Breaking the Cardinal Rule of Design: Marian Bantjes


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sagmeister quote in sugar

design ignites change


ne of the very first rules a new designer learns is to keep your ego out of your work. It’s good advice because the ego stands at the dividing line between art and graphic communication — a line every good designer surely knows the location of.

Good designers know that graphic design is really graphic communication and that if you’re not communicating the client’s message, you’re communicating your own, or worse, nothing at all. I believe all this in its practical application, but I’ve also spent a lot of time taming the artist in me when approaching a project.

I love knowing the rules of a craft. It’s so much better breaking them after you fully understand them, but I’ve never considered breaking the cardinal rule of graphic design: actually utilizing the ego. That is until I came across the work of Marian Bantjes through the Stefan Sagmeister series Things I Have Learned in My Life So Far.

Her work seemed so alive that I had to know more about her. I was very happy to find this video from TED in which she describes her feelings and thoughts on breaking rule number one and subsequently deciding to re-label herself a graphic artist.

I’m used to TED talks enlightening and inspiring me, particularly when they related directly to my fields of study or even better, directly to design. But this one was different. Marian Bantjes was speaking to a part of me I wasn’t aware existed, and suddenly, I found solutions to several mental road blocks I’d run into while working on design projects.

I’m paraphrasing here, but she said something like, “I started making design that satisfied both my ego and the client” or something to that effect and although I don’t feel personally I have any sort of ego problem (unless you consider all art to be ego based), the subtext of her statement spoke to me.

Mixing that with something I heard Scott Thomas say about the need for transparency in design, I’ve found a new mental palette of creative tools to work with when approaching a project. Mainly, the freedom to entertain a few of those “if I had carte blanche and and endless budget” ideas and see if any of them could actually scale down to usable solutions to problems laid out within the initial project brief. And why not pay attention to and analyze your artistic desires during a project? There may be completely usable material there, generated instinctively by your own inner egomaniac-artist.

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July 13, 2010

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Art, Design, Inspiration

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  1. No.


    Amazing article! congrats

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    Fábio Santos

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  2. No.


    Thanks Fabio. Marian Bantjes and her theories grow more relevant every day.

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