10 Design Quotes to Inspire Your Best Work

May 31, 2016

Take a break for a moment and get inspired. One of the biggest challenges of design work is that you have to shuttle back and forth between the realms of creative invention and market forces, like being an architect and a brick layer at the same time. The psychic commute can be exhausting. Take a rest stop and refill your mind with 10 inspirational design quotes from fellow travelers who learned how to succeed in both worlds.

Above all, recognize when you’re spinning your wheels and need to refuel your creativity. Our first of 10 design quotes come from none other than Pasquale D’Silva, Animator and Software Designer at Hype (@hype). In Spatial Interfaces, the talented creative said,

“Think more spatially. Go play some video games and study the interfaces. Go outside. Observe the physicality of reality. It's in the DNA of the creations I'm inspired by.” Design quote by Pasquale D’Silva.

In the spirit of creativity and playfulness, the next in our list of inspiring design quotes is from the mind-bending and renowned graphic artist M.C. Escher. In On Being a Graphic Artist, Escher also emphasized that art demands play.

“My subjects are also often playful. I cannot help mocking all our unwavering certainties.” Design quote by M.C. Escher.

Of course, it’s not all play. Designers often have to work with real data and are required to justify the value of their work via quantifiable means, such as billable hours and user ratings. Metrics are critical, but what happens when you try to put a value on something that can’t be objectively measured? You also need something beyond metrics.

Up next in our list of inspiring design quotes is a gem from Aarron Walter (@aarron) who founded the UX team at MailChimp. In Your 5 Minute Guide to UX, Walter said,

"You can't put a number on all the things that matter. How do you measure the beauty of a UI? You don't, but that doesn't make it less valuable." Design quote by Aarron Walter.

On the far side of playful invention comes the hard work and single-minded dedication to producing your best work. Many designers simply love what they do such that it’s easy to forget that what they do is essentially work. As with most types of work, one runs the risk of burnout and exhaustion. In her Interview on The Great Discontent, Rebecca Rebouché (@rebeccarebouche) reminds us to remember our end goal when losing focus. The artist and designer for Anthropologie comes next in our list of design quotes to inspire your best work.

"It's a lonely place to be when you are building your ship. But when you do it, and you set sail, people will see how beautiful and majestic it is.” Design quote by Rebecca Rebouché.

When your boat continues to sail on a different path than that which you expect, it’s perhaps time to be honest and ask yourself if you’re on the right path. A timely reminder from graphic designer David Carson (@d_carson_design) on the importance of self-discovery takes its place in our list of inspiring design quotes. In his TED talk on Design and Discovery, we learn to ask ourselves:

"If money wasn't an issue, would you be doing the same work? If you wouldn't, what the heck are you doing? You're going to be dead a really long time.” Design quote by David Carson.

Remember that your work is what matters in the long run. Master designer and filmmaker Saul Bass, in his Quotes on Design, was able to state unequivocally: “I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that.”

“I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that.”

That also means letting the design take center stage and putting your ego aside. It’s not about surpassing the design grand masters, it’s about producing the work which you would be downright proud of. The next in our list of design quotes reminds us exactly of this. In Why Branding’s Future is In-house, the Museum of Modern Art‘s Creative Director of Advertising and Graphic Design Julia Hoffmann says,

"Outdoing Picasso just isn't going to happen. Dialing back and letting the art speak for itself is the answer.” Design quote by Julia Hoffmann.

Finally, don’t let other voices drown out what you know to be true. One of the greatest designers of all time, Milton Glaser, expressed in 10 Things I Have Learned,

“If you look at a Persian rug, you cannot say that less is more because you realize that every part of that rug, every change of colour, every shift in form is absolutely essential for its aesthetic success. You cannot prove to me that a solid blue rug is in any way superior. I have an alternative to the proposition that I believe is more appropriate: ‘Just enough is more.'”

What others, especially clients, do and say can affect you deeply, but it’s up to you to decide how you feel about it.

“Even the darkest moments in our history can become however we want to remember them,”

said contemporary artist and graphic designer Sara Cwynar (@cwynars) in The Recurring Sara Cwynar.

Perhaps unexpected for a list of motivational design quotes but here’s one final bit of inspiration before you head back onto the long road ahead. Make time for boredom for being busy is usually the opposite of being productive. As graphic designer Paula Scher confessed in I Figured Out Every Identity I’ve Ever Done In A Taxicab,

"I didn't realize … how important boredom is to me. I have to stop reading emails or being anywhere near the internet to be able to create.” Design quote by Paula Scher.

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