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I have many design heroes. Some of them I know and some I just
know through their work published in books and presented in
lectures. They're the usual suspects, I guess, like Mockbee,
Kalman, Gehry, Sagmeister, Starck, Mabry...
Unfortunately, I have very few true mentors. This is probably
due to my own, not recommended, career tactic of “going it
However, there are two people that deserve “mentor” status.
The first was a man named Don Bell who taught Design and
Photography at the State University of New York at Binghamton,
where I attended for three years. I was a Studio Art major at the
time, since they didn't offer a design major, but I was starting to
take some design related classes like 2-D Design, Screenprinting
and Black and White Photography.
Basically, I was a design virgin.
Don was really the first person to formally introduce me to the
craft of graphic design. This was 1976, so we did everything by
hand... which unlike some old people like me, I don't miss at all
now. What Don did was spark an interest in design and then offer me
much unwavering support. In fact, it was Don that suggested I leave
SUNY Binghamton after two years and go to a “real” design
So, I transferred to Rochester Institute of Technology after my
sophomore year. This turned out to be a tremendous mistake and I
left after a year and a half and happily returned to finish up with
Don at SUNY Binghamton. Well, actually I was “asked to leave?
because I was a ”trouble-maker“ but that's a different essay.
(Although I'm delighted to tell it whenever I get the chance.)
To be clear, I don't feel like I learned how to be a
professional designer from Don. What he gave me was much more
valuable. It was the desire to create and the encouragement to keep
My other mentor, Michael Vanderbyl, is more ”professional“ and
”famous.“ Michael has had a significant impact on my career that
can be classified in two distinct phases. These are BF, Before
Friendship, and AF, After Friendship.
I moved to San Francisco in 1980. This was the very beginning of
a well-documented period called ”The Michaels.“ While I admired
them all (Schwab, Mabry, Manwaring and Cronan) it was Vanderbyl who
most impressed me. He seemed almost God-like at the time and
frankly, scared me shitless. I closely followed his career and
eventually mustered the courage to call and visit him for a
portfolio review. He was very well behaved and even took me back to
his office to show me some new work. (I recall that I saw a comp
for a poster for Simpson Paper Company that was peeling slightly
off the illustration board.)
I am very happy to report that Michael and I are now very good
buddies. He has continued to be a huge role model through his
commitment to design and teaching. Michael has also offered me
tremendous support in my career and even, almost single-handedly,
got me accepted into the exclusive and super-secret Alliance
I am most indebted to both Don and Michael and can only hope
that I can offer the same help and inspiration someday.
The Bielenberg Institute at the Edge of the Earth
C2 (A Creative Capital Network)
San Francisco, California
Hank Richardson on Mama Carrie Mentor, hero and why...
I grew up in a small South Carolina city tucked between the
black-watered Edisto River and a wide stretch of cotton patches.
The rural locale of my roots, its culture bent largely by an
agrarian society, set the tone for my future even as it set the
Section: Inspiration -
personal essay, graphic design, mentoring, students
In an effort to prove herself, Millman learned early on that there’s no such thing as small potatoes.
Section: Inspiration -
personal essay, ux design, mentoring, students
Stefan Bucher on parents, mentors and the love of a good woman Can parents be mentors? I always thought that they were legally
bound to be my mentors. But over the years I've noticed that mine
seem to go above and beyond the call of duty every time, so I'll
put them first on the list.
Section: Inspiration -
personal essay, mentoring, corporate design, students
In 1964, Saul Bass hired me as a strategic logo design planner, account
manager, and director of new business contacts. I was young, just a few
of UCLA, and I was attracted to Saul's rational approach to great
logo design in the ‘60s. Saul was captivating as he described his
reasoning why his great
designs worked: thoughtful planning first, design next. Then it all
came together which I call credibility-based logo design. This new
resulting process happened one night in Saul's office.
If you join, renew, or upgrade during AIGA’s Spring
membership drive, it’ll be even sweeter than ever.
Build relationships, bring clarity to your vision, and build enthusiasm by running a Brand Experience Workshop.
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