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Must-read design pub: Every designer has to read Emigre magazine issue 69, “The End,” because its essays describe the importance of design beyond the commercial level. I was amazed by the mixed type and deconstruction legibility models proposed by Emigre, which took inspiration from the linguistic theories of Derrida, Barthes, Chomsky and so on. I think designers should return to such a deep level of exploration.

Creative fuel: I often buy a book that matches my client’s values or personality. For example, I just finished a project for a wedding-gift store with a brand based on simplicity and long-lasting stories. So I read a book about architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe to absorb his style of minimalism and durability.

Guilty pleasure: I love silence.

Mind-blowing design: Isidro Ferrer’s posters for Spain’s Centro Dramático Nacional exquisitely combine poetry, type and humor. I love his typographical solutions: letters that form animals, letters that give us a clue about the play
or its plot. Each poster features an enigmatic combi­nation of irony and play.
Cherished gadget: The Adobe Illustrator blend tool. There has been a lot of interest in the way I’ve used the tool for my digital art project I speak fluid colors. Adobe invited me to host two webinars about my method. Inspired by my webinars, designer Iryna Korshak created Tenar, a floral makeover of Times New Roman, transforming one of the most well-known fonts into something fashionable, in vogue.

Universal color theory: I’m fascinated by physics, cosmology and colors! Not only from a design perspective, but also in terms of the science behind colors. I find it important to use design elements in a way that’s meaningful. By studying what colors communicate in nature and the cosmos, you gain a broader understanding of what colors really are. I find that very inspiring.

Game-changing design: The 3-D printed shoes for United Nude—designed by Zaha Hadid, Ross Lovegrove, Ben van Berkel, Michael Young and Fernando Romero—were mind-blowing! Cutting-edge technology meets cutting-edge design. Also, Nina Geometrieva’s Colorgasm scroll art is simple, sensual and surprising. I haven’t seen anything else like it.
Timeless tool: Drawing pens. I can’t walk into an art supply store without buying a Micron, Copic or Faber-Castell pen set. But people steal them from me all the time, so it’s not like I’m swimming in pens at home. (That’s me justifying my behavior.)

Fresh take on the industry: George Whitesides’s TED Talk “Toward a Science of Simplicity” really breaks down simplicity: what it means, how to define it and why it’s so important. But in design, even though we aim for it, achieving simplicity is not as easy as it sounds. It can be a complex process to get there. We’re not always asking the right questions or looking at the right problems. And in interactive design, the Internet is so innately complex, but the most successful ways we use the Internet boil down to one simple use: searching with Google, connecting with people on Facebook, and so on. As designers, it’s up to us to distill ideas into simple forms that people can use.

Smile-inducing design: Emily McDowell is so clever. Not only are her greeting cards beautiful, but they also acknowledge a lot of human truths that aren’t usually addressed in greeting cards. She has taken a trite medium and turned it into some­thing irreverent and personal.

Go-to planner: Clear is a to-do list app that’s simple and intuitive. The interface works just as beauti­fully on mobile as it does on desktop—the ultimate in simple user experience. It’s always open on my computer.
Buzzword to take seriously: Omnichannel user experience. A good designer doesn’t have boundaries—I’m a big believer in that. It’s something that I’ve always thought should be promoted, especially to clients. Now it’s finally getting out in the open. Our work isn’t just decoration; design should influence all aspects of business. Successful companies such as Apple and Google understand this and put design first. I just wish this approach would trickle down faster.

Old-fashioned hobby: Collecting stamps. I love the format, the small amount of space to play with and the purity of it all. Nothing is wasted because it can’t afford to be. I have stamps from all over the world.

Design to envy: I love simple design with a strong idea at its core. The logo for the Guild of Food Writers is a great example of design that’s very simple, yet clever. It is very much an “I wish I did that” piece of design.

Staying current: I try to keep an open mind and not just focus on the creative industry press, as you never know where an idea or new piece of technology might be lurking. I follow everything from the Mighty Gadget blog to the BBC News to Creativepool’s The Week in Tech to the video game magazine Edge.
Analog aid: My must-have tool is a Schaedler Precision Rule. It’s completely flexible, enabling you to bend it around a bottle and get accurate measurements in both metric and standard inches and even points and picas. The ruler is expen­sive, but if you don’t accidentally cut through it with my other favorite tool, an X-Acto knife, you’ll have it for years. I still use my first Schaedler ruler from 25 years ago. It has an old coworker’s name marked on it (sorry, Lynn, I stole your ruler).

Splurge-worthy investment: Color, as much as our design team can get our hands on. Of course, we have the normal sets of Pantone books, but we absolutely love the Pantone Color Specifier for Fashion, Home + Interiors. If we select a non-Pantone color, we’ll have an ink company mix a custom pigment to match the chip. Then we’ll have a CMYK formula developed as well.

Research standby: The library—I know, how old-fashioned—the Wilson Library at the University of Minnesota, to be precise. There is nothing better than searching the library catalog, walking directly to a specific title and exploring all the books around it. It can expand your conceptual and visual thinking in a way that a Google search can’t. You’ll likely see a book from 2014 next to one from 1814, and that alone can inspire an idea. Recently, I was researching Tahiti with a writer for a rum project, and we immersed ourselves in everything from Tahitian tattoos to a sea­faring missionary’s diary from the 1700s.
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