Tag Archives: graphic design

Design & Money: Understanding Value

Dear readers, I was given this opportunity, probably once in a lifetime, to write an essay on Design & Money. I was assigned to do it on a voluntary basis or in much more simple constructed words: “Do it for free”. I accepted those terms. To bring more transparency, I need to break down the concept of “Design & Money”.


Design has nothing to do with money — nothing at all! Design is a state of mind, a creative process of continuous development and improvement. Design is like art — a way to shape history; pointing out its beliefs and to be able to come up with great solutions that are practical and useful for that specific time-period. What’s important during the process is to accept the flow that makes it possible to bring great ideas to life. Ideally, design is about ideas that affect our present and how we create an idea for tomorrow, how we come up with meaningful solutions for the client, for the primary target, for the one who it might concern, for ourselves and for the purpose it’s intended to be used. Design is important from the perspective of profiling, understanding the market and applying a good quality aesthetic solution that the customer and market can accept for the reasons given in the context of a mission. Design is exactly what you think it is — You might be wrong but you should better try it first.

Money has nothing to do with design. It’s merely a tool of the trade; it reciprocates value for value. Money is not a concern except for those who wants to discuss the graphic and illustrated shape of money, but that’s another case. As a designer, you hold the most important tool in the process — the gift of accepting and converting a client’s need to a practical and useful design. Design has nothing to do with money but everything to do about creating a value.

In times of change we are forced to understand what value truly means and learn to be more flexible and be aware of the role of designers and money. This is increasingly true due to the fact that internet has emerged a powerful connecting tool in the recent years. From where I work I hear more and more often about businesses ordering their work from a wide range of countries were the pay rates are a bit lower compared to my country and companies are grabbing such opportunities of outsourcing their work, all in the effort to reduce costs.

Since a few decades it has become cheaper to print books in other countries and have them shipped backed again. Although we we have some great paper production companies and distributors over here it all boils down to the salaries of the workers, the stock and the rent. This will change further when the new digital reading tools are established and accepted on a broader market, and this in turn make printed material more or less confined to information-material or advertising & packaging design or exclusive printed books. How will this affect us as designers? What choices will we make for our clients? What’s the best medium of presentation for our clients’ needs? How can we take advantage of that knowledge?

We can, of course, give ourselves a greener world with digital distribution and online or offline digital design. When it comes to design and internet we will experience a wider market, when it comes to value and money we will experience a great change in competition since it will include designers from other countries taking part and offering services at their rates. More or less we are pushing ourselves towards a larger equality in the world economy and we need to keep in mind what the regular accepted costs are in other countries. But there are also other aspects than just world economy, an that is “The value of good design”. What are the customers buying? For what use and purpose is the intended design? Everything has a value and from a more interesting perspective it is the knowledge of how to create good design that fills and works for the consumers’ needs and in the best cases also gives other benefits. In those cases it will be more interesting as a designer to be not only talented but have a good reputation in the fields of quality and services as well as the costs. For some it will be better to accept royalty and licensing fee as additional perks. A third aspect is how and what regulates the copyright and how it changes depending on what country the designer or artist comes from. This will probably be a tricky part since not everything is bound by the Berne Convention and also it can be alarming for a customer who is not aware of how and where it can be used.

And then there is reputation, which is really hard to get. Even regular customers aren’t ready to spread your work by word-of-mouth unless they can find a value in endorsing your products. It only works out if you’re already popular and then customers use your name as another brand they own. Small firms have nothing to loose but larger corporations with more customers will either have to offer products and services at higher prices or have longer waiting lists depending on how many orders there are assigned to a designer.

Recently I got hooked up in a long conversation about customers who start their request with a “zero budget”. They would only pay the designer as much as a “bravo” or a handshake or tapping on the shoulders. It’s so easy fall for this simple trick. Either they will get a yes or no, or at least they will try to have a dialogue and get it for a bargain. They don’t want to pay what it usually costs. Working with such money-grubbing clients or working for a bargain or free doesn’t make a brilliant business model. In such cases its best to offer a royalty-based solution where your design fee depends upon the sales or plainly offer your services at your real prices with a no thank you note until they have come back to their senses; their needs won’t have gone away but they might just be forced to change their minds.

Clients know their budget and the possible earnings from their investment. As a designer it’s important to understand that as well since that’s the key to discuss proper payment. It’s also important to keep in mind all other factors that can affect the final design solution such as how the market will react, who the target audience is, how they will react to the design, the colors, the shapes and the messages being conveyed by the business. Another key to understanding value of your design is to research different economic and geographical regions, the standard practices and prices there. You should also include a legal disclaimer that prohibits the use of your design until the final payment is made.

Knowledge is the key to good service. Get the necessary knowledge and be service-oriented. But make sure that you don’t lose your time — which is now. It is in your hands to find and create value.



Magnus ‘Mojo’ Olsson
Swedish Illustrator, Artist and Graphic Designer

What happens when your client project doesn’t make it to the finish line? You droop your head, curse your fate and reach out for some very dark coffee, right! Not this time though; Fragment (1/many) is a project by Marcus Eckert that didn’t make it to the finish line. Instead of feeling low Markus simply changed the company’s name, packaged it up, added some sound and voilà you have a beautiful piece of motion-graphic that is free from the boundaries of any client-brief. Enjoy this delightful video followed by some stills.

For some more cool inspiration head on to Marcus’ website markuseckret.com

Tom Morin, a designer and teacher of design & typography, in writing this recent memoir reflects back on his many influential teachers; their teaching influenced him not only when he was a student, but also today as he continues to design books, brochures and identities for large corporations and institutions around the world. Thomas O. Morin, his 93 year old father, an architect of modern and contemporary buildings in New York State first taught him about design and inspired him to create as a youngster. M. Peter Piening was his Bauhaus trained advertising design professor for four years during college at Syracuse University. Alvin Eisenman, Paul Rand, Bradbury Thompson, Norman Ives, Herbert Matter and Walker Evans were all his professors during two years in the masters program of graphic design at Yale University. In this exclusive article written for VSUAL, Tom reveals the secret ingredients that go into making a good graphic designer. He also showcases some wonderful design spreads where the teacher’s work is featured on the left followed by an example of his own work on the right.

For the past five years I have been consumed with discovering and acknowledging my shepherds, angels, and teachers—tracing out the threads of influence that have shaped my personal and professional life. My aim was to both remember and honor those individuals who have been my life’s creative catalysts and who have made a significant difference in my life-long pursuit of creativity. My journey has involved family members, early childhood teachers, college and grad school professors, employers, consultants, and contemporaries, all of whom imparted their lessons by instruction or example, and all of whose influences were ultimately integrated into my life as a graphic designer.

In tracing these threads through my life’s work in graphic design, I experienced a new-found appreciation for all that had gone before—an appreciation I could not possibly have entertained in my youth. In short, I needed to grow and mature, both as an individual and as a designer, until I had acquired enough hindsight and wit to be able to look back.

It is easy to say that my first important influence was my mother, who gave me a broad view of what it meant to be a teacher and mentor outside the home; her efforts in this regard stretched from public school to our church Sunday school classes. But it was my father who introduced me to design. As an architect, he taught by example, through his instincts and his professional training. Not only did he introduce me to designers like Frank Lloyd Wright and Charles and Ray Eames, but he also influenced me through his choice of contemporary designs to furnish and decorate our home. Over time, such early childhood influences evolved into a lifetime of seeing, playing, experimenting, researching, writing, reading, and speaking—all habits one does not necessarily develop through higher education.

But if my strengths today are found in graphic design and typography, I must point out that my parents were not the only ones to direct the arrow of my life’s compass. There were other family members who pushed me along—grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, all of whom somehow affected the direction I eventually headed. And there were, of course, those responsible for my design training—my teachers and mentors.

Perhaps most influential among these was the Bauhaus-trained M. Peter Piening, who taught me about Bauer Bodoni, drawing, and the power of good copywriting. Then came Alvin Eisenman, who had one foot firmly planted in the history of type and printing and the other in the emerging digital age. Paul Rand, whose career began in New York in the 1930s, was a most significant mentor: he not only designed with a mix of spark and humor but showed me that good design must be succinct and visually to the point. Then there was Bradbury Thompson, who taught with a reserve and restraint that typified his manner as well as his design and typography; his work still excites today.

Designer and artist Norman Ives pointed me toward playing with letterforms, cutting, splicing, and blending to create ever more exciting imagery with nothing but the 26 letters of the English alphabet. Herbert Matter taught through the example of his early posters, in which the magic of juxtaposing photographic images and type exploded with excitement. And then there was Walker Evans, whose incredible photographic eye revealed a fascination with the indigenous typography found on roadside signs. His work taught me volumes about seeing and cropping, and his penchant for saving postcards and other graphic ephemera made me look at my surroundings in a new way, pushing me to collect examples of all sorts of interesting visual phenomena.

My contemporaries also exerted their influence during my school years. Our student workshops and class projects were usually carried out in teams; critiques were held in open groups; sketches and ideas were presented and discussed with the class. Sometimes, we spent half the workshop discussing what we had found during the research phase of a project. All of this became part of my experience.

Now, if you take all the early, formative experiences gleaned from among my family, add the more formal lessons imparted by teachers and professors, sprinkle with experiences shared with fellow students, friends, and colleagues—if you whip all of this together with the quizzical traits that informed a lifetime of reading, researching, and collecting, you will find the beliefs and values that have shaped my work as a graphic designer and typographer.

A good designer has an understanding of and appreciation for things like history and current events. He or she will understand contemporary graphic design as a point on a continuum that began with pre-historic handprints on the wall of a cave, and that extends far into a future we cannot yet see. A designer must also understand that all of life is grist for the graphic mill—that all sorts of input, from museum exhibitions to travel photography to simple editorial points of view, can contribute to the reservoir of experience. And it is from experience that ideas flow.

In my years of looking at and thinking about design, I have found that I have always been able to discern when a piece of graphic design has emanated from deep within its creator and when a design solution is merely the product of a software package replete with tricks and widgets. The latter usually ends up being about decoration rather than a strong idea. It may have flash and dazzle, but its excitement will have little substance and less longevity.

I believe that a well-grounded design philosophy combines knowledge and experience with tools and training. From knowledge and experience we get inspiration; tools and training give us the means to transform that inspiration into an effective graphic design solution. Inspiration does not come from the tools themselves, nor does it come from computer software. It comes from living life, from earning, sharing, listening, and reading—all are key ingredients of a lifetime of successful problem solving.

My father’s many architectural sketchbooks started me drawing at an early age.

The dynamism apparent in Professor Piening’s work is easily seen in this advertisement I prepared for a student assignment in 1962.

Alvin Eisenman taught me about the historical aspects of typographic communication and its role in the digital age. Client: Xerox Corporation.

Playfulness and a strong yet simple graphic solution were the legacy of my years working with Paul Rand. Client: Katonah Museum of Art.

Bradbury Thompson showed me how to combine visual reserve with typographic elegance. Client: Harper & Row, Publishers.

Norman Ives’s “slice and dice” approach to typography helped me see and interpret letterforms in infinitely exciting ways, as in this Yale student project from 1968.

By juxtaposing type with photography, Herbert Matter’s posters proved that a simple visual message could explode across the page. Client: Champion Paper.

Walker Evans’s fascination with indigenous design and signage taught me volumes about seeing and cropping, and about finding inspiration in the everyday.

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.

For further information on Tom’s book ‘Threads of Influence’ and to know more about his work, please visit:

Threads of Influence: Official Website
Threads of Influence: Facebook Page
Context Design: Tom’s Website



There are few pieces that represent the typographic and design spirit that illuminated that moment of history,
and certainly none on a scale as ambitious. Milton Glaser



Gastrotypographicalassemblage is a 35 feet (11 m) wide by 8.5 feet (2.6 m) tall work of art designed by Lou Dorfsman to decorate the cafeteria in Eero Saarinen’s CBS Building on 52nd Street and Sixth Avenue, New York City, New York, USA. With custom type created by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase, the installation contains almost 1500 individual characters.

As the senior vice president and creative director for marketing communications and design for the Columbia Broadcasting System, Dorfsman was responsible for all aspects of the building’s graphics, designating the type, design and spacing for wall clocks, elevator buttons, and elevator inspection stickers. He designed what he called Gastrotypographicalassemblage for the building’s cafeteria, using varied typefaces to list all of the foods offered to patrons in hand-milled wood type. The completed work was based on ideas conceived in the mid-1960s. The project was ultimately completed in 1966 with assistance from graphic designer Herb Lubalin, and Tom Carnase, who crafted the typography from Dorfsman’s original design. Dorfsman considered this work to be “his magnum opus, his gift to the world”.

Gastrotypographicalassemblage was discarded in the early 1990s by CBS, but the work’s nine panels were retrieved by designer Nick Fasciano. It was in an advanced state of disrepair, aggravated by improper storage. The piece was acquired by the Atlanta-based Center for Design Study, which has undertaken an effort to raise the funds needed to support the restoration of the work of art. The group’s goal is to restore Gastrotypographicalassemblage and to use it in a permanent traveling exhibition focusing on historical American design, and using the piece as an example of the value of intelligently applied design.

Lou Dorfsman in 1982, at the “Gastrotypographicalassemblage” he created for the CBS cafeteria.

File Photograph of Lou Dorfman (extreme-right) with Ed Katz and Bob Denverand Marlene Dietrich

Louis “Lou” Dorfsman (1918 – October 22, 2008) was a graphic designer who oversaw almost every aspect of the advertising and corporate identity for the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in his forty years with the network.

Lou Dorfsman joined CBS during 1946 after leaving the U.S. army. Dorfsman was attracted to CBS because of its “high graphic standards.” For 41 years, he would work within CBS, shaping every aspect of its design and advertising. He became the Art Director of CBS Radio during 1951, five short years after joining CBS, and graduated to Creative Director of the CBS Television Network during 1960. Dorfsman was appointed Director of Design for CBS, Inc. during 1964, and he became Vice President and Creative Director of the CBS Broadcast group during 1968. Alongside William S. Paley and Frank Stanton, he shaped every aspect of their advertising and design, from their award-winning advertisements to the look of the convention floor to the appearance of Walter Cronkite and the CBS Newsroom. Dorfsman played an integral role in the Golden Age of Broadcast Television. During 1978, Dorfsman became Senior Vice President and Creative Director for Marketing Communications and Design for the CBS Broadcast Group. Milton Glaser called him simply “the best corporate designer in the world,” a testament to the beauty and strength of his ideas, which still resonate with designers of all ages.

In 1978, Dorfsman was recognized as a medalist by the AIGA, “awarded to individuals in recognition of their exceptional achievements, services or other contributions to the field of design and visual communication”.

The Art Director’s Club, of which Dorfsman was a past president, honored him through the years with 13 Gold Medals and 23 awards of Distinctive Merit for outstanding work in print and television advertising, packaging, film titling, book design and direct mail. He won two Clios and five 50 Ads of the Year. During 1978, The Art Director’s Club inducted Lou into the Art Directors Hall of Fame , and the AIGA awarded him with its annual AIGA Medal during the same year. He was the recipient in 1984 and 1989 of an honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from the New School of Social Research and the Long Island University, respectively.

The 1988 book Dorfsman & CBS by Dick Hess and Marion Muller covered his more than 40 years with the network.


  1. Kemistry Gallery / http://kemistrygallery.co.uk
  2. AIGA / http://www.aiga.org
  3. Art Directors Club / http://www.adcglobal.org
  4. The Center for Design Study / http://thecenterfordesignstudy.com