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It has never been easier to think the world is your oyster simply because you sit, day after day, staring at a computer screen. And there’s never been a
more misguided way to think about design in the 21st century.
Like music, design is an international language, and is evident in everything from text to textiles, shelter to shopping. How we communicate in foreign
places stems from the ways in which we engage material culture—not popular culture, but the real, tangible, material worlds inhabited by millions
of people you’ve never met.
Ignore them at your peril, because they’re going to be your next audience.
As a student, your job is to learn how to learn; this means training your eye, your hands, your mind. Yet as you hone your craft, you must keep your eye on
a much more distant goal, but a much more relevant one—and that is need.
What do people actually need? How can a designer meet that need? How can you actually observe what people need—and where and when and how they need it?
Finally, how might you begin to think about design as a combination of the known (read “your education”) and the unknown (read “the real world”) and
approach it as a kind of robust, international language?
You can begin by contemplating a departure from your comfort zone, and going out into the world to see for yourself. Apply for every travel grant you can.
Get out there, and look. Be strong, and listen. Be brave, and ask tough questions. Be humble, and participate in that which seems so other. Be
bold, and immerse yourself in a culture that is not your own. This is what it will mean to be a designer in the next 50 years. Start now.
Jessica Helfand is a partner at Winterhouse and a founding editor of Design Observer. In 2013 she was recognized as an AIGA Medalist. This essay was first featured in AIGA’s Survey of Design Salaries.
Jessica Helfand is an award-winning writer, educator and designer. A partner with William Drenttel in Winterhouse Institute and a founding editor of Design Observer, she is a former columnist for
Print, Communications Arts and Eye magazines and has written for numerous national publications including Aperture, Los Angeles Times Book Review and
The New Republic. She is the author of several books including Screen:
Essays on Graphic Design, New Media, and Visual Culture,
Reinventing the Wheel and Scrapbooks: An American History. A previous appointee to the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee where she chaired the design subcommittee, she is a recent laureate of the Art Director's
Hall of Fame and, with William Drenttel, was the first-ever recipient of the Henry Wolf Residency at the American Academy in Rome. A visiting artist at numerous Universities in the US and abroad, Jessica Helfand currently teaches at Yale University where she
is Senior Critic in the School of Art and a Lecturer in Yale College. In 2013, she was awarded the AIGA Medal.
How can graphic design in Iran draw on the rich culture and history of the country? Tootoonchi reveals a country's evolution in design thinking and education—from decoration to persuasion.
Section: Inspiration -
Voice, print design, international
As summer approaches we are still basking in the fond springtime memories of Design Ranch 2013. The quiet moments by the river, the creative energy and inspiration in each and every workshop, the festive and warm moments making new friends by the fire, and the fellowship found in the dining hall, are all cherished moments that we carry with us back home. We returned to our daily lives refreshed and ready to face the world.
I’ve been an AIGA member since I moved to Raleigh in 2009, and in that time I have gained so much through what I have given to the chapter. As a chapter, our mission is to create a place where design thrives. What I found through my involvement with AIGA Raleigh is a place where I thrive, too.
Neue Grafik exhibition, Image Now Gallery, Dublin
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