The Language of Graphic Design by Richard Poulin

Written by in Profiles

Guest Contributor Emily Potts is an editor with Rockport Publishers and former editor of STEP Magazine. In this fiercely competitive battle for designer mindshare and  shelf space, it takes a sharp eye and a keen mind to find topics that will attract readers and designers who can put these books together. It also takes a sense of humor. She talked to Richard Poulin about his latest book. We have asked her to introduce Against the Grain readers to some of the many interesting men and women she gets to work with every year. “I Have Somebody I’d Like You to Meet…” By Emily Potts

Richard Poulin is co-founder and design director of Poulin + Morris Inc., in New York City with his life and business partner, Doug Morris. He is charming and affable. I first met Poulin in person last fall at his studio. He had just finished writing and designing his first book for Rockport, titled The Language of Graphic Design. I could sense the relief that a first-time author feels after surviving their first book. But, like most diligent professionals, when the exhilaration wears off, amnesia sets in—you forget about the struggle and want to do another one.


I asked Poulin how he felt when I first approached him about writing this book. “Joy, Fear, Anxiety,” he admits. “While I have always wanted to write a design reference book, when I came face to face with that reality for the first time, my initial emotions were somewhat overwhelming since I was entering new and unknown territory.” But, he adds, “I believe that this is an essential reality for any designer’s growth and for them not to rest on their proverbial laurels.”



My sense when working with Poulin was that he really seemed to enjoy it—it was a true a labor of love for him. “For the past twenty years I have been a teacher [at the School of Visual Arts], and this book gave me the opportunity to address some of the joys and frustrations that I have experienced over the years with my students. Some enter the profession with a true understanding of the language they have been trained to use; others unfortunately have not grasped the basic fundamentals of this language and continue to struggle throughout their careers.” The book features 26 fundamental principles of graphic design. Poulin adds, “This book celebrates those who have embraced and use this language everyday in new and exciting forms. It is also for those who still struggle and need a reminder, reinforcement, and inspiration.”



Of all the principles featured in the book Poulin notes that “Expression” is the most important to him, “as it should be for any designer, since it represents the designer’s unique voice, vision, and ultimate point of view. All other principles support the role of expression in the designer’s language.”

Many master designers are featured including Alvin Lustig, Peter Behrens, Ivan Chermayeff, Deborah Sussman, Massimo Vignelli, Takenobu Igarashi, and many others. Each master is “paired” with a principle that they adhere to and are known for. Poulin most closely relates to Bruno Monguzzi because, “he represents expression and is truly a visual poet.”



The resulting book is beautiful, inspirational, and informative—packed with information that design novices and seasoned professionals can refer to. Poulin also learned many things along the way, including trusting his instincts. “My first instincts are the best and I should always rely upon them. Doubt is counterproductive and extremely destructive to the creative process,” he notes.


  1. 03
    Dayna said:

    Sounds great!!
    Is the book available to purchase now? Where can I find it?

  2. 04

    […] honored to have a piece in Richard Poulin’s new book, The Language of Graphic Design. The book showcases work from some of the industry’s leading designers and design firms, […]

  3. 05
    Neenah Paper said:

    There is a link on the blog to Rockport and Amazon. Also, you can get directly in touch with Richard off a link there, too. Sorry for the delay in the response. Sometimes comments get sent to a pend folder and yours truly is truly bad about checking in with that folder. If you cannot find the book email me personally at and I will hook you up with the publisher!