Design Inspiration: ‘Abstract: The Art of Design’

When it comes to design inspiration, I often turn away from the computer screen and look to the outside world. However earlier this year, I stumbled across a Netflix series called ‘Abstract: The Art of Design.’ The series documents the careers and lives of eight creatives in various disciplines from all over the world. I caught a glimpse of the epic trailer and was instantly hooked.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Pentagram’s legendary partner, Paula Scher. After stepping foot in their New York office in 2013, I became even more inspired by their creative process and passion for design.

I was immediately drawn to an episode in the series which showcases an insight into Paula’s creative world. I feel she is such an important role model for young graphic designers wanting to break away from the status quo and also for women working in design. I am constantly inspired by her love of typography and her ability to ‘keep it real’ in what can sometimes be a flashy industry. I often draw inspiration from her unique visual style. I love the fact that I can recognise Paula’s work when I see it and like Paula, I try to make sure I continue to leave a bit of myself within each design project.

I’m sure many people would recognise Paula’s work around the world without even realising it. She is the genius behind many famous brand identities and re-brands such as Citibank, Tiffany & Co, The Public Theatre NYC, The Highline NYC, Microsoft: Windows 8, The Metropolitan Opera, MasterCard, The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York City Ballet, and many more.

The documentary highlights Paula’s early creative endeavours, where in 1972 she began working for CBS records in the advertising and promotions department. Two years later, she landed a job at Atlantic Records, where she became the Art Director, designing album covers. I’ve always believed this would have been the dream gig – being able to combine music and design together in the one practice. Paula has designed many iconic record covers for musicians including Cheap Trick, The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel and many more.

The other episode in the creative series that really stuck with me is the one featuring Nike footwear designer and all round champion, Tinker Hatfield.

I’ve always loved the Nike brand and everything it stands for — the fact that you can put on a pair of Nike’s, or anything that features their iconic brandmark— and feel as if you are part of something much bigger. It gives people confidence and makes them feel included, almost as if they have just joined an elite club.

Tinker never intended to be a creative, let alone a shoe designer for Nike. He was an American athlete, playing basketball, football and competing in track and field events while studying architecture on the side. After suffering a career ending injury, he was inspired to focus on his studies which led him to Nike. Mainly focusing on the Nike Air Jordan Range, his designs continued to reinvent the way consumers looked at basketball shoes. He elevated sneaker design into works of art by incorporating various elements to make each Air Jordan stand out on its own. The Nike shoe industry wouldn’t be where it is today without Tinker’s creative influence.

If you’re looking for some onscreen design inspiration, I highly recommend checking out the Netflix documentary series ‘Abstract: The Art of Design’.