Creative Titans: John Maeda and the Art of Simplicity

JohnMaeda

 

Born in 1966, John Maeda is a world-renowned graphic designer, visual artist, and computer scientist. Throughout his successful career as a programmer and as an artist, he has found a way to seamlessly interconnect the two.

During his time studying at MIT, famed designer Muriel Cooper persuaded Maeda to pursue his passions for fine art and design. He did so by teaching typographers and page designers to explore the freedom of the web through computer-aided design. Many designers credit him with laying the groundwork for interactive motion graphics.

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Maeda wrote the book on simplicity – literally – in 2006. His book, titled “The Laws of Simplicity”, covers the 10 laws and three key principles of simplicity, which range from thoughtful reduction to organization and time-saving.

In his early work, he redefined the use of electronic media by combining artistic techniques with advanced computer programs to create truly unique pieces. He is also a proponent of the “STEAM” movement: He strives to have an “A” for Art added to the STEM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

Maeda focuses on creating simplicity in the digital age by intersecting complicated technology with art and design. As a member of the Technical Advisory Board for Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects Group, he is constantly faced with the challenge of creating something that is simple, yet still meets our complex needs.

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Maeda aims to balance simplicity and complexity in business, technology, and design. To achieve this, he said: “Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.” He believes that we can learn to simplify without sacrificing quality, both in our professional and personal lives.

He has taken influence from Paul Rand and his love of creating pieces that are less structured. He also frequently praises Apple’s designs and how they simplify our complicated needs. Maeda found that “while great art makes you wonder, great design makes things clear.”

His work has been exhibited in Tokyo, New York, London, and Paris. It is also a part of the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the NYC Museum of Modern Art. Along with his museum contributions, he has also worked with companies like Absolute Vodka, Reebok, and Shiseido to create limited edition designs that showcase his appreciation for art and technology. He is also the founder of the SIMPLICITY Consortium at the MIT Media Lab.

He is the recipient of many awards, including the Smithsonian Institution National Design Award, the Raymond Loewy Foundation Prize in Germany, and the Mainichi Design Prize in Japan. He was also named one of the 75 most influential people of the 21st century by Esquire and deemed the “Steve Jobs of academia” by Forbes.

Creative Titans: How Paul Rand Influenced Logo Design

Paul-Rand-Logo-Designer

Paul Rand, born Peretz Rosenbaum, was an esteemed American art director and graphic designer who is responsible for creating some of the most recognizable and memorable logos of all time. Some of his most notable logos include those for IBM, UPS, Enron, Morningstar, Inc., Westinghouse, ABC, and Steve Jobs’ NeXT. He was an influential expert in his field who preferred to complete most of the work on his own. Despite having a large staff to depend on, he was considered a recluse in his creative process.

Rand had an impressive educational career to boast of, studying at Pratt Institute, Parsons School of Design, and the Art Students’ League. He later taught at Pratt, Yale University, and Cooper Union. He also received a number of honorary degrees from respected universities, including Yale and Parsons.

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Rand published “Thoughts on Design” in 1947, which is still used to educate students and professionals alike. It helped influence the world of graphic design that we know today. He had a number of important works and focused on trademark design and the design of a memorable logo. He also helped shape the way for strong brand image and Swiss Style graphic design.

Rand had indicated that some notables inspired him in life and in his design work. His inspirations included Roger Fry, John Dewey, and Paul Klee, to name a few. In his professional career, Rand was a logo designer extraordinaire, having created such iconic logos as IBM, which he continued redesigning from the 1950s until the 1990s. He created two variations of the striped logo, one with eight stripes and one with 13 stripes, to provide the right logo for different circumstances. Throughout the years, the basic design has remained the same, making it one of the most recognized logos worldwide.

Rand’s work was designed to create a memorable experience and a lasting impression. His work helped set new standards for graphic design and logo design. To create a successful logo, Rand considered the basics, including what logos are, what they are not, and what they are capable of being. This helped him  create the right level of simplicity to suit each client’s needs.

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Rand’s strategy was to focus on freeform layouts that are less structured and utilize collage, photography, artwork, and typography for an engaging result that users wanted to interact with. He took advantage of contrast and shapes to create unconventional ads and logos that were different from the rest.

His influence was work from modern artists like Paul Cezanne and he proposed the essence of Modernist theories in visual communication. His goal was to take something ordinary and create something extraordinary out of it. As Rand so eloquently put it, “the problem of the artist is to defamiliarize the ordinary.”

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Creative Titans: How Michael Bierut Influenced Typography

Graphic Designer Michael Bierut

 

Michael Bierut is one of the most recognized graphic designers in the world. He studied graphic design at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, and is currently a senior critic in graphic design at the Yale School of Art.

In 1980, he began his first job working alongside the legendary Massimo Vignelli and eventually rose to vice president of design at Vignelli Associates. He put in hard work over the years and even worked double shifts for four years at the design firm, and is now a partner in the New York office of Pentagram.  Recently, Mr. Bierut redesigned the Billboard logo, among other notable projects. He has  won hundreds of design awards and received praise and accolades from innumerable industry professionals over the years.

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While at Pentagram, Bierut has created new brand strategies, identities, and packaging for Yale School of Architecture, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Motorola, to name a few.

Bierut set the stage for typographic style design and took advantage of the beauty of fonts and type. He appreciates the way words look and used them to create unique designs that are hard to forget. He likes experimenting with new typefaces until he finds the perfect one for the client. He even hand-drew the typeface for the Nuts.com rebrand. His hand-drawn typeface was digitized and a one-of-a-kind alphabet was created just for the family-owned nut business.

During the Saks Fifth Avenue redesign, Bierut took the iconic cursive logo that was originally drawn in 1973 by Tom Carnese and breathed new life into it. By subdividing the logo into a grid of 64 smaller squares, which were then shuffled and rotated, he was able to create individual logo tiles that can be used to form abstract compositions. This followed Bierut’s strategy to create consistency without sameness.

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His goal is to create designs that people want to look at and read, and that are ideal for everything from logos to corporate brochures. He has given many inspiring talks throughout the years, highlighting his love of the designer/client relationship.  Mr. Bierut has said that being interested in the same thing as the client is key to a successful outcome.

He stated that “simplicity, wit, and good typography” are the keys to an iconic design. He further explained that “graphic design is the purposeful combination of words, pictures and other visual elements to support the communication of an explicit or implicit message.” While he doesn’t necessarily follow trends, he does observe them and feels that finding a balance between simplicity and complexity is at the core of the design process.

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