Pok Chi Lau is a photographer and teacher from Lawrence, discount KS who has made Chinese migration and the emergence of China a focal point of his work over the past 40 years. Pok Chi was my photography teacher in college and had an enormous influence on me and my work in terms of how I approached image making as well as how I looked at different cultures through the lens of a camera. He still remains a strong influence of mine as well as a friend and so I was very excited to learn that he has a new book of his work out called Flow China!

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AIGA KC lecture featuring Stefan Sagmeister

Image courtesy of AIGA KC

On March 10, viagra AIGA Kansas City hosted a lecture by New York based graphic designer and typographer, more about Stefan Sagmeister. Mr. Sagmeister is one of the most recognized living graphic designers and I’ve always been an admirer of his work and the way that he works with concepts to complete his projects. In his hour long talk, life he touched on the work that he has been doing since he took his self-imposed sabbatical (the “year without clients”). He has set up his small design firm, Sagmeister, Inc., in a way that I think would be ideal for most designers. The firm breaks down work into 4 categories:

  1. Design for music (i.e. the identity for Casa de Musica and also his long list of famous album covers.)
  2. Socially responsible design (i.e. True Majority)
  3. Corporate design (Zumtobel)
  4. We are the authors (his most current typeographic work)
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Recently, about it the ever-fascinating TED Conference has posted a talk given by design legend Philippe Starck. In his upbeat and humorous 18 minute talk, information pills he discusses the role of design within the context of history and society. He even goes so far as to say “I believe in general that my job is absolutely useless; but now, web after Carolyn(Porco) and these guys, I feel like shit”. Check out his talk to hear him elaborate on that!

When I was in design school, I remember being hit one day with this scary thought that maybe my career choice was worthless. Upon graduation, would I simply be making things look “pretty” while trying to convince people to buy crap that they don’t need? When compared to doctors, politicians, teachers, and even fine artists, how important is design in the grand scheme anyway? Some of the great pieces of graphic design have been in support of things I despise like oil companies, companies supporting slave labor, cigarettes, and fast food, so how could I find a place within that and still feel good about myself at night?

Fortunately, I had a great teacher who was able to really shed some light on this. She told me that, contrary to what I was feeling, design is a very noble profession. Sure, you find guys who sell their soul to promote bad or dangerous products, but the nobility is found in the work that you do to promote the causes you believe in. A graphic designer might have the power to enable a struggling startup business to succeed, and perhaps allow the owner to feed their family. Or they might help spread the word about important political and social issues which might not reach the right audience without also being visually engaging. In the end, it’s the designer’s choice.

So, I really took that to heart when deciding what kind of work I wanted to do. Right now, I do a LOT of work for artists and musicians who work their entire lives for countless hours, perfecting their craft and getting paid next to nothing to do it. These people have such passion for what they do that I feel honored to help them reach a larger audience through a poster, CD design, website, or even a business card. I have also helped a number of people move from a great idea to an actual business with a meaningful identity. A bulk of the work I do is for the University of Kansas Center for Research on Learning where my work helps struggling learners succeed in school and in life. It doesn’t get more important that that, right?

So, yeah, I do feel that design can change lives and I feel that the work I do is noble and, while it may seem over-idealistic, it is what keeps me going, even when it’s 2 a.m. and I’m trying to meet a deadline . . .

This is an interesting read for all designers out there:
The First Things First 2000 Manifesto.

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Jim Coudal

For this first post, I wanted to let people in on a great Friday afternoon time waster. Layer Tennis is a site sponsored by Coudal Partners that pits two designers against each other in a mano a mano design battle. It’s amazing to see how fast they work!

On a related note, in 2006, Jim Coudal gave a presentation for the Society of Graphic Designers of Canada. They have the video online and it gives great insight on how one design firm got started and kept itself in the game. A real inspiration for those contemplating a design startup!

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