Art Center College of Design | Pasadena, California | Leading By Design

Lou Danziger

Advertising '48

Lou Danziger is a pillar of West Coast design. He has worked as a designer, art director and consultant since 1949, bringing his talents to a diverse list of institutions, from Microsoft to the NEA to ARCO to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Danziger's work has garnered numerous awards, including an NEA Distinguished Designer Fellowship in 1985, the Pacific Design Center “Stars of Design” Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997 and the AIGA Medal from the American Institute of Graphic Arts in 1998. He has been an elected member of the AGI (Alliance Graphique Internationale ) since 1974. Danziger retired from design more than 20 years ago to focus as a consultant and educator. He has held faculty positions with Art Center, Chouinard, the California Institute of the Arts and Harvard University.

Art Center: You have equated teaching design to teaching morality. What do you mean?
Lou Danziger:
It is primarily about being responsible for what one does. In the case of communication design, the number one rule is not to deceive. It will always backfire.

As a teacher, you have the responsibility of helping your students become good people. You need to impart the importance and value of doing things right, and doing the right thing. We could go into a very long discussion about what that means, but I think most of us know intuitively.

AC: Should ethics be taught in design schools?
I don't like the idea of teaching ethical behavior as a subject by itself. I think these issues come up in conversation relative to what you do and discuss. You can tell someone not to litter and they may comply, but if they respect and admire you and they see that you don't litter, there's a very good chance they won't, either.

AC: What makes designers so comfortable approaching problems intuitively?
Maybe it has to do with the ability to tolerate loose ends. We do not have to see everything all tied up as we proceed through the problem. There is a sense of, “Yes, I haven't fully resolved this part, but I can go on because I know I can get back to it later.”

When you finally do go back, you are operating with more information. You have all the loose threads that you've left, but then when you weave the cord together, you're doing so based on the latest understanding. I think most people who are not creative cannot tolerate those loose ends. I suspect that's part of how it works.

AC: What advice would you give students and young designers to help them prepare for a future we can't know?
LD: Learn to think clearlycommon sense, not theoretical bullshit. Understand that actions, choices and decisions have consequences. Train yourself to think about and extrapolate those consequences. Think in terms of relationships and connections. Be flexible and open. Any dogma or “truth” is anathema. Things and outcomes are consequences of processes. Think more and more about process. Be a good person.

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