Readings 1.16

An Introduction to Graphic Design

“Graphic Designers are the visual ambassadors of ideas: their role is to translate, communicate-and occasionally even agitate- by rendering thinking as form, process and experience.”

William Drenttel and Jessica Helfand

Graphic Design can go well, but it can also go poorly (a.k.a the butterfly ballot). Graphic Design done right produces an identity that is simple, but never boring; flexible but never chaotic; playful and iterative- and always recognizable. Graphic Design done wrong includes a bad identity that is unrecognizable, too complex, and ugly. This first reading was quite interesting as it included some quick facts on graphic design that I never knew before. Most surprisingly that the person who designed the Nike swoosh was in college and only paid $35. This reading also included a helpful glossary that I can future reference for help on terms I am not familiar with and a list of graphic design books for those of us who like to read and dig deeper into the topic.

What is Design?

Design is NOT just about making things look good. Design is a verb because it is a process. There are many types of design. For example, communications design is a way to explain difficult concepts in a creative way. Packaging design is a way to attract consumers while getting the product’s message across in a simplistic way. Branding is a type of design, it helps to create an identity. Industrial and product design finds new solutions to every day problems by asking, testing, and listening as our needs are always changing. Design is EVERYWHERE. Most importantly, it is the relationship between man made things and people.

The Perfection of the Paper Clip

The paper clip was invented in 1899, but the simple, even balance design of steel that combines strength and flexibility hasn’t changed in over 100 years. The paper clip was the best solution to an old problem: if people wanted to reuse the paper they were attaching they did not want a hole where a pin would leave. Alas, the paper clip was invented which allowed paper to safely nestle in between its loops. The paperclip is the epitome of the disposable, yet extremely practical, manufactured object. Paper clips can also be torn apart and used for other things, such as picking locks or hacking into phones. The design is genius. It is Interchangeable and consistent. While I believe the design of the paper clip will continue to stick around, it is also evolving into the digital space. When you open up Microsoft Word, you are greeted by a paper clip friend and when you add an attachment to an email you click on a digital paper clip. It is a beautiful design, recognizable across the world and for centuries to come.

From left; the Fay clip, the Wright clip, the Niagara clip, the Common-Sense and Hold-Fast clips. Patent images via

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