Ellen Lupton on The Great Discontent

I’m always delighted by The Great Discontent’s content and design and this week’s TGD post is no different. Ryan and Tina interviewed Ellen Lupton, who—to me—is one of the leaders in design. Ellen Lupton is also the author of many of the first design texts I ever purchased, specifically Thinking With Type and Designing Writing Research. I appreciate how she has been a bridge between design academia and the industry. Connecting the industry and academia is a huge issue that I deal with everyday, and I’ve strived to bridge the gap between the two as much as she does. I enjoyed reading this TGD post, and thought I’d share my favorite quotes and my thoughts on them.

“It was in college when I realized that graphic design was all about writing—that was an unbelievable discovery for me. I had always viewed writing and art as two separate things…”

Schools need to make writing a larger part of the design curriculum. Design is a language just as much as English, Spanish, or Esperanto. It just happens to be a visual one, but still cultural and historical as any other. Students may have the ability to design something, but aren't able to express their ideas to each other or to potential clients.

“You have to be prepared to give creative work 150%. I hear a lot of young people talking about life/work balance, which I think is great when you’re in your 30s. If you’re in your 20s and already talking about that, I don’t think you will achieve your goals. If you really want to build a powerful career, and make an impact, then you have to be prepared to put in blood, sweat, and tears.”

Time management is another huge issue for student designers. They aren't able to figure it out. Procrastination is everywhere. Some say it’s a generation thing, while others say that life is different now. Either way, we ALL need to adapt. To start, teachers need to teach accountability. Why are we giving students deadline extensions? Why are we allowing students to think it is okay to send their professor a casual e-mail about how they don’t like their grade? And why are we allowing students to skip one class to work on the projects for another? They can design, but they can’t complete the tasks at hand, or stop making excuses if we don't hold them accountable for it. I’m working on a talk/post about this.

“I think that’s why I do the things I do; they are outward and public. Teaching is very much a giving profession, and I put a lot of mental energy and time into it. Time is all we really have, and teachers give their time to others. The other things I do—writing, lecturing, and curating—are about sharing something of value.”

I just like this as a definition of teaching.

“Sharing is the whole point of doing creative work. I love being part of a museum and college community; I like doing lectures and being an author because I have readers and the general public to respond to. In return, I also share other people’s work, read their writing, and go to their lectures and exhibitions. Taking part in the community is important.”

I’ve been just as guilty as many about sharing my work and my thoughts. I had to force myself to put a blog back up and send my first draft of an article to a magazine editor. I had make a pact with two other designers about putting ourselves out there (so far, so good). Students don’t share their work because they're scared of rejection or judgment. We all are, but how are we supposed to get better if no one judges us? Ellen is right, sharing is the point. Expecting it to have a goal, perhaps, is the problem. Share it for yourself or for someone else. It doesn't matter. Just share it.