You’re a Designer? Better Head to the Museum.


I remember watching a video on YouTube about the great George Lois. If you don’t know who that man is, I’ll give you a little back-story before we continue. George Lois is an American creative, art director, designer, and author. He’s known for designing over 90 covers for Esquire Magazine from 1962-1972. In 2008 MOMA exhibited 32 of Lois’ Esquire covers.  He was responsible for blowing unknown companies up. (In a good way.)

George Lois is an advertising genius in short. Now that we have that out of the way, this man said something that hit me. In his video he said that he was teaching at a college and asked the question “When was the last time you visited the Museum of Modern Art?” Nobody raised their hands. “When was the last time you visited a gallery?” Nobody raised their hands.

It’s upsetting that Design students do not take time out of their lives to visit museums and discover the brilliance hidden in art galleries. Students believe that the latest technology is really all they need, but true masters of Graphic Design have studied many areas of design and art. Sure, they had talent, but that really didn’t matter. The real talent was discovery; learning about different ideas, styles and movements. That’s where the magic began and that’s where it can begin for you.

I have seen too many design students ignore the answers the past provides. That’s what design really is. Finding visual answers to questions. Maybe they’ll Google some artwork and study that, but there are grand benefits for getting your butt to some galleries and museums. Not only is it healthy for you to meet new people and build networking bonds, but it will also strengthen your artistic mind, and eventually your overall artistic abilities. Visiting Museums and art galleries can be a form of meditation and relaxation as well. I know that many people will not make the effort, but if you want to stand out from the rest and keep your design sense at bay, then visiting art museums and galleries is the right move for you.

When an artist, designer, or writer gets up and visits places such as art museums and galleries, there’s a big chance they’ll bump into someone who have similar interests. Those interests can lead to a new friend, or even a new client. Networking is important for a designer (and really any serious professional). Sometimes its all about who knows you and who you know. You have to be able to explore new places and get out of your comfort zone and when appropriate, start a conversation. Conversation is key. Stay connected with them, plan trips together, share your work, and don’t be shy.

Conversation can also lead to new ideas and answers to old questions. Who knows, maybe there’s this project you’re working on and you’re having a conversation in front of one of Andy Warhol’s pieces at the MOMA. You may become inspired by just being in its presence or you might just look at a subject within a different light that can lead you to a big idea. It’s healthy to communicate with actual people.  We’re getting so used to just texting each other and building weak relationships through social media, its important we don’t forget about the basics of dealing with people professionally.

When you visit enough museums and art galleries you also strengthen your design eye. When you look at a piece of art up close instead of viewing it from your computer you’ll notice different kinds of textures and colors you wouldn’t be able to see on your computer screen. Sometimes these details can create an impression on your mind.

Remember, the more you’re exposed to different kinds of design and art, the greater understanding you can develop and the stronger your own work will become. It does take effort to get up and get out, but if you are serious about your career as a designer it’s incredibly beneficial and can give you a competitive advantage over your colleagues.