Unspecial effects, very special advice
In his brilliant 2001 book Unspecial Effects for Graphic Designers, Bob makes a point that has become even more pertinent as time has gone on. He says that for under $100 you can buy a computer programme that fit words and images into professional-looking formats. This allows anyone with basic typing skills to produce most of the design and print materials needed by an average business.
Twenty years later, and software and services such as Canva and Designs.AI are ramping the volume on that statement up to 11.
So, says Bob, if a typist can do much of the work previously done by specialists, what’s left for the designer?
We have to do things someone armed solely with some slick software can’t do… we have to think, observe and go beyond what ‘the culture mafia’ feeds us. We have to avoid regurgitating what’s hot, what others coo over and think cool, and find something interesting “or event better, something original” to say.
And only when you’re satisfied with what you want to say can the design process begin.
Bob implores us try to forget what good design is supposed to look like and listen to what he calls the ‘statement’. (The statement is that interesting or original thought you uncovered through painstaking and passionate immersion in the subject at hand). “The statement will tell you what it should look like. It will then design itself. Well, almost.”
Bob dedicated Unspecial Effects to his children, Jack and Kate. He writes that he hopes it might “show you that ordinary things, which you pass every day, can be so much more interesting and entertaining and surprising that you think. If you look hard enough.”
We’re in a time when people spend so much time looking down at screens not around at real-life scenes. So, we could all benefit by accepting this invitation to look up and discover the amazing things we’re missing.
The cover of Unspecial Effects carries Bob’s thought that “If this book helps only one designer get only one original idea, then all of the months I spent putting it together will not have been worth it”.
Having taught and influenced countless thousands, Bob can rest knowing the effort was more than worth it.