I will start out with a warning that the edition of Adrian Shaughnessy’s book I bought must have been different than then one posted on the class blog. The basic concepts of cultural awareness, communication skills, and integrity are still represented but with a but of disparity within the text itself. I took the liberty in assuming that both editions are of equal quality and decided to go ahead and post a response on the newest release.
Shaughnessy begins chapter 1 with a broad definition of the necessary qualities a graphic designer must possess. He explains that the modern-day graphic designer must also be, “a diplomat, a business thinker, a researcher, an aesthete, a ethicist, an innovator- in fact, a polymath,” (18). I have to admit that this suggestion seemed a bit aggrandizing to me, but before I could really mull over this assertion he had moved on to funnel down these ‘qualities’ into three categories of which seemed to get more to the point. It’s not to say that i disagree with his extended list, but it’s rather the comparison of the Graphic Designer to a polymath that seems a bit.. er.. dramatic. After all, doesn’t every job break down into a subset of skills? Anyways, the three main skills a graphic designer must master struck a cord with me, especially cultural awareness.
I actually learned that cultural awareness is less about forcing yourself to read the newspaper and more about a constante state of inquisition about the world around you. This sort of put me at ease because as overwhelming as current events can be, I would much rather expand my knowledge on a variety of topics than be expected to talk like a designer at all times. It’s nice to know that a graphic designer will be appreciated more for having well rounded interests than living and breathing through kerning and leading. Shaughnessy is basically advising that Design should not ‘elipse’ our interests, but it should be our main concern.
I also loved the way he ‘legitimatized’ bullshit. It does sound awful when read out of context, but he describes a lot of the consultation process as explaining and legitimatizing the parts of the design process that cannot easily be put into words. The book addresses the intuitive aspect of designing and how clients and those not intimately connected with your product sort of need to be convinced, in layman’s terms, your methods. Also within the section about communication skills was advice on how to approach a project. Working for clients who may or may not have the same aesthetic as you seems stressful to me, but the book advises designers to go into a client meeting without any preconceptions about a project. In order to truly listen to what the client wants and will untimely pay you for (if you satisfy their needs, of course) the designer has to come in with an open mind. This is good advice for me, especially because i tend to get attached to my ideas too quickly.
Overall I think the information in this book is extremely valuable to a design student so at the very least I’m glad I bought it!