[music playing] DREW FREEMAN: First and foremost, graphic design has to communicate something.
But good graphic design makes people's lives better.
STEVE ATTARDO: You have to find a way to make sense of how to make something beautiful.
And to me, you're speaking for them.
EMILY OBERMAN: As a graphic designer, concept is the first thing, idea, and life.
DEBBIE MILLMAN: Graphic design is essentially a language for living.
[applause] Graphic design is about using words and images to convey a message.
Graphic designers have to know a lot about color theory, typography, how to create a grid.
But those are all really basic.
You have to be somebody that is really interested in understanding human behavior, being able to understand how they think, how they choose, how they buy, how they believe.
People probably don't think about how much graphic design impacts them.
We use graphic design to cross the street, to decide what we want to eat and how much we want to eat.
We use graphic design to pay our bills, to get married.
We use graphic design to get divorced.
We use graphic design in every single aspect of human life right now.
And people tend to like things best when they feel that they are respected by that thing.
But I think ultimately if it moves you, whether it be a good emotion or a bad emotion, chances are then it's effective, because it's getting you to think about something and it's getting you to potentially take action.
EMILY OBERMAN: When I work on package design, I like for there to be an idea behind it.
I like for there to be some wit, some language, some feeling that there is a human hand behind what you are interacting with.
Like for instance, matchbooks are one of my favorite things to design.
It's this nice, intimate moment between you and the smoker or candlelight, because you have the reveal that can be completely surprising.
For the spice market, we turn them into these little incense boxes.
I like to think about the product like I'm the consumer.
So when we were working on the Kleenex project, we learned that for some people choosing which pattern on the box to take home is a huge part of their day.
So I think about what would give me a moment's pleasure when interacting with that thing.
The Mercer Hotel was a really interesting project that was very clean and very understated and witty, and not necessarily witty in the design, but also witty in the language.
Like for instance, there's always that sign on the bathrobe that says if you take it, you're going to have to pay for it.
But we didn't want to say it in such a crass way, so we just made a sign that very simply said, "disrobe."
And then when you turned it over it said, "is available for purchase in the lobby."
And so sometimes maybe beautiful isn't exactly what it should be.
Maybe it needs to be quirky, or maybe it needs to be ugly, or maybe it needs to be invisible.
So I think you're always solving what it has to look like visually based on what it needs to be conceptually.
DREW FREEMAN: A lot of times when people talk about signage and environmental graphics, they think that it always involves letters.
But it really involves landmarks, creating a moment that somebody remembers and immediately understands.
Graphic designers aren't trained necessarily to think in dimension, but you do need to identify things within space that the architecture wouldn't necessarily be doing otherwise, through color and type and light.
Working on the signage for Bloomberg's offices, they wanted people to use the stairs.
We thought if people are intended to use the space, why don't we at least make it interesting to use.
If you can make the space interesting, people will want to be there.
It really involves creating a moment that somebody remembers and immediately understands.
Bridge designs are decorations that we had proposed for the City of Pittsburgh.
And our proposal was to essentially make those moments special moments.
So it could just be a paint job or it could be using light in a certain way to highlight that feature as a gateway to the North Side.
Every building has a timeline of your experience with it.
What's the cover of this book?
And then how does that play out as one navigates through the space, where your mind actually solves a problem?
So there's a process of discovery there.
STEVE ATTARDO: Should you judge a book by its cover?
I would really like to say yes, but I think that there's a lot of really good books out there that don't have good covers.
My guiding philosophy in design is forever going to change, I think.
You have to understand the responsibility you have in terms of there's someone at the end of the line there that actually cares about what you're doing, and you have to give it a voice.
I never like to pin myself down to one different style.
To me, that's what's fun about design, as opposed to an illustrator's style.
You can wear different hats.
The artistic expression, that is the art of it, getting into the mind of the book, expressing what the book is about, making it beautiful and grabbing people's attention.
You always care about what are you reading first and that's based on contrast of size, contrast of color.
Is the title more important than the author?
Can you read it from across a store or not?
These are the things that I think about on a daily basis.
You have to understand where this book fits in the world of books.
"The Day The World Ends" is a poetry book.
And here's an example of, well, what do you focus on?
You have all these different poems that are about different things.
So broke the type up a little bit and the author just connected with it.
If you love the content, you want something to come up in your head when you think about it, so I think a successful book cover is something that you want to hold in your hand.
It's unexpected, smart, and beautiful.
But at the end of the day, you just want to put it on your bookshelf face out because it means something to you.
DEBBIE MILLMAN: We use graphic design now in many ways to convey who we are as people, to define affiliations, to signal beliefs.
DREW FREEMAN: If you can contribute to making people's lives a little bit better and elevating the general level of design, then why not?
STEVE ATTARDO: If you know how you want to make them feel, that's the most important thing.
You just want to make something memorable.
EMILY OBERMAN: I say do what you think is right and interesting and smart, and then worry about what the survey says.