This column by publisher Gordon Kaye first appeared in the GDUSA February 2022 print and digital magazine as a welcome to our annual ‘People To Watch’ and ‘Students To Watch’ special editorial feature.
We Get Back Up
“Just when I discovered the meaning of life, they changed it.”
This nugget of sardonic wit and wisdom comes from the late comedian George Carlin and it pretty much sums up this edition of GDUSA.
By that I mean, as we have done here for nearly six decades, we kick off the publishing year by featuring a handful of creative professionals whom we quaintly refer to as “People To Watch” who we respect for their talent, leadership, success, insight, business-savvy, and community service. In another era, they would be dubbed “Newsmakers” and, at this moment, perhaps “Influencers” may be closer to it. You get the idea.
As in past years, each of the 50 profiles and related commentary first and foremost seeks to provide insight into these individuals and how they think, plan, act, succeed. But this year – as we all try to make sense of the ongoing fallout from the pandemic and polarization – you can also read the pieces collectively as an attempt to digest the profound changes that have been thrust upon us. Change in the nature of work and our personal approach to it. Change in our clients and what they need from us. Change in the state of our politics and civic culture. Change in our self-perception, what we may want our legacy to be, in the meaning of life.
As I have written before, looking for silver linings in this hot mess is a tricky business. The death and dislocation cannot be undone. But we are human beings, imbued with a mysterious mix of resilience and hope and deflection and denial – we get knocked down but we get back up.
In this regard, our group of ‘People To Watch’ rise to the occasion. They grapple honestly with their challenges, explore the ramifications, and suggest pathways to survival and success. They are positive and optimistic – but with plenty of nuance – regarding a panoply of issues that have arisen in the face of the inevitable: the pros and cons of remote work and zoomification; the preciousness of time and the search for a new work-life balance; the potential to be more selective about clients and projects; the explosion of interest in social justice and social responsibility; and the theory that graphic designers can and will prosper by serving the values of authenticity, transparency and human connection in a post-pandemic world.
So, you may ask, how will 2022 play itself out?
Here I turn to a quote from another master of sardonic and ironic wit and wisdom, the artist David Kramer, whose paintings and drawing often juxtapose imagery and text to gently mock. A favorite, which I feel speaks to and for me, contains the message: “I Am Like A Visionary With A Lousy Sense Of Direction.”
Luckily, neither you nor I need to depend on my sense of direction. We are guided, instead, by 50 creative professionals with remarkable track records of creative, strategic and business excellence. Their collective message: the silver lining is the opportunity to embrace the change and the stakes are a design profession that is more humane on the one hand and more impactful on the other.