The book I’m foisting on my team these days is Paula Scher’s Make It Bigger. Make It Bigger is immediately appealing with its odd shape, powerful use of type and wooden cover. Cracking it open, you discover Ms. Scher designed much of the imagery from the 70’s-80’s that you might recall, from the dubious distinction of Boston’s “spaceship” cover, to the endlessly copied “Bring on the Noise, Bring on the funk” poster, to the controversial and eventually canonized Swatch-swiss poster parody. Flipping through the book it is clear the power one designer can have over how the world looks.
But more interesting to me, and the reason I keep making my designers read it, is her approaches to dealing with clients and her concept of “selling down.” (poor screen shot here of one of the many wonderful diagrams she users to explain how sign-off processes work–btw, the screenshots amazon chooses to show are just appalling– here is a book full of gorgeous colorful design and they choose a few text heavy pages? What up?). Having started her career making a design, having the assistant art director suggest changes, the art director suggest to changes, the creative directory suggest changes, the product manager suggest changes, the VP of sales make changes.. she realized she had to make changes to how she presented her designs.
The title itself — Make It Bigger– refers to Paula’s endless battle to help clients be able to see the design clearly, and accept it without the layers of hierarchy pissing on it (my words, not hers). By end running the hierarchy and then selling down rather than up, she is able to avoid watered-down design arriving for final approval.
All of us have heard those words– Make It Bigger, Make It Red, Put It On Top. But only a few have learned how to deal with it. In these days of designer disillusionment and rising struggle to make our work count again, Paul’s book comes at just the right time. The work quickly dismisses the idea that design is irrelevant while the text and diagrams give young designers the tools they need to navigate political waters.