Photo: Sam Cook

Photo: Sam Cook

We asked—and, boy, did you answer. In the first ever ARCADE Design Education Survey, readers shared their stories, opinions, wisdom and advice from their formative years in the academy. Below you’ll find select responses to the survey. Enjoy! (for more responses, see Part 1).

The top twelve books for design students as selected by our readers in the ARCADE 2012 Design Education Survey.

A Pattern Language, Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein

“So many of us call it The Bible because it’s full of guiding light and poetry—but also because of its tissue-thin pages.”

The Design of Everyday Things, Donald A. Norman

“Fascinating read about the way people interact with the objects and devices that they encounter in their environment. A must read for anyone who designs just about anything and wants it to be useful rather than just elegant or attractive. Especially recommended for software developers, hardware developers and residential/commercial architects.”

The Fountainhead, Ayn Rand

“Ha! Just kidding.”

What Technology Wants, Kevin Kelly

“It will blow your mind and then convince you that your mind isn’t really your mind but an artifact of the Technium, our global compendium of collectively dreamed technology.”

The Vignelli Canon, Massimo Vignelli

“Touches every aspect of design, from semantic to typography, from design pragmatism to responsibility—and, wonderfully, it is free for you to download.”

The Sciences of the Artificial, Herbert A. Simon

“Explores economics, management, computer science, psychology and philosophy to understand human beings and the work of human beings (artifacts). The ideas Simon presents are widely applicable to the real world, especially when designing organizations or other large-scale projects.”

Design Form and Chaos, Paul Rand

“Every professional designer knows that almost every project generates endless arguments because your client isn’t as visually literate as your design professor or creative director. You cannot argue why Helvetica is better than Arial with your client! Paul Rand’s book helps designers counter the client’s doubt by showing logical, process-orientated ways to better present your work.”

Architecture: Form, Space & Order, Francis D.K. Ching

“Ching seriously BREAKS it down! I got most of my Ching books my freshman year of architecture school, and you couldn’t pry them from my hands.”

Design Form and Chaos, Paul Rand

“Every professional designer knows that almost every project generates endless arguments because your client isn’t as visually literate as your design professor or creative director. You cannot argue why Helvetica is better than Arial with your client! Paul Rand’s book helps designers counter the client’s doubt by showing logical, process-orientated ways to better present your work.”

Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson

“Conveys the iterative character of the design process, as well as the nature of the creative junction of liberal arts and technology.”

By Design, Ralph Caplan

“One of those rare books that makes you view the world differently afterward.”

The Poetics of Space, Gaston Bachelard

“Bachelard presents poetic interpretations of enclosures, inside/outside, and other spatial phenomenon while applying them to such entities as the nest, the shell, the corner, the drawer, etc. A work to savor, slowly. Highly recommended to those who enjoy poetry, philosophy, architecture or art.”

An Eames Primer, Eames Demetrios

“Gives fantastic insight into the design process—the raw exploration and experimentation in every facet of the Eames’s creative process.”

UW College of Built Environments. Photos: Sam Cook

UW College of Built Environments. Photos: Sam Cook

Design Stories

In 1976, late one evening in the studio, I asked for a desk crit from my 4th year coordinator, Daniel Libeskind. I talked about my intentions for my project, an art school. He said abruptly, “Architecture is not words. Come to me when you have drawings.” That was a turning point for me.
—ROB HARRISON, Principal, Harrison Architects

I remember a prof (who shall remain nameless) reaming a student one day for not putting enough time into his project and really just dumping on him. At the time, I thought it was unnecessarily tough and even a bit mean. But maybe it was just what was needed because at the next crit, that kid brought in an amazing amount of really well thought-out work. And to his credit, the prof was equally as complimentary as he had been negative before. I guess the takeaway is that sometimes you just have to call it like it is, with no apologies.
—BEN GRAHAM, Principal/Creative Director, Turnstyle

My first studio professor told us on our first day of class: “If I ever give you a compliment on your work, it’s because I’m feeling weak that day.” …but looking back, it was a fairly balanced introduction to the design jury process.
—KERRY MASON, Architectural Designer, Tetra Tech, Inc

Facebook, Menlo Park. Photos: Francis Luu

Facebook, Menlo Park. Photos: Francis Luu

Perverse Modernist

Back in my days as a graphic design student, I was obsessed with Modernism and Swiss typography. I idolized Josef Müller-Brockmann, Armin Hofmann, Wim Crouwel, Otl Aicher, Karl Gerstner, Willi Kunz and the likes. I was so attached to these designers that my own work began to resemble theirs: clean, simple and minimal, with abstract photography and reduced iconography. I was methodical and obsessed with the modular typographic system—in fact, I couldn’t work without the grid!

My epiphany began when I started to practice as an independent design professional. My first clients were the owners of an upscale family restaurant. They wanted their brand to convey authenticity, freshness and warmth.

I presented my initial ideas and mood boards as well as some sketches of their menu. The client’s reaction? They were baffled by the minimalism, especially in the menu layout—a design that could have easily come from Die Neue Typographie. To explain, I gave them a design history lecture, describing broad concepts such as “less is more” and “form and content.” I even showed them work from Massimo Vignelli and Chermayeff & Geismar.

The clients didn’t get it. They demanded to see something new. They even said, “The menu layout is so empty, are you sure this has been designed?”

I began to feel some self-doubt. Were my ideals wrong?

Knowing that I would have to change direction, I happened to see Michael Bierut’s essay on Modernism, “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mentor, Or, Why Modernist Designers Are Superior” in the Design Observer. Bierut describes designing a monograph on designer Tibor Kalman—the founder of M&Co., and the editor of the subversive COLORS magazine. Even though Bierut had lots of ideas on how the book could embody the irreverence of M&Co., Tibor instead advised him to “do a really nice clean layout — like a Vignelli book — but then fuck it up a little.”

I also recalled the words of one of my design professors. She had once said that a good solution could be executed in any style. That we should be versatile in execution.

So I began to experiment with “style”—a real taboo when it comes to Modernism. I still used a limited color palette, but I went crazy with typography, using multiple typefaces, even a script font.

The client approved this new solution. But more importantly, I got away from my own dogmatism. And I continued by exposing myself to even more diverse approaches— looking at the work of James Victore, Milton Glaser, Bob Gill and Rick Valicenti— all which I used to resent.

I discovered that the work of these non-Modernists isn’t completely unrestricted. There is order in the chaos—in the number of brushstrokes, in the amount of ink splatter and even in the off-the-grid handwritten typography. The work isn’t “Swiss,” but it is good, and it does have relevant and immediate visual impact.

To conclude, my point is this: as a designer, never let a personal obsession get in the way of your development. After all, design is a unique profession in which you can learn new things from many different clients, allowing yourself to be enriched through gaining a wide range of knowledge and information.

So why limit yourself to doing architectural symposium posters for the rest of your life? Sure, you can be passionate about jazz and do a whole series of jazz festival posters, but why not venture out a little and also test yourself in other areas? I think it’s time to use a little intuition and to have less visual restriction. But don’t go overboard and pull stunts like the London 2012 Olympics logo (or the Pepsi logo), unless you want to be known as a designer with “imaginative” rationale.

—OWEN IRIANTO, 2006 UW VCD graduate, Owner of Atelier Owen Irianto in Jakarta, Indonesia