Paula Scher, and a Designer’s Career…

So I went to the University of Penn tonight to see a lecture from the famous Paula Scher. She is one of the Pentagram folks that never disappoints. (Michael Bierut is another one. If you get the chance, I wouldn’t miss either of these folks speak.) Usually I find lectures like these inspiring and exciting, but they can also be more than a little humbling. I’m a professional designer, coming in at 30-blah-blah years of age, busily working away at my craft. And sometimes it’s more than a little humbling to hear these smart, engaged people, talking about the sorts of projects/clients they are involved in/with. Tonight’s lecture lived up to all the good expectations, and for lack of a better word, the bad one’s too. But there was one slide in particular that hit me pretty hard. It was a sort of joke slide.

So here is my re-creation of her slide from my pot-hole filled memory:

A Designers Career - Re-created from a Paula Scher lecture

I’m really not sure about the title and labels, or even if she had any labels on the slide, but you can probably get the idea. She was driving at the concept that as a designer gets older, they have less new and exciting ideas. (I don’t remember her exact phrasing, but the “Good Ideas” concept is what I remember/interpret from how she was talking about the diagram) So I looked at that pretty simplistic, made-up infographic, and thought about my ever approaching 40th trip around our sun, and that diagram struck me as pretty darned depressing. I thought, “This must have been a diagram she made in her 20’s or early 30’s… and I wonder if she still feels this way?”

So I worked up a couple additions to here diagram. The first, well it speaks to something that can be variable depending on a designer’s engagement, but can be imagined as a pretty straight and inevitable line… Experience:

A Designers Career - Something for the more seasoned designer to verify (Experience)

And while that’s a little comforting to think about the inevitable collection of “experience”… that can be defined in such a way that any lump-on-a-log designer could ride that line up and up. So that’s not gonna quite cut it for me. I need more.

I’m going to settle on something a little less concrete, but infinity more comforting:

A Designers Career - Something I sure hope is true (Wisdom)

Wisdom. Not all folks become wise, but I’m going to hold on to this last diagram in my thoughts as I try to go to sleep tonight. I’m not thinking about riding that arch up. I know you have to climb it. But that idea leaves the power and choice in my hands. And that’s a lot better than where the first diagram leaves me.

You’re welcome for the revisions Paula. Thanks for a great lecture. :-)

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