All posts by Utpal Pande

About Utpal Pande

Utpal Pande is a graphic designer from India. His work has been featured in the NY Times, international magazines and journals. As a design speaker he has been invited to forums such as TEDx. He is also the editor-in-chief of VSUAL.

There was an interesting blog-post somewhere that talked about how blogging is losing its charm and is going to die completely in some years. The author seemed to be overwhelmed by micro-blogging services such as twitter; but one must remember that a 140-character limit might be good to draw your audience’s attention but often it falls too short to hold their interest. In November 1995, David Carson published his first book titled ‘The End of Print’ — interestingly, it sold over 200,000 copies in five different languages and soon became the best-selling graphic design book worldwide. To make my point clear I would draw your attention to the fact that even now you’re reading this editorial — it’s again a sign that the written word is here to stay. [hr]

Writing, after facial expressions, body-odor and speech (not necessarily in that exact order), is the most common form of communication. Designers and artists use forms and images to communicate yet the written word has no substitute. For a communication designer writing can be a powerful tool for convincing people of one’s capability, writing ransom-notes to clients or for presenting a clear, concise argument with sound reasoning. Writing allows you to organize your thoughts. Design is nothing but an orderly way of communicating with your audience.

As a student, researcher or an academician, writing is a part of your day-to-day life. However, once you’re out of school, the pen and paper part ways and even on a keyboard the only keys you’re pressing are application shortcut combinations or website urls. You could blame it on your busy schedules or your client but the fact remains that you and your brain miss a very important exercise. As designers and thinkers we mustn’t find excuses rather our time should be spent in discovering appropriate and beautiful solutions. So without further ado, I present to you a 2-step program that’ll help you write like Jack Nicholson in no time;

Step-1: Find inspiration! And we’ve just made it a piece of cake — we’ll be featuring excellent articles, every week; that shall certainly leave your neurons tingling with motivation, and craving to do some writing.

Step-2: Start writing! But you may argue what’s the point of a futile exercise? Well guess what, we’ve made this worthwhile as well — you can send articles and if they’re shiny we shall happily publish them here.

Step-3 (I know I said 2-steps): Inspire! Now once you’ve got your article published, it’s time to share and spread the light. We’ve designed VSUAL in such a way that you can spread your gospel with just a click of a button. With all major social networks integrated, you’ll be tweeting and sharing in no time.

If you’re still reluctant to hold a pen in your hand, then fear not, there is enough content already to get you in the right mood. With our launch, we’re featuring the best articles from the most inspiring people around. From the Himalayas to Japan’s coastlines; from a creative-director’s office to a professor’s desk, we’ve got 4 wonderful featured articles that showcase the best ideas from the fields of graphic design, photography, social communication and design thinking.

I hope we develop a long-lasting relationship with our readers and contributors. Looking forward to your guidance, feedback and of course some awesome articles. In good faith!


Utpal Pande

Threads of Influence is the detailed excavation and mapping of one life, that of Tom Morin, graphic designer to corporate America for over 40 years. In this book, he assembles the defining moments and influences of his life in design to produce a lush visual landscape, a world flourishing with both personal and professional remembrances and peopled by family, teachers, clients, corporations, and contemporaries.

VSUAL got in touch with designer & writer Tom Morin to know about his upcoming book titled ‘Threads of Influence’. We discovered that his book is an indispensable resource for students, professionals and educators alike. Tom’s book walks us through his life and illustrates with real life experiences, how a designer is born.


What makes a graphic designer?

Five years ago, Tom Morin set out to answer this question. The initial catalyst was helping his aging father move from the old family home in Rochester, New York, and confronting the accumulation of his father’s 88-year life. As he sifted through his father’s effects, Morin realized that he was looking at not only his father’s life, but his own: that among the books and photographs, the scrapbooks and newspaper clippings, the letters and report cards and his own early artwork were strands that had been inextricably woven into the tapestry of his own life, making of him one of America’s most prolific graphic designers.

Unable to simply consign all of this history to the dustbin, Morin packed it up and began the long drive back to his home in Galisteo, New Mexico. At the same time, he began the much longer journey that has resulted in his new book, Threads of Influence: The Visual History of a Life in Graphic Design, to be published by the Galisteo Press in October 2011.

“Traveling back home,” Morin writes in his preface to the book, “I thought about my own years of accumulation, most of which was in the attic over my garage… Many memories had already slipped away, others were rapidly fading, and still more resided with relatives and friends…  My studio was also filled with books, samples, and mementoes from 42 years of working in the design world.”

Would it be possible, he wondered, to take all this personal and professional memorabilia and stitch it all together into a cohesive timeline—one, he writes, “that would pay homage to all the influences and adequately portray the guidance, instruction, and faith shown to me by so many people?” Gripped by the realization that he did not want a near-century of family and professional history to be lost, he set about writing it down, documenting it, photographing it, and, finally, designing a book to house it all.

The pages shown here are but a small part of Morin’s 352-page volume-plus-DVD, which begins with his grandparents arriving in central New York State. From there, the book traces key influences in Morin’s family and upbringing, his education, and his career as a graphic designer and teacher of design. Through his written memories, some 1100 color and black-and-white images, sketches describing some of the greatest figures in graphic design history, and 39 personal essays provided by some of Morin’s top-flight colleagues, Threads of Influence documents how home-life, teachers (think the likes of Paul Rand, Herbert Matter, Alvin Eisenman, and Walker Evans), colleagues (Steve Chapman, Eddie Byrd, and C. Wynn Medinger, to name a few), and students (in Boston, Rochester, and Santa Fe) continually shaped and reshaped his thinking and his life, in the end forming a graphic designer who is much more than the sum of his parts.

Introductory Chapter

His story begins with relatives migrating from France, England, Ireland, and the American Midwest to settle in Fulton, New York, where Tom was born in February of 1944. His extended family includes business entrepreneurs, inventors, architects, artists, ranchers, musicians, teachers, ministers, lumbermen, an antique dealer, and one vaudeville silent movie projectionist. Tom’s family moved to Rochester, New York, in 1954. During his youth, Tom found school difficult, but his interest in art came easy. Classes at the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery and his father’s architectural designs and constructions were his initial inspiration. But it was while summering on an aunt and uncle’s sheep ranch in St. Helena, California, as  a young teen that he was introduced to “Uncle Rudolph,” a family friend and founder of the esteemed Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design in San Francisco. His new uncle promptly offered Tom a Schaeffer School scholarship, whenever the lad was ready to attend.

Tom barely graduated from high school in 1962, but was accepted at Syracuse University as a “risk” student. There he studied advertising design with the Bauhaus-trained Dr. M. Peter Piening. Piening was “by far the most influential thread in my tapestry,” says Morin. Four years under Piening’s expert and gracious eye led to a semester at the Den Grafiske Hjskoles (Graphic College of Denmark) in Copenhagen, a sojourn that marked Tom’s pivotal shift from advertising to graphic design.

A summer internship at the Xerox Corporate Design Center, managed by Jack Hough, led to Tom’s being accepted into Yale University’s graphic design program in the fall of 1966. Two years of studying under Alvin Eisenman, Paul Rand, Herbert Matter, Bradbury Thompson, Norman Ives, and Walker Evans cemented his direction. [hr]

Tom Morin is principal and designer for Context Design Inc., Galisteo, New Mexico, U.S.A.  Mr. Morin has enjoyed a prolific career as a graphic design consultant to corporate America, working for clients such as Alcoa, Champion, General Electric, JP Morgan, Westinghouse, and Xerox. His current focus includes teaching design and typography and designing books for museums and publishers. He is the author of a new visual memoir called Threads of Influence: The Visual History of a Life in Graphic Design. This long-awaited book will be the focus of an exhibition at the Yale University Art of the Book Room Library and Collection in January 2012.

Visit Threads of Influence Website
Visit Tom Morin’s Website