Play adds dimension to design, enabling the viewer to
have more active participation in it.
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 don’t think that play is done unwittingly. At any rate
one doesn’t 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.
Don’t 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.