Who I look up to in graphic design?


Dear Stagis

My name is Sif and I am a first year student at the KaosPilots. Me and my group are doing an exam project about graphic design and we could really use your help in the research phase, since we know that YOU have some of the knowledge that we need. We would be forever thankful if you would take the time to answer the following questions.

  • What are the future needs and client demands for graphic design products?
  • What will your business do to meet these needs?
  • What are the upcoming trends?
  • Where do you find your inspiration?
  • Who, or what business, do you look up to as a graphic designer and why?

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Hi guys,
Unfortunately, I don’t have much time and the questions you ask are rather complex if you want to work seriously with them. But I’m happy to give it a quick shot:

If you go through the videos and articles on www.stagis.com you’ll find that we have a rather specialized focus on organizational authenticity which I am writing a book on (hopefully soon to be finalized….!). That pretty much answers your second and third question, because that’s what we are developing and doing in order to meet what we think will best benefit our clients. The idea behind our focus on finding the authentic strengths of the company before working on the visual design is an answer to your question about immediate and future needs: I think our clients (private and public organizations) need to know themselves before they express themselves. And we as designers have the same need which is why we try to create explorative processes that help both the client and us to understand the organizational identity before we create the visual (or graphic, as you might also call it) identity.
Secondarily, companies need graphic design work that has a degree of possible change or dynamic built into it. However, that’s more complicated, as that changes by the client. For some companies it’s more true to be very stable, for others it’s right to become more dynamic. 
I find inspiration in many places. These days a lot of my search is within the field of authenticity and for that matter I find inspiration within philosophy, psychology, music theory, anthropology and other places where authenticity and the development of identity has been researched. In the field of graphic design it comes from books, traveling, all sorts of places and most of the places I find inspiration are probably not evident to me.
I look up to a bunch of people within and outside graphic design. A grand old man within design is Wim Crouwel whom I would presume a lot of designers to look up to. Then there’s Steve Sandstrom that I met 10 years ago in Portland, Oregon. He was originally a Nike designer and when I met him he had few clients. Like Levi's, Microsoft, Nike, Coca-Cola (who's website-assignment he had just turned down). A bunch of people at Wieden and Kennedy, also in Portland (who also only had few clients when I first paid them a visit in 1999, Millers, Microsoft, Nike and a few others). W+K has always been extremely good at understanding the strengths of their clients and expressing those strengths to grow much bigger – check this Honda commercial built on the fact that an engineer hated that diesel engines were so noisy – so he built a silent one, driven by his hate. Mother Design in NYC, Paula Schers work for The Public Theater at Pentagram and Neville Brody and… well, the list goes on. When it comes to design processes (which are often more inspiring than the final result) I’ve been inspired by the design company Ideo but actually found more insight in other fields. Two German consultants (and researchers), Schindl + Rughase, for instance. Some of their strategic work processes has some resemblance to ours.
I hope this helps you,
Best, Nikolaj