The Dot and the Line

From one of my favorite animators, Chuck Jones, is a fantastic graphic animated story created in 1965, which won him his only Academy Award – where maths teams with graphics and tells us a moral! Who could ask for more.

Make it pretty, make it bigger and don’t use green

I think I can speak for all designers when I mention some of the comments from our clients that unsettle us – though we know where they are coming from, they can still create unnecessary blockages in the creative process – I speak of comments like “we need you to pretty up this document”, “our logo is way too small, make it bigger”, and “I had a bad experience with green once and couldn’t face that colour on our brochure”.

Design is a process in which all elements need to be considered, including: the audience, the client’s needs, the business brand, tone, colour, hierarchy, message, positioning, medium, image, to mention a few. As we like to say, “no brief, plenty grief” – a brief is essential for every type of project, including that 1 colour business card. A brief creates an unbiased outline of the requirements of a project and clearly addresses the objectives of the final outcome. Based on a brief we can determine whether a logo needs to be big, whether being pretty is a desired look or if in fact green need be considered at all.

This has been a struggle for designers and particularly with the overwhelming impact of computer derived design where changes can be instantaneous. Our client’s needs – to have input in the end result – are important to ensure the design is well targeted – as no one knows their audience as they do – but it is important to allow the designer to pull back and view the broader picture and be objective in their design decisions, to consider, size, colour and image based on conceptual thinking and considering issues of the project brief.

An article presented by AIGA called The Resistance: Designers and Clients Go Head-to-Head discusses the role of client and designer and raises some interesting points on this subject.

On a humorous note – a website, that has been going around for a while, makes light of this with their revolutionary cream that guarantees to relieve clients of their designers sensibilities and enlarge their logos at will – by simply applying this cream to their computer monitor to enlarge their logo – absurd but droll Make my logo bigger

And a rocking song along the same theme – “make the logo bigger” – by Burn Back

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At work

Seeing designers and creators at work and discussing their process can be immensely inspiring – to see the thinking behind the process behind the end visual that we react and relate to.

Melbourne has a great culture of designers, artists and creators nestled in the back streets of inner Melbourne – they’re there, you’ll pass them and not realise it, and there are several opportunities to see their personal work through local galleries and through organised events such as ‘Saturday in Design’.

At we get to experience creators at work with short documentaries, or as they describe them – ‘vodcasts’. Here is an example from artist/illustrator Shaun Tan

To a T

On to more modern design, design that is seen everywhere and on the chests of many people is the explosion of T-Shirt art – well, when I say explosion, T-shirt art has been around for more than several decades now – starting out as under garments the on to the 60s where it became the standard dress of the youth with their tie-die experiments, through to the 70s and 80s where they became a personal billboard that expressed the opinion of the owner, through to the 90s and 00s where they seem to express more about peoples personalities and attitudes.

We are now seeing design and illustration explored in depth through applications to Ts and some of the best examples of illustration adorns them – sometimes irreverent, sometimes whimsical, often humorous and always engaging.

There are many T-shirt companies that are reaping the glory with all this glorious illustration that is being generated by talented image makers. One such company is Threadless from America – certainly worth visiting for inspiration next time you want a T or want to create for a T.

T-Shirt design from Threadless

T-Shirt design from Threadless

This video features a launch for a range from a art group called Black Rock Collective – with plenty of their examples filtered through it.

Black Rock Collective @ Threadless from on Vimeo.

More Ts at
And for a Melbourne focus go to Red Bubble


Another designer who is a big name in the visual design industry since the early 90s is David Carson. He has had a large influence on breaking the formal rules of design and breaking away from the conventional and proving that aesthetics still work when these conventions are defied.

He was not formally trained as a visual designer and discovered his passion for it while teaching. He found his own visual voice through his involvement with being a professional surfer and studying Sociology and art directing several skate boarding and surfing magazines – breaking magazine layout rules along the way – most notably with the magazine RayGun.

Ray Gun magazine cover

Ray Gun magazine cover

He had a strong influence on many young designers of the 90s, if not with his actual work, with his attitude and playfulness with design. He visited our university in 1992 and he was certainly inspiring and entertaining to listen to – things appear not to have changed – see this video from the TED website of Carson talking about design – description from the site:

“Great design is a never-ending journey of discovery — for which it helps to pack a healthy sense of humor. Sociologist and surfer-turned-designer David Carson walks through a gorgeous (and often quite funny) slide deck of his work and found images.”


Cards to observe

Your business card would be your most important piece of visual communication you can have – it represents you and/or your business in a bite sized high impact device – it leaves an impression with the person you are introduced to, even if it is for only 30 seconds. It belongs with the first impressions people will have of you, like wearing that Hugo Boss suit or the shoes that match your outfit – the fine attention to detail is all taken in to account.

So the effort to make your business card suit your business philosophies is important to get right – it’s more than a bit of paper with your contact details on it.

If you are looking for inspiration for creating a business card or to consider what printing methods can be adopted, a good starting place is at are some of the website that showcase them, such as – here you will find many samples and excellent printing examples including letterpress, embossing, foil stamping, laser cutting, die-cutting, gloss varnish, metals, plastics and even sewing machine stitching. There are certainly countless ways to impress with your little first impressioner.

Kyle Cooper

While discussing Saul Bass I made reference to Kyle Cooper for directing the fabulous opening sequence to Se7en – the company he used to work for is Prologue Films, who have made amazing opening sequences/titles for many modern day (big budget) movies – here are just a few – find more at

Bang Bang Kiss Kiss

Bang Bang Kiss Kiss

The Reaping

The Reaping

Rock N Rolla

Rock N Rolla

We were fortunate to hear Danny Yount, creative director of Prologue Films, speak last year at Melbourne’s AGIdeas conference – his presentation seemed to scream out of the stage with so many impressive examples.

Here’s an except of an interview with him:

Q: You are a self-taught designer. In today’s world, artists are emerging everywhere from their own ability & trained by their curiosity. Tell me your opinion on this differentiation of designers impacting the industry as a whole.

A: I was self-taught in that I learned how to use the computer efficiently and make things look like good design rip-offs, but the art of visual communication was developed by learning from mentors in the workplace, which took years to development. The problem with a lot of design today is that our self-enabling computers have made us “digital artists” and “mo-graphers” – drunk on technology and ability but lacking in originality and good storytelling and design problem-solving, which many times is a product of restraint, not technique.

Saul Soul

If we’re going to start this blog featuring designers who influence then we’d better get this one out of the way – Saul Bass. Considered a legend of the graphic design world with his contribution to film credit sequences and film posters. If you have seen any of the classic 50s movies you will recognise his work.

Designers of this generation always inspire me – it’s not about where they fit now, but where they fitted then and where they sit in the evolution of visual design – what came before them, what inspired them – to realise that they were innovators of thier times, little of this type of work had been done before them, the resources they had to make their art was limited (paper, ink, scalpel), and with Saul Bass – no one had created credit sequences like this before – his work added a new element to a movie that has set the standard for so many movies that have come after it – one of note is the movie Se7en, created by Kyle Cooper.

This first video is lengthy but worth the watch as Saul discusses his work, next is a reel of film credits he has created over his years and below is Se7en.

The Man with the Golden Arm film graphic

The Man with the Golden Arm film graphic

Find out more at

Touchy feely design

Advancing rapidly is the way designers will work conceptually – there are technological promises that will make the process more intuitive and less restrictive with the use of the computer. Mice and tablets have certainly had their place but time is calling for a new approach. We’re all familiar with touch screens and now the iPhone, and in the last 2 years we have seen the increased development of the multi-screen monitors – where the user can manipulate the content on the screen with their fingers to scale, move and colour objects.

It is now a matter of time before developers create the ultimate user interface for designers with this very fast moving technology. Below is an example of the technology demonstrated for use in architecture. Find out more on how this technology works at also see

Art in design

Keeping with history, some of the best designers of the early 1900s were actually artists themselves. Many would create their own books, with hand type, colour, compositions and page layout.

Find out more on this at Wikipedia