Simple quotes can hold timeless and moving lessons. As designers, we’re lucky to have an exceptional pool of people who have spearheaded the industry over the years, crafting clever insights based on years of experience. Other contributors to this list aren’t designers at all, but have given an outsider’s fascinating insight into the world of design.
Our hope is that these quotes will hope you approach your workday with a sense of inspiration and focus on what you really want to achieve.
1. James Randolph Adams
Great designers seldom make great advertising men, because they get overcome by the beauty of the picture – and forget that merchandise must be sold.
2. Milton Glaser
The real issue is not talent as an independent element, but talent in relationship to will, desire and persistence.
3. Charles Eames
Design is an expression of the purpose, and it may (if it is good enough) later be judged as art; design depends largely on constraints and it is a method of action (there are always constraints and these usually include ethic).
4. Douglas Adams
A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.
5. Milton Glaser
To design is to communicate clearly by whatever means you can control or master.
6. John Maeda
If there were a prerequisite for the future successful digital creative, it would be the passion for discovery.
7. Kate Krebs
Waste is a design flaw.
8. Clement Mok
Design, in its broadest sense, is the enabler of the digital era – it’s a process that creates order out of chaos, that renders technology usable to business. Design means being good, not just looking good.
9. John D. Berry
Only when the design fails does it draw attention to itself; when it succeeds, it’s invisible.
10. Jorge Frascara
Good graphic design solutions to communication problems can improve the flow of information in society and, therefore, substantially and positively affect education, social well-being and the daily enjoyment of life. In addition, good graphic design solutions can also have a positive economic impact.
11. David Hockney
Art has to move you and design does not, unless it’s a good design for a bus.
12. Scott Adams
Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Design is knowing which ones to keep.
13. Freeman Thomas
Good design begins with honesty, asks tough questions, comes from collaboration and from trusting your intuition.
14. Milton Glaser
There are three responses to a piece of design – yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.
15. Stanley Morrison
Type design moves at the pace of the most conservative reader. The good type-designer therefore realizes that, for a new fount to be successful, it has to be so good that only very few recognize its novelty.
16. Jenaiha Woods
Design is the contrast of the core of limitations therefore there are no boundaries. It is simply an interpretation of creativity.
17. Jeffery Veen
Designers can create normalcy out of chaos; they can clearly communicate ideas through the organizing and manipulating of words and pictures.
18. Adrian Frutiger
If you remember the shape of your spoon at lunch, it has to be the wrong shape. The spoon and the letter are tools; one to take food from the bowl, the other to take information off the page… When it is a good design, the reader has to feel comfortable because the letter is both banal and beautiful.
19. Jan Tschichold
Perfect typography is certainly the most elusive of all arts. Sculpture in stone alone comes near it in obstinacy.
20. Massimo Vignelli
I see graphic design as the organization of information that is semantically correct, syntactically consistent and pragmatically understandable.
21. Zuzana Licko
The most popular typefaces are the easiest to read; their popularity has made them disappear from conscious cognition. It becomes impossible to tell if they are easy to read because they are commonly used, or if they are commonly used because they are easy to read.
22. Adrian Frutiger
Helvetica is the jeans, and Univers the dinner jacket. Helvetica is here to stay.
23. David Carson
If you have no intuitive sense of design, then call yourself an “information architect” and only use Helvetica.
24. Alexander Gelman
Any good typeface can be completely destroyed when misused or extensively overused. Helvetica seemed to sustain a beating like no other. Still fresh, still popular, Helvetica is king.
25. Paola Antonelli
Designers may be the true intellectuals of the future.
26. Erik Adigard
Design is in everything we make, but it’s also between those things. It’s a mix of craft, science, storytelling, propaganda, and philosophy.
27. Steff Geissbuhler
I have never designed a logotype without first trying it in Helvetica. It is still the most versatile, classic and readable of all typefaces.
28. Michael Ian Kaye
What a graphic designer tries to do is make sure the typography is emotionally consistent with the brand.
29. Massimo Vignelli
The life of a designer is a life of fight. Fight against the ugliness. Just like a doctor fights against disease. For us, the visual disease is what we have around, and what we try to do is cure it somehow with design.
30. Roi James
Great design is all about details. With innovative material selection, sensible construction techniques and modern aesthetics one can craft a unique design language that sets a new standard.
31. Frederic W. Goudy
Anyone that would letterspace blackletter would steal sheep.
32. Eric Gill
There are now about as many different varieties of letters as there are different kinds of fools.
33. Wolfgang Weingart
Berthold is still a good typeface, but even Berthold has some less than attractive features, and then I just cut them off because I didn’t like them.
34. Luke Wroblewski
Visual organization is the deliberate prioritization of meaning within a visual design. It’s the process of applying the principles behind perception – how we make sense of what we see – to illuminate relationships between content and actions.
35. Jeff I. Richards
Creative without strategy is called ‘art’. Creative with strategy is called ‘advertising’.
36. Serge Zuev
The original idea makes design distinctive, function makes it work and quality adds value.
37. Don Newgren
Design is intelligence made visible.
38. John Maeda
Skill in the digital age is confused with mastery of digital tools, masking the importance of understanding materials and mastering the elements of form.
39. Paul Rand
It is no secret that the real world in which the designer functions is not the world of art, but the world of buying and selling.
40. Linda van Deursen
Grids do not exist in a vacuum. They exist in relation to the content. We never start with a grid. We start with an idea which is then translated into a form, a structure.
41. Steve Jobs
Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.
42. Richard Grefé
Design is the intermediary between information and understanding.
43. Nolan Bushnell
The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.
44. George Santayana
Graphic design is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity, heresy, abnormality, hobbies and humors.
45. Hans Hofmann
The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.
46. Jon Franklin
Simplicity, carried to an an extreme, becomes elegance.
47. Edward R. Tufte
Confusion and clutter are the failure of design, not the attributes of information.
48. C.W. Ceram
Genius is the ability to reduce the complicated to the simple.
49. Jim Jarmusch
Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is nonexistent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it.
50. Robin Mathew Design is where science and art break even.
My adventure has all been in my mind. The great adventure has been thinking. I love to think about things. I think that the lack of drama in my life has produced a platform for me to be fundamentally adventurous in my thinking.
— MILTON GLASER