Graphic design legend Milton Glaser dispels a universal misunderstanding of design and art

“Design is the process of going from an existing condition to a preferred one,” said the 2010 National Medal of Arts recipient. “Observe that there’s no relationship to art. This confusion is not just a matter of semantics. In businesses, schools, offices, even newspapers, design is often associated with the art department. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the aim of design. When art and design are confused, the designers’ domain becomes limited to style and appearance”.

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Statue inspires ducking protestors

An actual mallard, after which the famous train was named.
An actual mallard, after which the famous train was named.

According to The Guardian, all is not well in the train aficionado community:

A statue of Sir Nigel Gresley is due to be unveiled in April, marking the 75th anniversary of the death of the designer of the Mallard steam engine. But there is a risk that his achievements will be eclipsed by an arcane dispute that started in the letters pages of local and national newspapers and quickly escalated on social media. At the heart of the row is the decision by the Gresley Society to drop its commitment for the statue’s original design to include a mallard at Sir Nigel’s feet. Campaigners are plotting to make their own avian additions when the 7ft-high bronze of Gresley, commissioned from sculptor Hazel Reeves, is unveiled at London’s King’s Cross station on 5 April.

So basically, the idea was to put a duck at the base of the statue as a reference to the Mallard, the famous steam engine. The Gresley Society dropped this after raising a lot of money on the back of the idea. Now campaigners are threatening to put plastic ducks on the statue at every opportunity.

Sir Nigel Grisley. Not a duck.

Here’s the thing. You’re walking with your kids through King’s Cross Station and there’s the Harry Potter trolley attraction (which now seems to have a permanent queue even late at night) or a statue of a famous, but not that well-known, engineer. Which is likely to fire their imagination more? The statue of the engineer, or the statue of the man with the duck? Which one encourages your kids to learn about the story of the man’s achievements? It’s the duck.

The Mallard. Not a duck.
The Mallard. Not a duck.

This seems to be an example of design (or redesign) by committee. A really good idea gets dismissed because someone thinks it’s silly. But the duck was a masterstroke. What a shame it’s been ditched.

Ducking idiots.

Fearless polymaths: irrelevance and creativity


In an interview with the Guardian, Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue, talked about a few things – Hillary Clinton in particular. But she also said something that piqued my interest:

“The young people we hire today at Condé Nast are fearless polymaths”

That’s about the fifth time I’ve heard that word in the past week. Admittedly the other four were because I used it. But I’ve had a few conversations recently, with both students and colleagues about the need, as one of my graduates advised current students before Christmas, to ‘be interesting’.

A colleague told me recently that more than one professional illustrator had advised students not to specialise, and to remain flexible, taking an interest in as much as possible and to express themselves creatively in as many ways as possible.

Wintour said the same thing in her Guardian interview:

Wintour used the opportunity to appeal to the younger generation to “not become too specialised” and instead “be intellectually free”


“I urge you instead to seek to be relevant, to be agile and educated.”

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Ai Weiwei shuts Danish show in protest at asylum seeker law

 Ai Weiwei

“He had been watching the news during the night and wanted to react. I didn’t try to dissuade him. This is not so much about which country does more or less for refugees, it is the symbolic importance of the new law. This [kind of thing] is spreading over Europe, and we in Denmark are taking the lead in this by making this law.”

Worth noting this story broke on World Holocaust Remembrance Day. My emphasis in that quote is all the more chilling for it.

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