Saturday, September 10, 2011

The designer who couldn't sew straight.

       Every once in a while, a fashion design student finds herself in one of my fashion marketing classes, which they don't usually take.  When asked why, she's likely to tell us she didn't realize fashion design involves sewing. I explain I don't sew either, so she's safe.

       Fashion designer types do great work in my classes, and I'm always excited to see how they do the assignments. They're unconstrained by convention and very creative. They do ads that don't look like ads because they have no preconceived notions of what an ad should look like. Which is great. In their ads, they often make connections that others don't think of, which is one definition of creativity.

       That kind of thinking always reminds me of an art director I knew in New York. He went into the Mt. Sinai hospital for a week, for surgery, and while he was still there he re-designed his whole life. A new haircut, a new apartment, a new wardrobe, a new diet, everything. 

       Another New York art director, George Lois, was trained at DDB and later took on the assignment of creating the covers of Esquire magazine. He said he'd do them for two years or till one of his ideas was rejected, then he'd quit. Lois approached each cover as if it were an ad for an article inside. For a story on Christmas, he shot a photo of Sonny Liston as Santa. For an article on the increase of women executives, a beautiful blonde covered in shaving cream, about to shave. Esquire's circulation soon doubled, and today two years of Lois' covers are on permanent exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. 

       It's wonderful to see creative people of all kinds performing their magic in a field not their own. That's why I encourage advertising art directors to consider experimenting with some of the magazine editorial layout ideas in Conde Nast Traveler, or Vanity Fair, or other publications that are well designed to get you to read and keep reading.

       Even the Internet is beginning to shape up design-wise. Amazon is about to introduce a new Web site with a new look on its home page. Simpler, for the iPad. Gilt is doing a good job, and now that Zara is about to introduce shopping on its site, I have high hopes for them, as well.

       We don't have to be designers to love and experience good design. Just ask almost anyone who's shopping at Target.

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