I found myself once aimlessly clicking links in an effort to find visual inspiration for an upcoming project. Around that time, my brain began to fire off numerous images of illustrators, designers, letterers — people who had one thing in common: their craft fueled my developing craft.
I’ve always been mindful of the baby steps I take in design — ever musing about the quality, the frequency, and the elevation of each step. As I thought of each of the creators below, I remember the change they’ve brought and how that has affected me. These prolific creators found their way into my consciousness as a catalyst for my ideas. My aim is to drive other baby-steppers to great inspirers like these.
*Since writing, I’ve come across a dozen or more that I wish I would have included. Perhaps a future project will come…
An award-winning graphic designer known for book jacket, and most importantly to me, the very first creator to reply kindly to this project. In typography and book design, Chip is often referenced. His book cover designs are the face of literature. And — as Debbie Millman exclaimed — “Print is NOT dead”. One of my new favorites of his is Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage, cleverly come to life on Chip’s homepage. Chip also tells a wonderful story of his career in a Ted Talk. You will be inspired.
Art director for the NYT Book Review, author of multiple design books, columnist at the NYT, and more accolades, Steven Heller is constantly in my inbox as inspirational reading. He puts out a daily design newsletter called the Daily Heller. Without this Daily, there would be a considerable lack of images swirling around in my mind of historical documentation of bottle design, letterheads, fashion design, cartography, etc.
The first time I heard Jessica Hische’s name was sitting in the common room before one of my classes. I found her website and immediately became a fan. Jessica’s site states she is a “lettering artist”. From the widely-distributed “love” stamp for USPS to MailChimp’s logo, she has a prolific body of work. The Everygirl did an insightful interview in which she proclaims:
The key is to always keep trying to be better.
Sounds within reach.
Founder of DDC; co-founder of Field Notes; worked with many top companies as well as the Obama Administration. Aaron Draplin has certainly made his mark on design. He also seems to have an enthusiastic following. Just do a “draplin” search on Dribbble. AIGA Hampton Roads asked Aaron recently what he thought the role of the designer is in 2017 and beyond. It’s helpful how clarifying he put it:
To clarify ideas, always. But on a even bigger note, to illustrate/amplify simple human truths/justice to the bad people who seek to skew them
I can’t pinpoint when Jacob Cass's site became my go-to resource but I can’t imagine inspiration without it. JUSTCreative’s platform brings content for aspiring creatives on a daily basis. He’s worked on branding for one of my favorite comedians of all time, Jerry Seinfeld. Plus, he’s a real globe-trotter which makes for an interesting feed! In this interview, Logo Creative asked Jacob to describe graphic design in less than ten words. He only needed 5:
Thinking. Creativity. Conceptualising. Language. Everything..
I love that he ended with “everything”. It means training a mind to see design in everyday life. It means enjoying things you might’ve bypassed before.
Milton Glaser, creator of the iconic “I ❤ NY”, is an incredibly inspirational designer. Many creators following Milton have attributed him as a major influencer in their work. Although the famous city logo stands the test of time, Milton is far more than a classic logo or a greatest hits poster. The NY Times interviewed him a while back, where someone asked why he keeps working. His thrilling response was:
You really want an answer?…It’s the greatest source of pleasure in my life. I am so thrilled by making something that didn’t exist before.
With a large body of work behind him, Michael Bierut embarked on a daunting task: sharpshooting graphic design in Times Square. The meticulous care he puts into noticing everything his eyes fall upon is precisely why so many people credit Michael in shaping their creativity.
He’s an amazing designer with a portfolio that includes Disney, NYU, Saks Fifth, Hillary Clinton’s Campaign logo, and much more.
I had the opportunity to see illustrator/designer Timothy Goodman at Adobe MAX last fall. He took us through some of his projects and I really enjoyed his rogue/street art style. I just found his instagram and I feel like I need to scroll for a while to catch up on great inspiration! He has a really interesting installation at Airbnb.
I found Giorgia Lupi and her Dear Data project via FiveThirtyEight’s Jody Avirgan and Kate LaRue who challenged their podcast listeners to create a similar project. Giorgia and fellow-designer Stefanie Posavec shared information designs during a year-long correspondence. I especially liked that they pen-palled via snail mail. Design Week did a great write-up on it.
You Don’t Have to Start with a Good Idea — You Just Have to Finish with One. This was the title of a talk Dan Stiles did at MAX. He took us through his process from beginning to end. I must say, it was probably the most influential session for me. I pore over process documenting, and to see Stiles go from a quick sketch to an awesome concert poster is inspiring. Grab his book.
Jessica Walsh of Sagmeister & Walsh is an inspirer and bold visualizer. Take one look at her Behance Portfolio and you’ll see incredible and timeless design. Beyond that, she has released a few interesting social experiments with Timothy Goodman including 40 Days of Dating and 12 Kinds of Kindness. Here’s a great interview from NPR on their resolution to become more empathetic.
Type designer Erik Spiekermann is the brains behind fonts such as Meta, Officina, Unit and others. He is the design mind behind brands such as Audi, Bosch, VW, and others. In speaking of people he looks up to in a 99Uinterview, Erik says:
Their work is so different from my work, and I thrive on that.
I think it’s amazing to view others’ craft with enough envy to be inspired but not inhibited. Erik taught me that.
Writer/Educator/Artist/Designer Debbie Millman took her skills to Design Matters, the oldest design-centered podcast where she has interviewed all sorts of interesting people. One of the most iconic magazine covers I remember was designed by Debbie for Print Magazine’s 2013 Regional Design Annual. Her eye-catching typography declares “Print is not dead”. To me, that’s exciting enough.