Dynamic Design Does Matter

In early 2012, The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage hosted Dynamic Design Does Matter, a professional development program that stressed the importance of excellent graphic design, featuring presentations by Tom Zetek, executive creative director at LaPlaca Cohen; Anthony Smyrski, Smyrski Creative; and Nella Vera, director of marketing at The Public Theater. Those attending the event were asked to consider: Does the graphic design in your brochures, posters and display ads convey the high quality experiences you are promising your audiences when they attend your events? How does it align with your organization's mission, vision, and visual identity? Is it relevant for those with whom you aspire to build relationships?

With these questions in mind, the speakers presented a series of case studies and suggested solutions. Zetek detailed why identity matters and provided examples that demonstrated how inspired, low-cost, creative design can convey an organization's brand experience. One stand-out was the Metropolitan Museum of Art's It's Time We Met campaign that incorporated photos housed on Flickr taken by people while attending the Met. The photos were downloaded and incorporated into posters and other printed materials. Tom urged the attendees to be experimental and to take risks. He also said that simplicity and clarity are paramount and went on to state, "if you don't understand what you are saying nobody will."

"Good design tells a good story" was the emphasis of Smyrski's portion of the program. After taking the audience back in time for a look at how ancient Romans used graphics to establish a brand with S. P. Q. R. (Senate and People of Rome), he took the presentation into the present with a detailed description on how to work with designers. "Trust your designer," Anthony said as he explained the four-step process of discovering, prototyping, refining, and producing a final design that tells a good story.

Vera led attendees through her presentation from the 2011 National Arts Marketing Project conference in Louisville, which included an examination of the evolution of The Public's visual identity from its early years as the New York Shakespeare Festival under the direction of founder Joseph Papp when Paul Davis' iconic posters told the story, to the present where Paula Scher's bold, urban, typographical designs have clearly established the company's position in the theater landscape.