design quotes, there’s a new book out from Rockport: 401 Design Meditations: Wisdom, Insights, and Intriguing Thoughts from 244 Leading Designers by Catherine Fishel. I haven’t seen it but for some inexplicable reason it seems to be slightly over 99% quotes by people who are not me. What’s up with that?

On May.30.2005 at 06:06 PM
feelicks sockwl jr’s comment is:

Gunnar, lookin in my index you have 4 pages attributed to you in the book. Run and tell the neighbors.

On May.30.2005 at 09:29 PM
feelicks sockwl jr’s comment is:

The attitude of great poets

is to cheer up slaves

and horrify despots. — Walt Whitman

On May.30.2005 at 09:31 PM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Gunnar, lookin in my index you have 4 pages attributed to you in the book. Run and tell the neighbors.


Yes. That leaves 398 (a bit over 99% of the 401) attributed to someone else. And I share credit on one of mine. Does that count? Less than one and going down. I guess I can console myself in the 0.6% average of those quoted.

I haven’t seen the book. Is it worthwhile? According to what they emailed me I said:

“It is [Beatrice Ward’s] greatest failing as a type critic that she never mentioned (or, apparently, even considered) the jelly jar. Drinking wine from a jelly jar reveals the color of the wine and saves both money and landfill space."

“A foolish consistency is the hemoglobin of an identity.”

with help from Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Graphic designers. . . find themselves in the role of visual dishwashers for the Information Architects’ chefs.” (I don’t know why there’s an apostrophe in “architects.’” My original didn’t have an s, either. And it shouldn’t. I hate copy editors.)

“For graphic design to be great it needs to be profoundly about you. And the most important thing to remember is that it has nothing to do with you.”

On May.31.2005 at 12:31 AM
gregor’s comment is:

ok, Gunnar if it makes you feel better, my fave quote is It seems evident to most of us that plagiarism is wrong.

sleep better now :)

On May.31.2005 at 10:16 PM
gregor’s comment is:

dang forgot the author:

-- Gunnar Swanson

On May.31.2005 at 10:18 PM
Héctor Mu�oz Huerta’s comment is:

I can’t remember where did this came froma but I like it: "If you think that doing design is costly, wait to see the cost of not doing design" or something like that.

On Jun.01.2005 at 12:20 AM
feelicks sockwl jr’s comment is:

"When I work on a design I never think about beauty, realising that when I am finished if it is not beautiful I have failed."

— forget

On Jun.01.2005 at 11:45 AM
Steve Mock’s comment is:

That's Buckminster Fuller, no?

On Jun.01.2005 at 11:54 AM
Tan’s comment is:

"It costs as much money to design and build an ugly car as it does to build a beautiful one. We've decided to just build beautiful ones."

— Franz-Josef Paefgen, Audi's (former) CEO

I've quoted this before in meetings — to remind clients that the printing and/or production costs of bad design costs as much as good design. Why not choose good?

On Jun.01.2005 at 12:30 PM
Don Julio’s comment is:

“To be good is not enough, when you dream of being great.” Paula Scher/School of Visual Arts Poster circa 1988.

“If I had only known, I would have been a locksmith.”

Albert Einstein

“Do or do not - there is no try.” Yoda

“Be the change that you want to see in the world.” Gandhi

“If I had some duct tape, I could fix that.” Richard Dean Anderson as Angus MacGyver

On Jun.02.2005 at 02:48 PM
Eric Knudtson’s comment is:

"Design is so simple, that's why it's so complicated" - Paul Rand

On Jun.02.2005 at 06:46 PM
Tselentis’s comment is:

"24/7 design pimpin'. bigtime." KarlssonWilker

On Jun.02.2005 at 08:27 PM
gregor’s comment is:

every invention creates it's own accident

--Paul Virilio

On Jun.06.2005 at 06:54 PM
Kenneth FitzGerald’s comment is:

The one important thing I have learnt over the years is the difference between taking one's work seriously and taking oneself seriously. The first is imperative and the second disastrous.

—Margot Fonteyn

So much for Art. What of Thought?

—Thomas Pynchon

On Jun.07.2005 at 02:59 PM
jt dicker’s comment is:

"Whenever anyone mentions culture, I reach for my pistol." Herman Goering

On Jun.10.2005 at 12:26 PM
gregor’s comment is:

Shalom and welcome to SU jt

Whenever anyone mentions culture, I reach for my pistol."

The quite is "gun," however, however quoting a Nazi doesn't quite work with me, despite it being a popular - and quite lame - pro-situationist "detournement."

On Jun.10.2005 at 01:25 PM
gregor’s comment is:

quite == quote

On Jun.10.2005 at 01:27 PM
Charlie Quimby’s comment is:

My least favorite:

"Stop trying to make it interesting!"

On Nov.15.2005 at 03:29 PM
sgj’s comment is:

my all time favorite quote is one that the exact meaning still eludes me, but nontheless it seems applicable on almost a daily basis:

"Fuck 'em and feed 'em fish!"

(first stated by my mother, 1986)

On Nov.16.2005 at 01:26 PM