Speaking on a panel discussion at the recent and fantastic Phoenix Design Week, the subject was on how Phoenix could grow to become the “Design Capital.” When the organizers wrote me to ask if I would be on the panel, I gladly agreed, but I had to shake my head and laugh. I have heard every design organization, in every city, ask the same question. From experience, I knew the answer was that it would never happen.
It’s not that there isn’t great talent spread through every city, because there is. When FedEx started overnight deliveries, many creatives I knew in New York City realized they could work from a home elsewhere, enjoying a simpler life than being crammed into an expensive apartment in Manhattan or the other boroughs, just a quick subway ride away from a client. FedEx proved to be faster than most subway lines.
With that and the eventual explosion of digital choices, talent spread out across the globe, to every small town and thatched roof hut that had electricity and wifi. The world became a “design capital.”
As I started to point out that no city was known as the “graphic design capital,” several people pointed out that New York City was known as the “design capital.”
“Not for graphic design,” I quickly pointed out. “The cities that have been anointed with such a title are known for architecture, fashion, interior design, but not for graphic design.”
The audience fell into a silent zombie state. People are exposed to graphic design all around them; web sites, signs, brochures, CD covers, coffee cups with huge logos, soda bottles and packaging. So much so, that it has no special impact in their minds, so it is invisible, hiding in plan sight. The best demonstration of the importance of design, is to let people live without design for a day. Everything blank, doorways that lead nowhere and toilets that are ten feet off the floor. Design is everything.