Rules, Relations & Reasons: presenting a manifesto for the graphic design industry to stand by

Elliott Moody
0 min read

Rules, Relations & Reasons: presenting a manifesto for the graphic design industry to stand by

Continuing our partnership with Antalis Creative Power, The A Paper explores the often neglected and undervalued topics within contemporary graphic design. For the sixth and final part of the series, we invited James Horwitz from Two Times Elliott, Yah-Leng Yu from Foreign Policy, Jesse Reed from Order and Paris-based typographer Morgane VanTorre to each present a ‘rule’ for the graphic design industry to stand by. The result is a series of graphic desktop wallpapers, which can all be downloaded for free from our store.

Health over wealth by Two Times Elliott
Health over wealth by Two Times Elliott

James Horwitz, Two Times Elliott

EM How might you know if a client isn’t a good fit for you?

JH We spend a lot of time on our pre-project internal brief discussions, project immersion, clarity of scoping, studio resourcing and finally meet/greets. Whilst we are approached by a lot of wonderful projects, sometimes if a timeline feels too tight or unrealistic – we would be inclined to turn this work down to maintain a healthy workload for the team.

EM If you take on a project and isn’t going to plan, how would deal with it?

JH It’s important from day one to set parameters of preferential ways of working both from the studio and client-side. Understanding best practices for communication, project timings and expectations – to ensure there is a mutual respect from the outset. As these relationships are solidified pre-contract, we find that honest conversations are much easier to handle with this process in place.

EM What do you do as a studio to prioritise wellbeing and mental health?

JH There are a number of studio initiatives that look to relieve day-to-day pressures. We run a number of workshops throughout the month including twice a month days out of the office to get away from the screen. In 2022, we will also have a Q1 and Q3 paid week off to reframe and refresh.

A Project Is Only As Good As The Client by Foreign Policy
A Project Is Only As Good As The Client by Foreign Policy

Yah-Leng Yu, Foreign Policy

EM What do you think makes a good client?

YY A good client is someone who is reasonable and knowledgeable. They understand the creative process and even if not, they are also someone who has an open mind. A good client also does their homework and research and therefore are able to help to push/elevate the designers work to the best place. They are willing to learn and work together as a team with the designers to produce the best product for their business/customers. After all, as I said, a project is only as good as the client.

EM How do you deal with a ‘bad client’ if the project has already started?

YY We will still try our best to deliver what we can do within our limits. We will devise ‘systems’ and plans to make sure we are able to manage and control the situation better. It certainly will test our skills as project and client managers.

EM Through experience, has it become easier to judge potential new clients?

YY Yes, for sure. It all comes with experience. There are immediate tell-tale signs from either behavioural or verbal interactions.

EM What are some of the tell-tale signs that you’ve noticed?

YY Usually, a few things – the way they prepare for the meeting – if they have actually done research on our studio before meeting us. The first meeting shouldn’t be just going through our portfolio with the prospective, in my opinion. Also, have they actually done homework on their own industry before the meeting. The way they speak to us, whether they are referring to us as ‘vendors’ or ‘designers’ or ‘consultants’; the formal would not be good of course most of the time haha. Also if we ask them if they have a number in mind they allocated for the budget, if it draws a blank it could be a sign as well.

No Moodboards by Order
No Moodboards by Order

Jesse Reed, Order

EM Why do you think moodboards shouldn't be a part of the design process?

JR Moodboards result in visual derivatives. Yes, it’s hard to create something truly unique, but leading with aesthetic influences as opposed to meaningful connections further propels the cycle of sameness. They are a fundamental flaw to any design process, in our opinion.

EM Is it relevant for designers to stay up to date and be aware of the work their peers are making?

JR Of course. Be aware of what work is being produced by our profession. Be excited by it! And hell, even get ideas. But at the end of the day, once you’ve absorbed your surroundings, focus on what meaningful relationships that you can create, not what has already been created for someone else.

EM How do you typically kick off the research and early ideas for a new project?

JR Listening to our partners and hearing what position they’re in. Typically they're in need of some ‘tool’ – that could be a logo, or a template, or a website – our first order of business is providing that tool. Once we are aware of what needs to be created, we can then dig deeper into their existence and find what visual (or conceptual) relationships can be made. Sometimes this process includes sitting in on classes at a liberal arts college, or touring a farm, or getting schooled on blockchain. Sometimes all we have is Google or a book – each discovery process is different (and that’s what makes it fun!). Nothing we propose is arbitrarily self-fulfilling, and everything has purpose.

Create With Passion & Awareness by Morgane VanTorre
Create With Passion & Awareness by Morgane VanTorre

Morgane VanTorre

EM “Create with Passion & Awareness.” What does that mean to you?

MVT I chose to propose this ‘rule’ because for me, it is a way of being that all designers/artists must adopt in front of their production. Indeed, it seems important to me, first of all, to take pleasure in what one does. Nothing is more important than to deeply appreciate and give meaning to what you create, even in the context of a commission. It is thus easier to invest oneself and to get involved in the very heart of the creation in order to be fully aware of the surrounding issues and questions that emerge from each project. Passion and rigour of spirit are therefore, for me, two great qualities that positively impact the success of any project.

EM Can you tell us about the visual approach you took for your design?

MVT For the design of my visual, I wanted to use Arthemys Display with a ‘textured’ approach, in such a way that the letters, the words seem to incorporate and dialogue with the background, the support on which they are inscribed. As if the sentence was ‘embossed.’ A subtle and delicate material effect emerges from the visual and enhances the idea it promotes.