Influence within design:

“Good artists copy, great artists steal.” Pablo Picasso

In this article, Cameron Moll describes his interpretation of this quote. He agrees that we should borrow ideas from others designs, in that sense I agree with him. If you have the ability to use en existing idea, personalise it and end up with a successful product, why wouldn’t you? In my opinion i would use the word influence rather than borrow or steal as that is what it is.

Moll also suggets that we should “borrow” ideas from ourselves, this means that in a way we influence ourselves. This could happen through experimentation and whether your design was good or bad.

As designers, it is safe to say that we have all been influenced by other designers. Being influenced by someone else is what challenges you to do better. If there wasn’t such a thing as influence, what would happen to design? If there was only such a thing as design instinct, how successful would individuality really be?

Paul Rand is arguably one of the most influential graphic designers. He is most well known for his work corporate logo designs. Rand had a very different approach to design, which is what lead him to his success.

Here are examples of some of Rand’s work:


United Parcel Service, 1961


American Broadcasting Corporation, 1962


International Business Machine (8 bar variation), 1972

Paul Rand is a name that every designer should know, and should learn from.

“Design firm Chermayeff, Geismar & Haviv have designed more than 100 corporate identities for clients such as Chase, PBS, Mobil, and Pan Am. For them, design is solving problems, and they pursue the best solution, regardless of form. Partner Tom Geismar recently spoke of studying at Yale “at a time when even the term ‘graphic design’ was just coming into use. Among the visiting teachers were Lester Beall, Alexey Brodovitch, Leo Lionni, Alvin Lustig, and Herbert Matter. They are all rightful heroes to us, along with, and especially, Paul Rand, whose influence continues to evoke wonder.” Tom Gesimar

“Cantankerous, irascible, loving–bristling with talent, brimming over with taste, and endowed with invincible personal conviction–the original and badass Rand showed the way,” said legendary advertising man George Lois. Well-known for his Esquire magazine covers from the 1960s, Lois believes in “the Big Idea” that cuts through the clutter and reaches people. His goal for Esquire was to create covers so compelling they would stop people on the street and make them buy the magazine. “Thoughts on Design takes an honored place in my extensive library. Now a tattered bible, I read and reread it a thousand times in my early teens. Rand’s talent and instinct created an absolutely supreme standard for the rest of my life.” When asked for tips for young designers, Lois answered, “My advice is to read Damn Good Advice (by George Lois) and then read it again, and again, just as I read Thoughts on Design by Paul Rand when I was 14 years old.” George Lois


My reasoning behind looking into influences within design is because of the essay question; Is design instinct or influence? I am starting to believe that it might be both of those elements. Looking at the two examples above, they both clearly have been influenced by Paul Rand, however these designers didn’t just copy his work, they used some ideas and made it their own. This suggests that they have ability to design without influence. Having said that, influence aids them in being successful designers.

Influence within design:

Do we all have the “design instinct”?


This is the very famous “Keep calm and carry on” poster that we are seeing more frequently. Originally, this design was created in 1939 during WW2 to be used as posters visible to the public. Millions of the these copies were printed, however they were never actually used. Only until 2000 were these posters making a return to the public eye.


For quite some time now I have been very interested by these posters. Not because of the history behind them, but because of the massive success that it has had in the last couple of years. This design is everywhere, on posters, cups, shirts, even  wallpaper. I have always wondered why the British public fell in love with this particular poster. From a design perspective I feel that it is very successful. And millions of others obviously agree. I would like to know why?

Is it the fact that these posters have been customised?


Could it be the variety of colours that they come in?


Is it more than that? Are the public noticing the successful design, the way the simplicity works? Getting in touch with their design instinct? Or just like fashion, have they been influenced by others to fall in love with these posters? Is it an element of “everyone has one so so should I?”

It would be interesting to have seen the effect these posters had if the font was different, or a specific element was change. I question the success of the posters of something might have been different. Perhaps a social influence would still have been a result of the popularity of these posters.

This is where my question comes again, is design instinct or influence?

Do we all have the “design instinct”?

Influence within design:

My argument for design being influence is that most design is influenced by design. As a designer myself I often think about whether my designs are individual and successful, or if they are just the same style as something that has already been done. I feel that as designers we choose to do things because of past influences, even if it is unintentional. We borrow ideas to create our own.

“Design is based on the inspiration of past accomplishments. On that foundation, we can build upon those achievements to shape the future. Design is about life — past, present and future — and the learning process that happens between birth and death. It is about community and shared knowledge and experience. It is the passion to build on what we’ve learned to create something better.”


I completely agree with the statement above, however things doesn’t explain why some people can design and others can’t. It is the same concept as to why some people can draw and other can’t. Yes drawing is something that can be taught, but what about the percentage of people that don’t need to be shown, that can do it from a very young age?

This article explains that like many things, practise makes perfect. Having said that, it still doesn’t explain why some people know how to pull good design off, and others don’t.

Influence within design:

What is influence?

Definition of influence:

Influence – The capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behaviour of someone or something, or the effect itself.


Influence is something we very often hear about, whether its positive or negative, to is something we experience in our daily lives. It is also commonly known that as humans we are influenced quite easily. This could be voluntary or involuntary. We are who we are because of experiences that we have had throughout our lives. Influence is in my opinion a very emotional thing, not necessarily hurt or pain, but it is a very personal thing that we’ve all experienced.

This is where my argument starts about design being influence rather than instinct. I believe that as designers, what we like and what we choose to do has been influenced from a very young age. There are many different factors that add to design being influence; such as age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion. For example a designer that is 18 would most likely have a complete different take on design than a designer that is 60. However the fact that they both have the ability to design remains. Is this a result of instinct?

What is influence?

Left Brain and Right Brain Theory

Roger Wolcott Sperry is responsible for the left brain and right brain theory. He was awarded a nobel prize in 1981 for his split-brain research. This theory suggested that the each person uses one side of their brain; the left or the right. According to Sperry’s research, individuals that use the right side of their brain are more thoughtful and creative. The individuals who use the left side of their brains on the other hand are more logical.

Does this mean that design is instinct and not influence? If Sperry’s findings are correct then there is scientific and natural prove as to why “some people just have it” in a design or artistic context.

However recent research suggests that Sperry’s theory was in fact incorrect.

This article, and many more, explain that more recent research and experiments show that we use both sides of the brain as a means of thinking. This means that design has more of a chance of being influence rather than instinct.

Left Brain and Right Brain Theory

Personal take on what instinct is:

After having carried out some research on instinct it is clear that there isn’t particularly a right answer. This might be because instinct isn’t something that can scientifically be tested with full proof result. It is more opinion based. In my opinion this is because we all have experienced life in many different ways. Which is why it is difficult to say if a reaction is due to our instinct or due to a past experience that we have learned from. When it comes to some elements of humans it is almost tempting to say that there is not such thing as instinct, and that all of our reactions are due to implicit memory. However that still doesn’t explain why some people are better at design or art than others, and why those others are perhaps better at maths and statistics.

Could it have to do with something more natural and complicated, such as what part of the brain we use?

This is definitely something that needs to be considered.

Personal take on what instinct is: