Graphic Design Aphorisms

[Last updated 21. February 2023]

I am interested in looking at graphic design from a perspective of using cultural codes as shortcuts to communicate. We have transcended the era where you could approach the visual surface of something as “being”, now we must approach it in the sense of “looking like”, always understand it as nothing but a reference to preexisting codes. Graphic design isn’t using signs, the totality of the result is a sign.

visual design

Whatever we do, if not understood, fails to communicate and is wasted effort.

We design things which we think are semantically correct and syntactically consistent but if, at the point of fruition, no one understands the result, or the meaning of all that effort, the entire work is useless.

Massimo Vignelli: “The Vignelli Canon”, p. 14

Sometimes you sacrifice legibility for impact.

Herb Lubalin

Don’t confuse legibility with communication. […] It’s a very thin line between simple and clean and powerful; and simple and clean and boring.

David Carson in Helvetica (59:50)