Gordon Kaye: The Meaning of Life In Short Form

gordonkayeBy Gordon Kaye, Editor/Publisher, GDUSA. This ‘Letter From The Publisher’ first appeared in the 2016 January/February edition of Graphic Design USA magazine, which features, among other things, the annual People To Watch and Students To Watch profiles.

Can all of life’s complexity be reduced to a slogan, a bumper sticker, or a tweet? I hope so.

It would make things much easier than personally taking stock of decades of personal experience, analyzing and making sense of it, and then developing a nuanced understanding of the meaning of life. I’m a busy person, and what with work, family, exercise, and a new Hulu subscription, it’s not as though I have a lot of free time to philosophize.

Thus, each year, as part of our People To Watch and Students To Watch special features, we ask the participants to offer a maxim or mantra by which he or she lives. My hidden agenda is to find the truth, or at least my truth, in a simple, digestible and (this is increasingly important as I get older) an easy-to-remember format. When I hear just the right gem, my plan is embrace it as my own and cling to it as an all-purpose guide. Once again this year, the plan failed. The mantras and maxims are witty and wise and many of the “words to live by” sort of hit home, but none was a home run for me.

Still, I’d like to share a few in case you are also searching for the meaning of life and have a new subscription to Hulu as well.

Generally, the 2016 mantras divide into a few major categories. Advice about designing (“Make art, don’t design” or “Think first, design later”). Advice about creativity (“If you don’t enjoy creating it, no one will enjoy using it”). Advice about effort and hard work (“Try harder” or “When it’s hard and you are in doubt give more” or “Put on your big girl panties and deal with it”). Spiritual advice (“Soli Deo Gloria” and “Too blessed to be stressed” and “Power of flow” ). An observation that speak to designers year after year (“Perfection is the enemy of good”). Exhortations and encouragements (“The only thing that can stop you is you” and “Stay hungry stay foolish” and “Be the person your dog thinks you are”). And even one my grandma Fanny would uncork whenever an undateable in our family found a date (“There’s a lid for every pot”).

My favorite came from Drexel University student Jermaine Boca: “Every pizza is a personal pizza if you try hard enough and believe in yourself.” I think what Jermaine means is that life is fleeting, so set your goals high and your vistas wide, and take your very best shot. This resonates because I am currently struggling with whether my goals were too narrowly drawn earlier in my career, and whether there is still time to pursue long-sidetracked dreams.

On the other hand, it is possible that Jermaine just likes pizza. I know I do. But in that case I am back to square one and maybe worse because now I am hungry as well as confused. At least my dinner plans have now come into focus.

I hope you enjoy the 53rd anniversary edition of GDUSA. The content touches three pillars of our community: creative professionals as represented by the People To Watch designer profiles; education as represented by promising Students To Watch chosen in collaboration with leading institutions; and designer-friendly resources, our annual 100 Designer-Friendly Companies compilation of manufacturers, makers, marketers and more who appreciate and serve the creative community. It was a pleasure to prepare this special edition and an honor to serve you all.