Analyzing Paula Scher’s Design Process
The name Paula Scher is famous in the design world. One of the 24 leading designers at Pentagram, Scher has had work featured around the globe, has won a multitude of design awards, and has taught at various universities and art schools.
I find Paula Scher to be a good role model as a graphic designer, as I myself work to create successful logo systems and designs. Her portfolio contains well thought out work for every single project. Everything is clearly thought out before hand, be it color scheme, layout, typeface choice, etc. I admire her strong sense of flexible design systems, such as the Public Theatre designs.
Scher’s Process Explained
Scher, like any designer, has refined her own process for creating and designing. She thinks of design as a “state of play,” stating that “you have to be in a state of play to design. If you’re not in a state of play you can’t make anything.” Thinking too seriously or stiffly about your designs will not get you anywhere creatively; it will only restrict you.
When Paula Scher begins to work with a client, research is her number 1 goal. “With all clients, you want to know as much about them as you possibly can before you start designing.” Scher goes on to explain how important it is to know about the client’s goals, wants, needs, current problems, who they are, and what their audience expects of them. “You’re both creating a visual language for how they are inside, and how they want to be outside.”
The sketching process is the next step for Scher. For any designer, it is a rare occurrence where the first idea is the best, and Scher is no different. She will sketch in a state of play, trying anything and everything that comes to mind, whether it seems like it will be a good idea at first or not.
Scher designs for the long-term. A design that is successful to Scher is one that is recognizable, as well as easily and consistently used.
One of the most difficult steps for Scher’s design process is meeting with and presenting her designs to the client. Often, the client will be skeptical to immediately accept the initial design. “They want proof that this is really, really, gonna work, the problem is that there isn’t proof. It’s how do people see and perceive and accept things,” Scher explains.
All designers have a different process for creating. I think looking at how professionals go about their jobs in their own unique ways is extremely insightful; Scher’s years of experience offer a lot of good advice for design and process. I also think it’s fascinating how a design process can change over time as well. Learning new things from other designers will help me improve.