If you’re not taking risks, you’re standing still. But the moment that you experience any success, people start asking you to repeat yourself. So how do you keep evolving while also making a living?
In this conversation with legendary graphic designer Paula Scher, we discuss how — even as an established “expert” — you can continue to push outside of your comfort zone and take risks.
Plus, we dig into the benefits of big sloppy failures, why Paula strives to take on projects that she feels unqualified for, and how nothing in design is ever timeless.
Key takeaways from our conversation:
- Why projects that are big sloppy failures are a great idea
- How to get out of “expert mode” and take more risks
- Why you should take on jobs that you’re not qualified for
- How to hold the room as a female designer in a world of men
- Why being a designer is really about teaching people how to see
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“If you think something is really irritating or the end of all design as we know it, pay attention, because it’s probably good.”
“To move forward and not become reactionary, you have to take risks. Otherwise you will stand still. Not to do it is much more of a risk than doing it, because you risk everything by not developing and growing.”
“Most businesses that create any form of product make a huge investment in R&D, but graphic designers can’t because they’re always fulfilling some kind of contract. They really need to set aside the time to make a big sloppy failure.”
A shortlist of the design projects and research mentioned in this episode:
- Paula’s 20+ years of work for the Public Theatre, which she refers to as her “lab”
- Paula’s beautiful typographic map paintings
- For details on Paula’s MoMA and Highline projects, watch this great 99U talk
- Her redesign for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
- The new branding package for The New School in New York
- The recent 520-page monograph Paula Scher: Works
- Research on the “confidence gap” between men and women
- More on risk-taking: Kim Chambers | Matias Corea | Tyler Cowen
- Follow Paula: Pentagram Website | Pentagram Twitter
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