Where old graphic designers go to die

Picked up this post by on the Creative Freelancer Blog by one Laurel Black via @anjavanstaden.

She poses a fascinating question: Am I too old to be a designer.

At first the questions seems a bit ridiculous. But then, as you swirl it around in your mind, you start marvelling at the complexity of it.

In every other creative discipline creative powers could (and should) rise with age and experience. But it seems that in graphic design, there is a tendency to believe that the older the designer, the less “hip” they would be.

Laurel writes:

The design profession seems to have a youth bias that is not working in my favor. Whereas other professions (medicine, law, etc.) value experience, the design and marketing fields seem to think that if you no longer fall into the coveted 18-34 demographic, you are too old to be relevant or useful. Experience is often seen as a sign of being “out of it.”

At the hear tof this matter is not the question of age, or Laurel’s individual situation. It poses a dangerous question about the state of graphic design as a creative discipline: Is graphic designmore about whizz-bang, or computer skills, or living in the zeitgeist than it is about quality of thought, experience in execution, or just plain life-experience?

  1. Pieter said:

    Same principle applies to delelopers?

  2. Ant said:

    “Good morning everyone. We have a new member today… do you want to say anything, Anton?”
    “Hi. My name’s Anton. I’m 39 years old… and I’m a recovering Graphic Designer.”
    “HI ANTON.”

    So, I might be in denial, but here goes:

    This is a great question. There is so much proof of genius on both sides of the age equation – young and old. When I was studying I learnt from the work of Neville Brody and David Carson, both young designers who were pushing the boundaries. Much of their work, particularly in poster and magazine design, was really not readable, but GODDAMN, they were amazing to look at and it compelled you to decipher the work – get involved. Best of all, it didn’t embrace the industry standards.

    But you can also be old(er). I have two local favorites:

    South African Garth Walker is an incredibly influential designer when it comes to African Pop, and he’s losing quite a bit of hair. Brandt Botes is another (but he’s not THAT old). What inspires me about these guys is they’ve moved away from the industry driven forms of communication and are embracing purer art and design of their own persuasion – and they have the guts to do that. So essentially they are doing the same thing as those youngsters, only they are more experienced.

    What’s sad is that some youngsters imitate them very closely, and it waters down the older guys work as well as their own. Stop it, for crying out loud. However old you are, embrace your own style and don’t tap into the zeitgeist, look beyond it. Once its recognised as zeitgeist, its already old. Look ahead, be yourself; no matter how old you are.

    I haven’t heard much about Brody or Carson in the past 15 years. Guess they got stuck in the Zeitgeist.

    I better go back to my meeting now.

  3. I was thinking of Henry Steiner, the guy who did the HSBC logo. When I googled to double check his name I found this:


    Scroll through it. Lots of old toppies (and toppettes) on there …

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