Good Design
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Terry Marks & Emily Potts: Good Design Defined

Written by in Profiles

Against The Grain
You would think this book has been done. Some say it has. But you both strongly believe this book addresses that age-old question — What makes good design good? How so?

Terry Marks
Perhaps this book has been done, after a fashion. It is about graphic design BUT it does what many graphic design books do not do: it looks beyond graphic design. It comments on the value of everyday objects from shopping bags to can openers to the 45 rpm record insert to ascertain whether or not they are, indeed, examples of good design. It also allows those interviewed to posit their feelings without reservation. There’s praise and condemnation for the same object and thus asks the reader to make their own decisions.

Emily Potts
I’ve wanted to do this book for a while, but it was difficult at first to convince the higher ups at Rockport that this would be a valuable resource for designers. I think what makes this book work — and thus different from others — is that the featured work is work participants selected outside of their own portfolios. It’s not a showcase book; it really is about design on the street, or in the homes of those whom they admire and respect.

Against The Grain
Many of the respondents/participants in this book arrive at the same conclusion: good design imparts a message and conveys a certain aesthetic. Pretty only has something to do with it is pretty helps sell the soap. How do you feel about this?

Terry Marks
Some arrive at the same conclusion. Some do not. It was interesting to learn that some want a shattering of established ideas and modes of design; that sameness was their enemy. I’m not sure about ‘conveys a certain aesthetic’ but I think most design is in service to a client. I’m old fashioned enough to believe that there is inherently a goal to be had and that good design best accomplish that. Often, that can be pretty. And there are opportunities, though rare, for a designer to express something that they believe in. Then, the gloves are off. Pretty be damned, convention be damned.

Against The Grain
How did you come up with the list of people to interview?

Terry Marks
Emily had some great ideas and leads. I started with people I knew who were passionate about design, in a way that eclipses my own interest. Then, I started to look about, to question people I respected of who they feel are good designers or illustrators even, who have something to say about design. Matt, you suggested some valuable additions such as Paul Sahre.

Emily Potts
Some of the people I suggested to Terry have very eclectic work and I’m curious to know what influences them and what they consider to be good. Robynne Raye from Modern Dog does the craziest, coolest designs for her client Blue Q, so I really wanted to know what makes her tick. Same with Art Chantry-he’s out there in terms of refusing to adapt to new technology and conform to standard design practices. He’s incredibly jaded and at the same time, fascinating. He says, “I am a contrarian. I find inspiration in the discards of culture. That is where most of us dwell.”

Against The Grain
What was the travel budget to go out and talk to these people over long dinners and expensive bottles of wine?

Terry Marks
Infinite.

Emily Potts
Budget? What budget?

Against The Grain
What was the most frustrating thing about the process of creating this book?

Terry Marks
The most frustrating portion was trying to contact people around the globe, to bypass language barriers and to get them to actually send artwork and the signed release. It was an enormous amount of effort identifying, contacting and securing follow-through. That, and working with you. Awful.

Against The Grain
Thanks. My pleasure. So, what are you reading today?

Terry Marks
Briefs on a new film piece I’m working on. A collection of short stories by Neil Gaiman. A manual on radiant heat coils.

Emily Potts
My Pet Goat. Just kidding. Being a mom to two young girls and a fulltime book editor, I am lucky if I get to read the newspapers, a few magazines, keep up with the industry news and, maybe, get in a good novel from time to time.

Against The Grain
Terry, will you require that your daughter read this book before she enters 1st grade?

Terry Marks
No. Reading is so 20th century. I will encourage her to read “Mr. Crumbly Dreams A Tiger,” and certainly “Where the Wild Things Are.” Her mother is much better read than I am. She will take lead. I’ll be making sure she knows it’s good to silly (sometimes).

Against The Grain
Who was the most fascinating interview among the luminaries you met with to garner insight?

Terry Marks
Superlatives are difficult. But since you asked — not having spent time with Kit Hinrichs, I was pleased with his insight and his demeanor. Matteo Bologna made me a bit envious of his wit and channeled recklessness. I was humbled by the obvious diligence and keen eye of Nick Jones, the sphere of influence that Ulhas Moses has sought out and the visual history that Sandra Equihua has collected as inspiration and reference. Also that she has an Emmy Award winning television show.

Against The Grain
Thank you both for your time. Emily, good luck with the national book tour.

Emily Potts
I’ll be driving Terry in my [minivan] with the kids’ car seats holding our luggage and a case of water. We should be at a bookstore in a mall near you any day now. But don’t hold your breath.