Michael Jager Reflects on the 2012 One Show Design
Michael had the honor of being asked to join the judging panel for the One Show Design awards in New York City this past week. Celebrating its twelfth year honoring excellence in design communications, One Show Design brought together an international panel of some of the industry’s most brilliant designers. The panel spent three days over New York City’s Creative Week looking at thousands of multidisciplinary design pieces, ranging from print to environmental spaces and olfactory designs.
Calling working with the One Show an “opportunity to be inside the future of design” and a “pretty incredible honor,” Michael reflects on what the future of design might look like:
The Collision of Technology and Craft
There is no doubt the digital age we are in is changing everything. It’s affecting everything that we’re doing with communication: Our experiences, our emotions, everything is tied up with our relationship to technology.
On the one hand this is creating a need for the Maker Movement to happen with its desire for craft and humanity within typography and idea creation and illustration and so on. On the other, there is also a blurring that’s happening, where the digital realm is being affected by human craft and experiences. A QR code made of a thatch of wood, for example, would never have even existed a year ago. And it’s these little synaptic overlaps that are intriguing.
But there are also things that aren’t working so well. When the goal becomes about how highly rendered something can be; how photo-real – it can be; how real can that illusion be, then humanity no longer shows through. The rendering and the complexity- is in some ways overdone. These are moments then, when technology and craft don’t synchronize particularly well. Still, there is something intriguing in this space that we definitely need to watch and pay attention to. Technology and craft crossing paths, and synapses are definitely happening.
The Mastery of Connections Planning
At JDK we’ve been very committed to multidisciplinary design and multidisciplinary brand-building from the beginning, so it was incredible to see the mastery of that coming into play in a lot of design work. I was blown away when a piece came together through multi-sensory design and connections planning. There were works involving color, communication, spaces, print, and digital design, all combining with the right words, and the right strategy to create this incredible fabric. Connections planning mastery is definitely emerging. It’s something we’re really happy to see, and work hard to be a part of.
The Interplay of Print and Digital
I don’t see print as dead, I see print as getting smarter and smarter, and better and better and more coveted, but the digital realm is definitely affecting it. There are a number of pieces that you’ll see eventually in the show where print went to a place it could never have gone had it not had a relationship and a synapse to technology. There were a number of things that really took the judges by surprise that were very fresh and had different views; there’s definitely a language going on there that is unique and different.
The Importance of Simplicity
Simplicity really resonated with me throughout the Show. I couldn’t help but hear Paul Rand’s words about form and content and clarity in my head. Whether you’re a fan or not of the cranky old guy, his ability to telegraph ideas through very well crafted design is the kind of simplicity that makes work really shine through. Not his aesthetic, but his ability to get clear with an idea and deliver it in a simple powerful way that is timeless. The pieces that achieved this were the ones that really hit.
When you see three thousand pieces of design or more in a dense period of time, it’s very clear how important simplicity is. If you can’t be clear and simple in what you’re doing and push away everything that you don’t need to get to an idea, then you’ve really failed design-wise, I think.
You’ll see when the book and site comes out from the Show, that they allow us a Judge’s Choice. My choice actually was something that was based very much on simplicity and a timeless idea… but you’ll have to wait and see what it is.
As designers we have a responsibility to understand work from a cultural perspective. Throughout the show, we were able to see a lot of really interesting expressions that were dramatic to us because they looked fresh and different, but without the cultural context we couldn’t rightfully judge the work. We had to take a lot of time to explore that.
Because it was an international panel, you could actually stop and ask other designers to explain the cultural meaning that might be embedded in a work. I found myself saying, ‘formally this piece looks really beautiful, the rendering is beautiful, but what does this mean? Is there an added layer of meaning and a cultural commentary that I can’t even see is happening?’
You can’t just judge work on the surface, you have to understand what it means. The best design of course has multiple layers to it. And it was really fun to have the right people there to help enlighten us to ideas that we just didn’t even see.
The one show. It was awesome. Can’t wait for all of you guys to see the great work. I think you’ll be really inspired by it. I certainly was. — Michael
(All photos by One Club)