Search Your Basement
You'll never know what you find. My grandfather left me with a large box of National Geographic magazines when I was little and I just let them sit. It was a gift to me for my birthday and I know his intentions were solid gold, but as a twelve year old, I was pretty disappointed. So here I am nearly ten years later, and I finally struck that gold.
Sifting through torn out pieces of some 1962 copies of rich history, ridiculous advertisements, out-of-focus photography, and beautiful serif typography, I was so inspired.
So here we have some bits and pieces of the works that really struck a chord. It's so easy for me to be searching and looking for an idea or a spark in something new. Though there is nothing wrong with this, it is easy to latch on to the trend wagon. What is relevant now? That's not the question we should be asking. We should be asking instead what is working and appreciated now in design that was made long ago.
The competitive market that is graphic design will often compromise good design for trendy design to appeal to an audience. Though this often has a positive response, these are not the designs that earn awards. These are not designs that become published in books and stand out in our graphic design history books. The designs that earn rewards and the rightful pedestal in design history are those that abandon the design trends and appeal the audience craves, and instead is unique and innovative with a purpose. Beautiful design without meaning are fake diamonds. They resemble something important and even look nice for a time. After years though, the lack of quality takes a toll and the ideas are quickly discarded as cheap and false.
When we look back in time at design, the pre-conceptual idea of graphic design was not fully formed. Purpose and design were always interlocked so tightly and the result is simple, timeless, and beautiful. These are designs that withstand decades and centuries of time.
How do we achieve this when our eyes are flooded with trends, aesthetically easy solutions, and at times, a lack of purpose? Hold on to that purpose when you're planning your design. What is the goal for the design? The idea you are attempting to convey? Define that, know it, and hold that close. Then take a time machine through those cataloged "vintage" designs. Look at posters from the 1940's, old botany books, medical drawings, look how illuminated manuscript's type was set. Search wherever you are lead, but don't neglect the old to fulfill the new.