Bureau Expert: Steven Heller - Design Bureau

Steven Heller illustration by Ben Chlapek

Bureau Expert: Steven Heller

Monday, December 13th, 2010

What makes a good designer?

I don’t believe there is one good answer. For some, a good designer is a brilliant aesthetician, for others, it is a keen strategist. I’d say a good designer is ostensibly an “artist” who understands the needs of an audience and produces products (graphic, 3D, motion, etc.) to meet the needs of that audience by elevating their standards of acceptance. In short (or long), it is someone who can make something from nothing, shinola from shit, that has social and cultural value. Of course, that’s a lot to heap on one individual, but a good designer should be a great creator when it comes to matching product to need.

Should authors have a say in how their work is presented?

I like the give and take between author and designer. But sometimes, the presentation is critical to the story. More and more this is happening.

You’ve talked about fertile periods between new technologies and the moment when suits takes over. So, in your opinion, have the suits taken over certain technologies— social media, iPad, digital magazines?

The suits are always the ones who think they know better than designers when it comes to marketing and promoting products. Maybe they’re right, maybe wrong. But I believe you need to balance the business and creative aspects of design. One without the other is like cereal without milk.

What is the most spectacular advertising campaign ever?

“You Don’t Have to Be Jewish to Love Levy’s — Real Jewish Rye” and The Volkswagen “Think Small”. In both cases, stereotyped brands were totally transformed in public perception. These lead the way in total transformative manipulation. There are many that do this today, but these were the paradigm shifters.

What three digital design conversations should be abandoned?

Bad type, bad type and bad type.

What are the top five things employers look when hiring young designers?

The five Es: energy, enthusiasm, elegance, eccentricity and elation when the job is done well.

Is it more important that designers are creative or on time for work?

Do you really have a choice?

If I own InDesign and I know how to use some of the buttons, can I call myself a designer?

Never! I don’t own InDesign, but I am a designer — or was a designer. Tools make the craft, not the aesthetics or conception.

Q+A by Kristin Lamprecht
Illustration by Ben Chlapek, Never Sleeping Inc.

 

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