TCU Magazine: Lewis Glaser and the Art of Good Design


In a Q&A, the chair of the new Department of Design discusses what makes a good graphic designer and the success of Connext.

By Grace Toups

Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2020 issue of TCU Magazine.

Lewis Glaser, professor of graphic design and inaugural chair of the new Department of Design, reflects on his journey in the graphic arts and looks toward the future of integrated design.

What initially sparked your interest in graphic design?

Lewis Glaser is the chair of the new Department of Design. This Milton Glaser poster inspired his interest in graphic design. Photo by Glen E. Ellman

In middle school I bought Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits Vol. II. Inside there was a poster that was pretty cool, so I hung it up on a wall in my room. The signature at the bottom of the poster was Milton Glaser, and I thought, “Wow, somebody with the same name as me is famous for something.” I figured if they were designing a poster, they must be famous. So it kind of got me interested in graphic design. I tucked that interest away until I took a summer class the first year I was in college. I was hooked.

Graphic design is often done in service of a client, who has specifications about how the product should look. How does a graphic designer express creativity?

The creative part is problem-solving, and it involves empathy — the heart and soul of graphic design. In order to create an effective design, the designer has to understand the client’s message, the market the message is targeting and the kinds of means of presenting information, which can include language as well as manipulating visual space or visual language to pique the interest of the person in that market. In my classes, I call it setting the hook and reeling them in. First, it’s visual: You get someone to turn from a casual observer to a reader. But the whole point is to elicit a specific response.

Graphic design is a competitive field. How do designers become successful?

You need to have some talent. You have to be a good thinker. You have to have an open mind and be willing to research to understand other people or groups of people’s attitudes and points of view. You have to be flexible enough to understand that maybe you really want to do it this way because you saw something on a design website, but it’s not going to work. You have to solve the problem, because if you don’t, then your design is not successful. A willingness to learn and understand about someone else’s perception is really the key to being successful in design so that you can inform, persuade or instruct.

A successful designer is also an intelligent generalist and an inquisitive person who is able to understand. This person knows a lot about a lot of things and is able to listen to someone who knows more about the problem than they do. This designer can pick up on the important points and distill them into a solution to another person’s problem.

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