Last week, D&AD hosted its penultimate President’s Lecture of the series, given by none other than Margaret Calvert at Shoreditch Town Hall.
As the graphic design icon pointed out, she doesn’t give talks, so we were particularly privileged to hear her speak frankly about seven decades of work, from where it all began to current projects. For those who have managed to avoid any knowledge of her, Margaret Calvert is most well known as the co-creator of British road and motorway signage.
It would be easy to rattle off Margaret’s achievements (of which there are plenty), but there are many wordsmiths who have done them more justice than we could. In her own words, “You know all about the road signs, it’s all online”.
Instead, we found the most poignant insights came from her methods of working. Here are our top five:
DEVIL’S IN THE DETAIL
“Draw back to front to get a feeling for negative spaces”
When it comes to graphic design, perspective is key. Margaret likes to apply the method above – a very practical lesson, and a point that emphasises the importance of detail in design.
“In a teaching role, the students’ work is so much more important than yours”
We may not be lecturers, but it’s an approach that’s worth some thought. When it comes to design work, everything’s subjective, and each piece can feel incredibly personal, but removing ego from the process also removes a barrier to creativity and success. As managers, collaborators and advisers, perhaps sometimes we should sacrifice our pride for the sake of new talent, and remember that helping others flourish brings a whole new set of rewards.
“Marion (Deuchars) plays first and then the ideas come. I can’t mess about until the thought is in my head”
Margaret spoke a lot about her projects with Marion, but these particular words were the ones that stood out for us. It’s often easy to forget that people aren’t all wired the same, and sometimes we reach productivity in different ways. Embracing each others’ disparities also means making the best of them, which often yields the best results.
BACK TO BASICS
“To try to understand anything it is just worth trying to draw it”
This gem’s a bonus life lesson as well as a work one, and there are few situations we can’t see it applied to. In terms of design, taking things back to basics is fool proof. Whether you’re in a creative rut, are in need of a little clarity or perhaps a different point of view, we recommend trying this one at home.
GET OVER IT
“But that was going to take ages…”
Taking us back to the pride debate, it’s incredibly easy to get wrapped up in an idea without seeing the bigger picture. Sometimes it’s worth taking a step back, even if it means scrapping a concept for the greater good.
Thank you to D&AD and to Margaret, for a fascinating peek into a brilliant mind, as well as a good laugh on a very hot day. We end with one final piece of wisdom, for the road: “To change the weight all you need to do is add a piece of pasta. Now how do you get curves with pasta? You cook it”.