“The worst design writer is one who doesn’t tell a story. Facts are nice, but it’d be better to have the facts telling you some tale of highs, lows, and woes.”
“The teaching of art is the teaching of all things.”
I’ve been going back and listening to some old episodes of BBC’s wonder In Our Time podcast. I really enjoyed this one on the famous Victorian art critic John Ruskin and this quote from Ruskin’s writing stopped me dead in my tracks.
I took four art history courses in school (two general art, and two design-specific) and found that the best art history courses always teach you more than expected. I think learning about art also teaches you about cultures and people and religion and politics. I’ve found the more I learn about art, the more I want to learn about everything surrounding it.
One of my favorite professors in school was my first design history professor and the reason he was my favorite was because I found the most interesting things I was learning were not the things inside my design text book. He had an uncanny ability to make connections between cultures and images making for a more holistic history course that guided by design movements. Think James Burke or John Berger. Learning about art is learning about the world.
“The best professionals understand their medium at a deep level. They embrace its history to shape its future. They’re pioneers not of originality, but of progress, breathing modernity into the very bones of their subject, re-envisioning it in a new light. To truly understand something, you should never stop learning from it, as it’s this very process that allows us to grow as a professional, and in turn shape future generations of what you do today.”
I think the most valuable class I’ve ever taken that has made me a better designer was not a Photoshop class or HTML class or even a typography, it was a design history course. By looking at the history of this craft, from Sumerians writing on stone tablets to Gutenberg’s printing press to Saul Bass making film titles to Carson throwing away the rules, I could see how it’s all connected, how it all builds on what came before, expanding it and pushing it forward.
By looking back, you can see how how to move forward. I can jump into this long, twisting history and add something meaningful, pushing the craft into the future.