Gordon Kaye: The More Things Change…

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Thoughts On Our 2019 People To Watch …

If you choose to give credence to the hair-on-fire world of media and social media, you would think that we live in a time of unprecedented disruption and dystopianism where everything is changing, nothing is stable, the social fabric is ripping, and the rules and norms and values are going, going, gone.

But if you have the opportunity — as I am lucky enough to do for a living — to talk and interact with real people creating real projects, running real organizations, balancing real work-life challenges, you get a very different sense.

In this edition’s People To Watch cover story, a tradition that reaches back to the early 1960s, as well as in our brand new GDUSA Podcast Series, what I see and hear are smart, successful, effective, insightful creative professionals reflecting on their experiences and reaffirming basic values: work hard, be kind, stay humble, know thyself, exercise discipline and persistence, provide both aesthetic and strategic value to clients, think before you design, master the fundamentals, communicate clearly, embrace collaboration, stay curious and open to experiences, respect current mentors and past giants, be resilient and grow from failure, find time for your loved ones and for yourself.

“It’s not about me,” is Astro Studio’s Brett Lovelady’s mantra. “Teamwork makes the dream work,” says Amanda Hovest of KBDA. Kristin Glick of Memorial Sloan Kettering advises “Treat others like they would like to be treated.” Megan Palicki of c|change says “If you stumble, make it part of the dance.” Trevor Messersmith states “Discipline is liberation.” Gill Fishman advises “Tell people you love that you love them.” Jonathan Kenyon’s mantra: “Don’t be a dickhead.” Always  sound advice.

All told, not exactly a rancorous or radical rejection of the wisdom of the ages.

Of course, this does not mean our 2019 People To Watch are tradition-bound or live in the past. Far from it. Indeed, they often take big risks to achieve business or career goals; they are bold in their design solutions; they partake of social media, especially Instagram, plus a potpourri of podcasts from This American Life to The Daily to Debbie Millman; they often identify with change agents like The Notorious RBG, Elizabeth Bennet of Pride & Prejudice, Congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and the scrappy Leslie Knope of Parks & Recreation; they embrace a graphic design future moving quickly to UX/UI design, motion graphics, VR and other non-traditional media (though print and packaging still have advocates); and more often than not they lean politically left.

And perhaps where today’s group most diverges from their predecessors, they are delib- erate and mindful about using the power of design for good as they see it. That means embracing responsibility writ large in terms of how, when, why and for whom they work; it also means a vigorous and generous regimen of volunteer work for charities and causes. With this group, a whole lot of passion is being channeled into positive action.

What is my point? Away from the media and social media maelstrom, it is easy and pleasureable to calmly and reflectively tell our stories. To exchange and evaluate ideas. To share our essential humanity. To make reasonable decisions about which values should endure and which should not. The more I talk with graphic designers — anybody really — the better I feel about where we are and where we are going.