Technically, my very first graphic design project was as a child, when I designed the winning school “Crest” for my elementary school. Being a graphic designer, however, was never an early aspiration. I had harbored hopes of becoming an architect or perhaps a fine artist.
Graphic design (and packaging design) was something that we just clumsily stumbled into.
BEACH is literally a “mom and pop shop.” Deborah Davis and I have been married since 1982 and business partners since 1990. Our home-based design firm is named after the street where we live and work. Namely: BEACH.
We started out as “Beach Street Design.” In those day, we were more like “general practitioners,” handling brochures, catalogs, logos, business cards, etc.
Eventually we became specialists in package design and related branding, changing our name to "Beach Packaging Design." (Later shortening it to just “BEACH".)
Ideally, design work is problem solving. But, of course, not everyone will agree on what the problem is, and some solutions are in the eye of the beholder. In some ways, however, the marketplace will ultimately decide which solutions work best.
Still, it can be dispiriting if (what one thinks is) the best solution gets shot down to soon in the elimination process.
I like it best when I arrive at a solution, with no preconceived idea about how it should look. Structural packaging projects are often like that. Having more to do with materials and process and less to do with decoration.
I think our first project was some sort of line-art graphic (a baseball & bat) that we designed for Macy’s Corporate Packaging sometome around 1990.
If I remember correctly, it was also the first artwork created with our new graphic design computer: a Macintosh IIci
Honestly, I don’t consider the designer any more responsible “for society and the environment” than any other occupation. As humans, I would agree that we all bear some degree of shared responsibility.
We are pretty flexible. We try to hit the ground running and we’re naturally curious about new products being invented and brought to market. We’re not shy about suggesting things, but we’re not "prima donnas.” If a client wants something very specific, we’ll usually try and and accommodate them. It’s still a business, after all, as much as we’d like it to be purely creative.
In house, we have a team of two partners. We both design, and we each handle our own accounts. Deborah also handles product photography, while I do most of the photoshop work—retouching etc.
It would be foolish, of course, to forget that the client is also an important part of the "team."
We have our phone number and email links on our website, as well as a contact form, for those who prefer filling out forms. Those who contact us on Facebook, do so at their own peril. (I just don't check it as often as some folks seem to expect!)
I attended Rhode Island School of Design, graduating in 1977. RISD, of course would have been a great place to study graphic design. I had friends who majored in that subject. I was painting major and never took a single class in that department.
Although I did paint the some of the walls in the building as part of my work study job. So maybe something rubbed off on me.
I think we all form our earliest aspirations, based on our understanding of the world and our place in it at the time. And being young, we might even take some parental advice.
I remember, as a kid, that I desired an art career of some sort. I was persuaded, for a while, that architecture might be a practical, yet creative career. And with that in mind I sought out mechanical drawing classes in high school and did pretty well. But then we moved and my new school didn’t offer mechanical drawing. Which (to me, at the time) meant that I would not become an architect, after all.
So I spent the rest of my high school years making paintings. I continued this in college, although my paintings evolved into conceptual art. (And I also wanted began playing in a band and started to write songs.)
After graduation, I looked in the NY Time classifieds for jobs listed under “ARTIST” and found employment as a paste-up artist for a textbook publisher. This led to a few years of freelance work. Nothing you’d call “creative,” although my wife (partner at BEACH) and I created “mechanicals” for printing — as directed by “art directors.”
Eventually we bought a computer and started calling ourselves designers. Learning on the job, as it were.
So was being a designer my choice? I certainly can’t sit here and say that being a designer was my FIRST choice.
But was I forced into it? It’s not someone held a gun to my head and said: DESIGN! But life does have a way of forcing people to change their plans. (Repeatedly, I find!)
Lately, I’m mostly called upon to design the graphics for printed packaging—insert cards, folding cartons, labels and the like.
Sometimes (but less often), I’m asked for structural packaging design. I’d like to do more of that part. I think there’s a lot of polyhedral options, that would be fascinating to use in packaging. Some polyhedra are, of course, are too complex. The challenge is to find a structure that can be made in simple enough way, that it can be done within a reasonable budget.
I’d also like to design more food packaging.
While I appreciate the idea that we should all strive to be the best we can be, I find something about this question a little mean-spirited.
Being a good designer, after all, is something anyone ought to be proud of. Why parse greatness at the expense of goodness? I say: good-great, potato-potahto. (Let’s call the whole thing off!)
I agree with those who say a good design is a good solution to a design problem. 9 times out of 10, this “solution" will be the simplest, and most direct. Or should, at least, appear that way, even if there are underlying complexities in the process leading to up to it.
I once planned to build a model of Erik Demaine’s “Hinged Dissection” font—a square cut up into 128 hinged pieces that could rearranged into each of the 26 letters of the alphabet. I went so far as to buy the balsa wood, but that’s as far as I got.Now that I think of it, this would have been a needlessly "old school" approach. Really it should be an animation—a square transforming itself from an “A” to a “B” and so on...
I was obsessed, for a time, by Robert Sidney Dickens, Chicago based designer of the original TaB logo.
I love the variegated, plastic Fissan bottles by Giulio Cittato.
I’ve long admired Walter Landor’s 1955 “tilt bottle” for Arrowhead & Puritas water.
And the no-nonsense simplicity of Meg Crane’s home pregnancy kit design.
Some of my favorite designs were apparently created by anonymous designers. (Or else I just can’t figure who designed them.) The 1955 S.O.S box, for example. Or the transparent overlapping Valvoline logo from the 1960s.
I may be too self-deprecating, but just cannot start a sentence with “my greatest design is…” Just can’t do it.
I will instead say that I’ve designed one or two things where the quality has been, perhaps, under-estimated.
The Gumball Puzzle Cube Pack, for one. The Totally Living “Shirt Card” for another.
Funny that you should ask. By "all the awards,” I must assume that you mean BOTH of the awards: all 2 of them! (The one that I won in elementary school for designing the school's crest in 1965. And the more recent A’ Design Silver Award in Packaging.)
I cannot pretend to be widely (or even narrowly) recognized. And I am certainly not famous or even infamous. Why such flattering questions? But, OK, I’ll bite: "Yes it is hard to be famous. Maybe too hard, as I have not yet actually managed to do it!
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