Why No Place at the Table

January 22, 2010

Tags: design criticism

I 've been in design my whole life. During this admittedly lengthening period, I've listened to many designers spend much energy fighting to be recognized, fighting to be heard by the people who make things happen in corporations, in NGOs, in government.

For years I have heard stirring arguments about how designers need "a place at the table" around which important systemic decisions are made. And still that place at the table is not an assured place. Why are designers still not really a part of things? Why are they not an assumed voice in high-level decision-making? Even today, when innovation and sustainability and green are the newest corporate cliches, it is rare to see a designer in the boardroom.

"And why is this?" I asked myself, walking back from teaching tonight. The answer came to me, borne on feathered wings, somewhere between Nordstrom's and the ferry.

The reason that designers have only a feeble grip on that chair at the table is not because design is not respected, it is because most designers cannot write. I don't mean they can't write like Faulkner. I don't mean they don't have a discernable prose style. I mean they cannot WRITE. They do not know where to put a subject and a verb and a capital and a period. They are functionally illiterate. Only the very top echelon of designers writes. And let me tell you, that top echelon writes like the wind: read Stefan Bucher, read Michael Rock, read Michael Bierut, read Jessica Helfand, read Sagmeister--these people are not only literate, they are wonderful writers and they get their ideas across in ways that inspire people to agree with them. It should be noted that two of these people are writing in a second language.

But below that level, it is very rare to find a really good writer in the pack. Oh, sure, there are one or two in every AIGA meeting. But to be blunt, the greater mass of designers is a mass of functioning illiterates. I know. I've edited them. The odd part is that these designers have convinced themselves that they CAN write. They think they are fairly good writers and that a little dust-off with Spellcheck will pretty much make them excellent writers. They have a totally unrealistic view of their own skills. They dress up their writing in the Emperor's new clothes, but those clothes don't fool anyone at the table.

Now. Why is writing important to getting and keeping said much-ballyhooed chair? For two reasons. The first is that no one trusts illiterate people to make decisions. If they did, all countries would be democracies.

The second is that the rest of the people at that table can write and they look down on people that can't. It's a class issue (though in America we would never say that) and it's an issue of the perception of judgement. Not being able to write-- thinking you can when you can't-- shows a willingness to believe in vague and untrue things, a willingness to obfuscate. It shows an inability to be clear, to be rational--to think. That's not something people want at the table.

Being unable to write well also shows a lack of understanding about the way corporate culture works. CEOs write. CFOs write. Marketing directors write. You can draw on a napkin all you want, but napkin-drawing is not the native problem-solving tool of most CEOs: Writing is. It is the stuff of which convincing arguments are made. It is the natural language of the boardroom. No matter how brilliant you are, if you don't know how to write well you will never be perceived by the rest of that table as anything but a window dresser wearing Prada.


  1. January 23, 2010 2:57 PM EST
    A very thought-provoking post, Natalia.

    I feel your pain as a designer who is passionate about writing — and writing well. While studying design at a liberal arts college, I worked as a writing tutor helping students of all majors, including business and design. What I discovered was that proficiency in writing, or lack thereof, wasn't strictly tied to a course of study, professional orientation, or personal background. It was a result of one's basic education and of one's personal motivation. Good writers emerge because they possess strong foundational knowledge, practice constantly, and receive encouragement to do better. Great writers are the ones who are driven to push themselves the furthest and who display mastery of the form. Whether or not our educational system is succeeding at producing even average writers is a whole other conversation.

    When raising the question of why designers don't have a seat at the "strategy" table, we need to tackle a much larger issue, (long the subject of debate across many forums such as NextD): WHAT value are designers bringing to the table? The design profession is in flux, undergoing redefinition in the context of economic, social, and global change. Yet at its core, design is about problem solving, employing analytic and creative skills and methods to achieve a desired end, whether it's a logo, an identity system, or a corporate strategy. Inherent in this activity is the ability to communicate clearly — verbally, textually, and especially visually. In tandem with strong problem solving skill, designers must excel in all three of these areas in order to bring any value in solving higher-order challenges. Design education is slowly catching up to this reality.

    Your dismissal of "napkin-drawing" in a corporate setting is surprising, as that context is exactly where visualization is key to demonstrating design's value. Mapping and modeling ideas in a meeting or team session enhances and accelerates collaboration far more effectively than words alone, in virtually any situation. A number of consultancies and designers have already been proving this point (Humantific - www.humantific.com, Dan Roam – www.digitalroam.com), and organizational leaders of all types are seeing the impact and real-world results.

    I look forward to seeing this conversation unfold, and would gladly provide further detail! :)

    Michael Babwahsingh

    - Michael Babwahsingh
  2. January 23, 2010 4:15 PM EST
    Is it because we are taught to think solely in images? A picture is worth a thousand words. I for one have never had an instructor say that the thousand words are also important.
    - Jared Pechacek
  3. January 23, 2010 6:32 PM EST
    Great to see your name here, Michael. True as it is that the "value" of design needs to be clearly defined in order that the coveted "strategy seat" be realized, my thought in this post is really about the affect and effect of a designer's ability to write. Writing, to me, means the process of framing complex concepts in the mind and then translating those concepts into a clear hierarchy of thought and language. Yes, right at this very minute we are experiencing a vogue in which CEOs read business books about how to write on napkins, how to think like a designer. Visualization and mapping and modelling are skills that design thinking brings to the strategic meeting. And that's great for us, because these skills do enhance collaboration. The skills we bring are important, true. But my thought here is that it is crucially important that we master the skill the others in the room already possess--the ability to write clearly and well-- rather than assume that every person in the meeting is going to want to open up to the new challenge of thinking the way we do. When it comes to boardroom culture, designers are metaphorically left-handed participants. I, a truly left-handed person, do not expect my fellows to try using a knife with their other hand and then continue to do so evermore. Nor do I expect a boardroom to abandon writing's argument and logic to embrace the value of thinking in pictures, the way I naturally think. The most I can expect is that a person try using a knife with his left hand, experience the difference, and go back to using his more comfortable right hand with an appreciation of the experience of left-handedness. That's what we can expect from teaching CFOs to write on napkins and engage in brainstorming. It's something, but it is nothing without our being ambidextrous, ourselves.
    - Natalia
  4. January 23, 2010 6:48 PM EST
    You hit a nerve with me here, because I cannot tell you the times I have heard instructors drop a disparaging a comment or two about their students' poor writing. (Not at our beloved Cornish College, of course, since writing is part of the gameplan here.) But at many design schools, instructors assume that design students just can't write. They make fun of malapropisms found in tests. And they never seem to think that it may be their responsibility.

    Teaching writing is a hard job all around. It takes huge amounts of time for an instructor to edit student papers, leading to late returns and irritation on both sides. (Ask how I know.) Once returned, the students take blows to their egos, seeing their handiwork dying of red marks. But all of it is so important. If you get out of college without being able to write, your institution has failed you. It's as simple as that.
    - Natalia Ilyin
  5. January 24, 2010 5:18 PM EST
    Thanks for clarifying the intent of your post.

    There's no question that solid writing skill should be a core competency of all designers. But I think the reason *why* designers need to be better writers has less to do with who is in the room, what the presumed writing skill level of others is, or what their presumed comfort level is with text versus visuals.

    I think the issue is really *when* and *how* that writing skill comes into play — how a designer facilitates understanding through his or her overall ability to communicate. Granted, when ideas must be expressed in writing, as in presentations, e-mails or proposals, writing should be logically sound, grammatically correct, etc. In the context of a meeting or collaborative activity, writing and visualization should both be high quality and co-operate to reinforce dialogue. This shouldn't be an either/or distinction; both are natural modes of transmitting and receiving information, only written language has gained dominance as the workhorse of everyday business communication. The emergence of visual thinking in a business context has reaffirmed the fundamental human capacity to absorb and process visual information more quickly than words alone. Consequently, basic visual techniques and methods are making their way into the boardroom, as well as in everyday business activities, without need for formal drawing skill or artistic ability. Most importantly for the design profession, business leaders are increasingly turning to those select designers who are highly proficient in communication and advanced problem solving to lead and propel strategic discussions, as well as impart these skills to internal teams.

    Your definition of writing as "the process of framing complex concepts in the mind and then translating those concepts into a clear hierarchy of thought and language" applies equally well to visualization.

    These two quotes sum up this concept well:
    "Good writing...is clear thinking made visible." -- Ambrose Bierce
    "Good design is clear thinking made visible." -- Edward Tufte

    Let's push designers to be clear thinkers above all, and to make clear thinking visible in all facets of design work.
    - Michael
  6. January 24, 2010 9:45 PM EST
    I hope I didn't offend you. First using French in an e-mail, now this! I'm on some sort of dreadful roll.
    My statement was a generality, as most statements that short must be. Besides, I think I was trying to be too clever for my own good.
    - Jared Pechacek
  7. January 24, 2010 10:45 PM EST
    Absolutely not! And you could never be too clever for your own good. Cleverness is one of your great talents! No...all you did was make me think...generally that's a good thing, unless it's about calories I am currently consuming or the about the wretched history of my misspent youth. Other than that, thinking is something I am glad to do and I appreciate your goading me to it.
    - Natalia Ilyin
  8. January 31, 2010 2:18 PM EST
    And of course, if you can't write, you probably can't read so well; and if you can't interpret text, how can you be a good information designer? Great blog!
    - Scumboni
  9. February 2, 2010 6:11 PM EST
    My Liberal Arts instructors at RISD told me I was a visual person. So I decided to join illiterati and lived happily ever after.
    - Misha Beletsky
  10. February 2, 2010 7:03 PM EST
    I'm a designer and I love writing. I'm also very good at it. Your idea of a strategy table that judges based on writing skills seems unrealistic, rather, the ability of a designer to appropriately express himself in a way that is attractive to others (via talking, what most of us do) appears to be the most valued skill in my experience.

    I don't know what designers you're used to dealing with, but at the school I attend writing is stressed above all other academics. A designer is required to take writing for the entirety of his schooling; to try and be an effective speaker, especially in a designer's experience, one must be an effective writer. This isn't meant to detract from my main point, unless you're implying a strategy table is virtual and text-based, speaking remains king.
    - Tyler Grad
  11. February 2, 2010 9:20 PM EST
    This is quite an interesting question and subject for me. Im about to graduate from my degree in visual communication. In my third year myself and my friend set up 'white ink blog' out of pure frustration for all things that weren't discussed or taught. With an interest to grasp the brige between the and the real business and university.

    I think that writing is an essential part of graphic design because it displays intellect, rationalisation and passion before any design conclusion can be seen. Unsurprisingly, last week my co-blog writer was offered a job, (or job interest) from across the globe purely based on his own personal blog and with a further interest to see his work.

    Im not the biggest fan of Paul Rands work but I've read almost everything he's ever written, this is due to the didactic approach he speaks with. Understanding a designers approach and perceptions of relevance to communication is fascinating and will always speak to me with feelings that travel beyond the realms of pure design thought. Essentially, its helps us define our opinons of how we see things. Reflecting our principles and values is what separates the sheep from the shepards.

    Reading from the rat pack that may be Poynor, Heller and Bieruit have cemented the fact that writing is essential part of the design community. With skill and adequacy yes, you can receive the deserved exposure.

    However, I think this may be where the problem lies. Writing about design in most contexts will mainly attract interest from fellow designers, adding to this cyclical paradox. How can writing speak to the clients or those outside of the digital networks? What needs to be discussed is a way to communicate to those that aren't necessarily interested and then ask why we need to be heard. What would we even say?

    Its difficult to access why designers don't sit inside the big board rooms, as the term 'design' is so complex and misused. Asking why a designer is not sitting the big executing room making universal decisions is just a relevant as asking, 'where are the charity workers?', and 'religious figures?. All of whom are also trying to make the world a better place with a voice spoken form their side.

    The paradox about design in this context is that, its seen to communicate for others with each designer having his own stance on morals, some having established great charitable organisations while others could be more affiliated to advertising with distasteful stigmas of corporation and greed. It is for this reason that the term 'designer' is dissolute and vague, similar to the scope of a 'politician'. Some politicians have done great things while others we wouldn't trust with a dime. Educating the public about our importance and worth is a difficult case but mumbling and ranting in our own little digital corners will never solve anything.

    It is fascinating that the 'communicators' should have such a limited voice. To overcome this I think we need to first ask; what do we need to say and who are speaking to?
    - Tim Phelan.net
  12. February 2, 2010 9:20 PM EST
    This is a good, thought-provoking post, which touches on what Adrian Shaugnessy was getting at in his book "How To Be A Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul." Designers are in the business of communication — primarily visual — but the point is that we're best at (in theory) communicating an idea. Whether you can communicate that idea in words, images or speech isn't irrelevant, but exercising one skill exercises them all as it's all an exercise in communication.

    So I completely agree; it's almost as important for designers to write coherently and decisively as it is for them to be able to design a stand-out piece, or a copywriter to be able to at least mock up a functional ad; etc. In the end, it's all just communication.
    - Stuart Thursby
  13. February 2, 2010 9:36 PM EST
    I think perhaps that designers/artists are taught, more often than not, to go with a "stream of consciousness" in their creative process… to just start sketching out what is in their creative visions. So perhaps that is how we grow accustomed to writing, in that same go-with-the-flow style.

    But most writers will agree that that persuasive writing has to be much more organized and well thought out, not just simply writing down a stream of words as they pop into your head (like this comment is turning out to be). Outlining the basic piece, creating bullet points and supporting facts, organizing the entire structure in a logic fashion that builds towards a climax and resolution. THEN… start actually writing it.

    There is a hugely valid point to Natalia's statement about many designers/artists being close to functionally illiterate. But even beyond that (for example, I know what a predicate is, but if you talk to me about akin to present subjective tense, my eyes _will_ glaze over, and blood may start oozing down the ears), there is an *art* to writing well, and that is something most non-writers do not recognize.
    [indeed, you could probably make similar comparisons to the art of design and non-designers].

    P.S. Designer hat: There really should be some better spacing between the comments here… fairly hard to read when the next comment follows on the next line immediately after the previous one. :-)
    - Greg Hay
  14. February 2, 2010 10:40 PM EST
    It's interesting to me that as soon as I saw this blog it was so unattractive that I immediately thought that it was going to be really poorly written.

    Hi Jon-- Interesting reaction. The designer's version of "fat people are jolly," or "pretty people are better." The old Greek aesthetic bias! This is a template provided me from the Authors' Guild. You have reawakened my desire to change it when I have the time.
    - ...
  15. February 3, 2010 4:05 AM EST
    Would you mind pointing out that you are only talking about designers in the US? Nobody can expect you to read other languages, but if you did, you’d find that there are designers outside the US who can actually write and do so. That includes designers in other English-speaking countries.

    By and large, I agree with your sentiment and I am on record with a similar statement (although I am a writing designer, in both English and German and I do get asked to write all the time, so there must be some talent evident), but I am always surprised how people in the US presume that there is no intelligent life worth considering outside the 50 states.


    --Hi Erik: With a name like "Natalia Ilyin" I am indeed aware that intelligent life exists outside the United States. This post is about American designers.
    - ...
  16. February 3, 2010 9:21 AM EST
    This issue is not about designers. It is about education in the U.S. and the impact of the "always online culture" that children are deeply in.
    The first step to good writing is doing a lot of reading. But when children and teens are spending 50 hours a week online, when can they read a book?
    I hope that the iPad and other devices like that will change things a bit. Now, a book can be right there to read. There will also be the movie and video games right there too but, maybe having a big library on the same device will make a difference.
    - Joe
  17. February 3, 2010 9:26 AM EST
    Hell yeah, copywriters rule!
    --Deadpan Walking

    Dear DPW: Believe that if it makes you feel better.
    - ...
  18. February 3, 2010 9:44 AM EST
    You need to redesign this blog. It is so difficult to read.

    All the best,
    David Carlington

    --Hi David! I DO! It's terrible and I have to put it on the "A" list. Perhaps someone will get so irritated by it that he will offer to redesign it for me. I suppose I should not count on the kindness of strangers. Cheers, Natalia
    - ...
  19. February 3, 2010 10:44 AM EST
    stefan bucher is a writer? i thought he doodled monsters.

    i have to agree with the overall premise. i'm dislexic AND illiterate!
    felix sockwell

    -- He doodles monsters when he's not being brilliant. Oh, wait. That's brilliance, too..... Cheers, Natalia
    - ...
  20. February 3, 2010 2:26 PM EST
    Ms. Ilyin,
    Your blog-rant tone makes it obvious that this post is motivated by your own personal frustration in dealing with poor writing generated by student/professional designers. I only hope that you do not use your position of influence to continue to spread your insults, but perhaps would try to turn your warranted frustration into passing on your fine-tuned literary knowledge to some of us uneducated, slobbering illiterate designers.
    In addition, I would like to make two points.
    A) One Facebooker said in response to this blog, "most PEOPLE can't write." I would like to point out the truth in this, and would also like to point out that most designers are, in fact, people. This means that we struggle along with the businessmen, the engineers, the store clerks, the supermodels and the politicians, etc. in exhibiting good writing skills. I'm often horrified at the copy I receive from well-paid writers.

    B) You say that designers are less influential "not because design is not respected..." Perhaps in your status as a traveling lecturer, brand consultant, and contributor at some of the most respected design schools, you see a world in which design IS respected. As a young designer who would genuinely admire a successful female designer like yourself, I would ask you to reevaluate if design really IS respected. With the National Endowment for the Arts of the U.S. calling for SPEC WORK (!) and the proliferation of spec sites like 99designs.com, my peers and I are coming to the mildly shocking conclusion that most lay-people don't know what design is, much less why they should pay for it. Please keep in mind that there is a real, blue-collar world out there, full of all kinds of people who cannot write and all kinds of designers who need respect for their hard work, especially from fellow designers like yourself.
    - Holly Whitfield
  21. February 3, 2010 3:40 PM EST
    I think you'll sometimes find a few other folks seated at "the table" who are equally poor writers for their position.
    - leMel
  22. February 3, 2010 3:50 PM EST
    ...also (sorry for the addendum) I'm not sure that the low-resolution bulleted powerpointing rampant in business could qualify as thoughtful analytical writing. While I agree with pretty much everything you're expressing here, I wonder whether you are overestimating the waterline...
    - leMel
  23. February 3, 2010 5:08 PM EST
    A well- reasoned thought, but general and misleading to those who have no experience with corporate america.

    Writing; syntax at its root, is as abstract and flawed as the visual arts. All though most designers may believe they write well, every individual in that boardroom believes they understand design.

    Writing is easier for most, which why there are less designers than writers in the room.. Having said this, you are right. We all believe we can write. In some capacity, if not remedially, we'er all taught the basics.

    This cannot be said of design.
    - Marc Rapp
  24. February 3, 2010 5:18 PM EST
    I'm a writer who has partnered with designers and art directors for more than 20 years in traditional advertising, interactive, and social media. I’ve witnessed firsthand how their ability to write has had a direct impact on their ability to secure a seat at the table. As much as I wish that the sheer brilliance of their visual talent could speak for itself, by definition, we are engaged in a commercial endeavor. This means they must clearly communicate the strategic and creative value of our work using the most powerful business tool of all: the written word.
    - @rebrivved
  25. February 3, 2010 6:15 PM EST
    Dear, Natalia:

    I read this via my Twitter feed –chicly designer clad and funkily bespectacled– hoping that, as one of your former students, you weren't thinking of me when you wrote this. One of my worst fears in life is to be thought of as someone who cannot write well.

    But I've recently been published by the AIGA and NPR, having gone through official copy edits. My articles were not only not rejected, but hardly even edited; I attribute that to my own share of your infamous red marks.

    Having said that, I will assert that as a woman in the male-dominated fields of technology and design, more often than not, woman who can write are still not as valued as men who can't.

    Do you really think that true? I never think of being seen as male or female when I write or am edited. Maybe I need to put on my objectivity goggles.
    Really wonderful to hear from you, Callie. XO Natalia
    - ...
  26. February 3, 2010 6:17 PM EST
    Thank you for your thought provoking post.

    I agree that designers underestimate the importance of their writing. But imperfection and illiteracy are huge extremes! Saying designers have “only a feeble grip on that chair at the table” because they cannot write is a bold statement that discredits designers who are decent writers; it also posits that designers who do not present flawless writing do not have anything to offer to the strategic and creative process.

    Writing clearly and accurately is critical. But the tone of your post is unjustly condescending.
    - Aaron Stienstra
  27. February 4, 2010 8:42 AM EST
    I just readed your letter and I think you are vrong for a number of raisins:

    1. Firtsly, most designers are in fact also good writers as well. That is a fact.
    2. Most designers are two busy making all the last minnit changes to the big presintation to be sat in the big meeting at the big table anyway.

    Yours Sincerely, Orbit Lesser
    - www.orbitlesser.com
  28. February 4, 2010 8:01 PM EST

    Fabulous conversation to start.
    Thank you for this.

    Here in GradSchoolLand, we are writing our theses and hesitant about the transition between writing and making. It is so hard to switch modes! But I have heard from veterans of this process that the two will end up feeding one another and we will naturally be more able to do them simultaneously after this experience. I hope so!

    In my time in art school (a foreign land to me), I've heard undergraduates say more times than I can count that they DO NOT READ. They are not embarrassed to say it! It strikes me that people who do not read will hardly value writing. Nor will they know good stuff (or bad) when they see (or write) it.

    Not to toot my own program's horn, but this is another reason I think 3-year programs for graduate graphic design degrees are so interesting. My own training and career in journalism before grad school is feeding my work in ways a pure design background never could. Yes, it limits my thinking sometimes in some ways, but it also brings different dimensions to my work and to my writing. I find that the other grads with liberal arts backgrounds use writing in a strong way in their work too. We like to write, to edit, to play with words the same way we like to play with form.

    Coming into design from that journalism background, I know how to tell you the most important stuff first. I know what it feels like to rewrite a headline fourteen times. I have been edited.

    In my experience, editing is the most important part of writing. To have been edited is to have been humbled and corrected. In critique, designers are told what they could have changed or should change. Compared to writing and being edited, a critique seems tame. An editor changes your work and tells you why it (with her help) is better than your under-edited version. The written record is better for it and the writer is more aware of every turn of phrase, every broad stroke, every little detail. An edited writer is ALWAYS better next time.

    Thus, great writers are built, not born.

    Because I love to design, to talk, to write, and to be on a team, it is my hope that I can find rewarding design work after school in a collaborative environment. I used to be one of a handful of designers in a room full of writers and editors. They didn’t let me get away with anything! I know the proportions will never be the same again (you were good to me, newspapers!), but I hope there is always a good editor in the room to keep me sharp.

    Thanks for stirring all of us up!
    Lindsay Kinkade

    p.s.–One of my thesis projects (the book with the previously pretentious title) is called Read Like You Give a Damn.
    - Lindsay Kinkade
  29. February 5, 2010 10:44 AM EST
    Ah Natalyia, its so simple, and so sad. (most) designers can't write because (many) Americans can't write. American's can't write because they don't read. Much. I remember walking into an old boyfriend's house for the first time, years ago. I remember thinking, there is something wrong with this house. Then I noticed it: there were no books in the house, except a coffee-table book about Golf, strategically placed on the coffee table. (Many) designers can't write because the culture of great books, literature, philosophy -- the currency of reading, is no longer valued by our society as a whole. Sad. But it's not just designers. It is many of us, including teachers in our public school system! ps: I have learned to write very short emails because students often won't read down to the end of a long one. Too many words.
    - lucinda hitchcock
  30. February 5, 2010 3:31 PM EST
    If you exist in a culture that values the image, the sound bite, the latest thing, and the 140-character quip above all else, then naturally the written word loses its prominence.
    First, words are not images. Duh. But because images say more at first glance than a word block does, it's easily digested and more easily comprehended. The ability to understand the written word in any profound way atrophies. I don't say it goes away, but it does diminish. That said, the combination of text and image, if it's balanced, is a powerful stimulant for the the intellect. I did not think quite as deeply before I began my design education as I do now, but by this point I've been fed both the pretty picture and the written word and know how to digest both of them.
    Second, the sound bite and the quip limit thought. It's like Orwell's Newspeak: doubleplusungood. If your thinking extends only the length and depth of a sentence, your writing won't go beyond that either. A sentence may be a complete thought in itself (one hopes), but thoughts should come in streams. I love a bon mot (maybe too much) but their constant use is ungood. I will be untalking on this point now, lest it become duckspeak, which is also ungood.
    The "latest thing" is a smaller problem. What comes next? I want to skip ahead and read the end. I'm impatient. Who's commenting after me? I want to read their comment. I can't wait. Writing takes patience, not just a hopping and skipping from one sentence to the next.
    From all this, it may be clear that I consider bad writing in no way limited to design. It's a cultural problem.
    - JP
  31. February 13, 2010 12:26 PM EST
    >that top echelon writes like the wind: read Stefan Bucher, read Michael Rock, read Michael Bierut, read Jessica Helfand, read Sagmeister

    This short, arbitrary list undermines the argument. The commonality amongst them that I see is design celebrity, not objective ability. It may seem the cheapest retort to point out omissions in a list but including ANY of these people and NOT Rick Poynor (who someone else mentions)? But leaving out Steve Heller was a brave contrarian statement I applaud. If this "top echelon" numbers more people, I'd appreciate knowing how many (as the clear claim here is that there are damn few) and, most importantly, what the measure is. (I hope it isn't the usual design rationale: self-evidence: i.e. if you write and score big clients, congratulations! you write like the wind.)

    While I am a total advocate of writing, this post dramatically under-appreciates the number of quality writers out there. What it proves is that there isn't as few as claimed but they are overlooked due to a deficiency of celebrity.

    Kenneth FitzGerald

    - ...

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