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Stop, Think, Go, Do by Mirko Ilic, Steven Heller

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Play adds dimension to design, enabling the viewer to
have more active participation in it.
PLAY
Here’s a fact everyone should know: design is play. Here’s a
command everyone should obey: designers must play!
Play is how we learn and teach others. “I use the term
play,” noted Paul Rand in Graphic Wit (1991), “but I mean
coping with the problems of form and content, weighing
relationships, establishing priorities.” He went on to assert,
“I dont think that play is done unwittingly. At any rate
one doesnt dwell over whether it’s play or something
more serious—one just does it.
Rand’s last declaration, “One just does it,” is borne
throughout this entire chapter. Not a single designer repre-
sented herein was ordered to play. However, each was faced
with a problem that demanded solutions. Getting from
problem to solution requires a methodology—whether it
is tried and true or ad hoc, the common route begins with
trial and error, which is the first step in the play-principle.
Dont confuse play with entertainment. Both are serious,
but play is, for the most part, for oneself—for the muse—
while entertainment is for others. Play comes first,
entertainment comes second. Still, to entertain is to play.
But to play is not always to entertain. Nonetheless, in this
section, all the playful examples are designed to be seen,
experienced, and appreciated by others. In this sense,
they are indeed entertaining. Yet they are placed in this
section because their primary function is revealing the
degrees, levels, and stages of play at work.
What else by playful fancy is the word home, constructed
in neon (page 80), or the word style (page 79) made
from venetian blinds—what purpose do they serve other
than a means of seeing how many different materials can
be played with that result in letters? These are not the
only experiments with form.
77
Play is not, however, exclusive to surprising materials —
although surprise itself is endemic to play. For Guimarães
Jazz ’09 (page 91), the lettering announcing the acts follows
the contours of the stand-up bass giving the impression
the musician is both playing the lettering while conjuring
it from his instrument. The transformation of one
thing—lettering—into another—the essence of sound—is
a playful conceit that forces the viewer to experience the
otherwise two-dimensional design in many dimensions.
Play is also a transformation of one familiar thing or
object into another. Hembakat Är Bäst (page 87) involves
turning bread into the title of the cookbook. Similarly, an
entire alphabet was made from laundry (page 87), includ-
ing pants, shirts, and blouses. Going a playful few steps
further, Wearable Typography (page 86), are twenty-six
people wearing lime green shirts contorting their bodies
to look like individual letters of the alphabet (both upper
and lower case). Another example (page 86) that required
a platoon of double-jointed people, is an alphabet made
entirely from legs and feet—now that’s a feat.
The most recognizable example of playful graphic design
is not the contortionist’s tricks but the more intellectually
difficult parody of existing icons. DASH Courier Service
advertising campaign (page 99), sending up more famous
courier brands, is both playful and inspired. UPS
becomes OOPS, FedEx becomes FedExcess, and Priority
mail becomes Priority Fail (ouch!).
Twisting one thing into another is another essence
of play. Another cover for Metropoli (page 89) trans-
formatively parodies its own logo by making it from the
pages of faux books.
In each case, the play adds dimension to the work,
enabling the viewer to have more active participation
in the work. Without the playful aspects of design, well,
why bother?! “People who don’t have a sense of humor,
admonished Paul Rand, “really have serious problems.
stop, think, go, do
78
Venetian
Client: ELLE Decoration Magazine (UK)
Designer, Typographer: Andrew Byrom
Venetian is a stencil typeface design
commissioned by ELLE Decoration magazine
(UK). It was inspired by the forms created
when opening and closing a venetian blind.
three : play
79

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