Who’s influencing the next icons of graphic design?
By John Clifford
Header Image
Who’s influencing the next icons of graphic design?
By John Clifford
Who’s influencing the next icons of graphic design?
By John Clifford
Header Image

As a graphic designer, I find inspiration almost anywhere: nature, art, architecture, books, printed ephemera, and, of course, the internet. But a consistent source for me is other graphic designers—not to copy their style, but to be informed by their ways of thinking and creative approaches to solving problems.

It made me wonder: who inspires the people who inspire me? I spoke with a few designers to find out.

Mike Joyce, Stereotype Design
“It’s unfortunate that the Swiss Style is often pigeonholed as cold, sterile, and even corporate, when in fact Josef Müller-Brockmann’s work was quite vivid and expressive. If you take a look at his Musica Viva poster series for The Tonhalle Zürich, you’ll see each design masterfully evokes the mood, feeling, tone, and harmony of the music in which the poster is announcing.”

John Maeda, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Muriel Cooper taught me that design had very little to do with how you make something, and instead why you make something.”

Left: Muriel Cooper, “Information Landscape” at MIT Media Lab’s Visual Language Workshop, 1994. Right: John Maeda, MIT Math Department poster, 1998.


David Airey
“There’s a cleanliness and a simplicity to Ivan Chermayeff and Tom Geismar’s work that just makes it look so easy, when in reality, consistently achieving consensus with a diverse range of clients is anything but.” (from Logo Design Love)

Left: Chermayeff & Geismar, Chase logo, 1961; PBS logo, 1983; Mobil logo, 1965. Right: David Airey, eFolder identity and packaging, 2014.


Paula Scher, Pentagram
“Seymour Chwast taught me how to see. Michael Bierut taught me how to think about practice.”

Left, top: Seymour Chwast, antiwar poster, 1967. Left, bottom: Michael Bierut, Pentagram, poster for the AIGA National Design Conference, 2001. Right: Paula Scher, Pentagram, Public Theater poster, 1994.


Jan Wilker, karlssonwilker inc.
Otl Aicher’s work is part of my childhood memories—I grew up in Ulm, where he started and ran the Ulm School—and I was always fascinated by it. While for most people it must look cold, geometrical, and stark, that’s not the case for me. His work comes with romantic overtones, which makes it so special to me.”

Left: Otl Aicher, Munich Olympics pictograms, 1972. Right: karlssonwilker, Gus Gus campaign and album art, 2014.


George Lois, Good Karma Creative
“At the very pinnacle of my graphic forefathers stands the name of Paul Rand. Cantankerous, irascible, loving, bristling with talent, brimming over with taste, and endowed with invincible personal conviction—the original and badass Rand showed the way.”

Left: Paul Rand, Direction magazine cover, 1940. Right: George Lois, Esquire magazine cover, 1966.

Portions excerpted from Graphic Icons: Visionaries Who Shaped Modern Graphic Design by John Clifford. Copyright © 2014. Used with permission of Pearson Education, Inc. and Peachpit Press.

Tags design thinking graphic design