15 inspiring quotes from some of the world's greatest graphic designers

in Tips / Career

Over the past 12 months, I’ve had the great fortune of working with some of the best creatives in the graphic design industry, as prominent guest speakers visit Shillington campuses all over the world. I always listen in to the advice they offer our students and believe the wisdom they share can benefit any designer, no matter how established.

I find it comforting that design is such an open and collaborative creative business. When you’re still glued to your desk late at night, toiling away at a brief, it can feel like very isolating work — so I take comfort and find motivation in the wisdom of my peers. It’s good to know that we’ve all been there, even Milton Glaser.

Here I’ve compiled some of the best quotes from some of my favourite designers – including those who have been guest speakers at Shillington. If you have a favourite quote, or if you’d like to share your own advice, then please comment below.

1. Milton Glaser

"There are three responses to a piece of design. Yes, no and Wow! Wow is the one to aim for."

Milton Glaser, one of the most influential designers of all time, best known for the I heart NY logo.

2. Bob Gill

“I think the fun of being a graphic designer is to do something original, to make images that nobody’s ever seen before. And the only way you’re going to do that is to avoid what the culture tells you is good. There is no good. The good comes from what does the job. Once it might be a sunset, which is beautiful, and another might be a dog turd, which is disgusting. But it may be the perfect image for what you’re trying to communicate.”

Bob Gill, illustrator, filmmaker and a living legend of graphic design. Guest speaker at Shillington New York, January 2016.

3. Chip Kidd

“Never fall in love with an idea. Ideas are whores. If the one you’re with isn’t doing the job, there’s always, always, always another.”

Chip Kidd, US book designer behind some of Penguin's most iconic book covers.

4. Andrew Harvey

“Ask why. Ask why until it becomes painful, until you’re sick of the word. And give it character — there’s enough ‘nice’ design in the world. Whether sublime, exuberant, minimal or maximal, give your work personality. Don’t be afraid to be awkward — what feels comfortable today, will be boring tomorrow.”

Andrew Harvey, Creative Director of Moving Brands. Guest speaker at Shillington London, December 2015.

5. Jon Gledstone

“The simpler the idea the better. It could break ground and it could defy physics but as long as the idea is super simple enough that I can tell my Mum, then that’s a great idea.”

Jon Gledstone, Creative Director at Mr President. Mentor at The Dots Advertising Masterclass, in partnership with Shillington, London, March 2015.

6. Neville Brody

“Digital design is like painting, except the paint never dries.”

Neville Brody — British graphic designer, typographer and art director.

7. Paul Rand

“The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to prefer bad design, because that is what it lives with. The new becomes threatening, the old reassuring.”

Paul Rand, renowned US designer behind abc and IBM logos.

8. Kevin Finn

“As designers, we are in the service industry, but that does not mean we need to be servile. Clients are looking to us for guidance and expertise. We should lead them and not be bullied.”

Kevin Finn, Director of TheSumOf and Founder of Open Manifesto journal. Guest speaker at Shillington Brisbane, January 2016.

9. Petrula Vrontikis

“Practice safe design. Use a concept.”

Petrula Vrontikis, renowned graphic designer and teacher, founder of Vrontikis Design.

10. David Pearson

“You have power as a designer to change the relationship someone has with an object. Your challenge is to keep people looking. Build in those little details. To some people, they might mean a lot.”

David Pearson, book designer behind some of Penguin Books’ most memorable covers. Guest speaker at Shillington London, December 2015.

11. Joe Sparano

“Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.”

Joe Sparano – graphic designer for Oxide Design Co.

12. Tim Sutherland

“Be remembered. I’d much rather have work loved or hated than not remembered.”

Tim Sutherland, Founder and Creative Director of Studio Brave. Guest speaker at Shillington Melbourne, December 2015.

13. Elliott Walker

“Surround yourself with people that will give you honest feedback. They need to be able to say ‘this sucks’. That doesn’t mean you suck. But that feedback will make you better.”

Elliott Walker, designer at Pentagram. Guest speaker at Shillington New York, November 2015.

14. Saul Bass

“Failure is built into creativity… the creative act involves this element of ‘newness’ and ‘experimentalism’, then one must expect and accept the possibility of failure.”

Saul Bass, a graphic designer and filmmaker who was best known for his film posters and title sequences.

15. Joshua Brewer

“Socrates said, “Know thyself.” I say, “Know thy users.” And guess what? They don’t think like you do.”

Joshua Brewer — San Francisco based designer, previously Principle Designer at Twitter.


Find out more about our guest speakers in the #IndustryTalks series on Shillington Design Blog. And check out our Instagram feed for more inspiring design quotes.

Main image: Bob Gill, guest speaking at Shillington in New York, January 2016

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