What is Good Design?

Elizabeth Johnston is the "Prezz/Art Director" of Lizzardbrand Inc.
We asked her to share some of her thoughts on the interplay between art and copy.

What is good design?

An engaging marriage between the written word and visual communication. Pretty is always a plus. I’ve always said design is visual problem solving, not fine art. I think the difference between design and fine art is that artists don’t take art direction very well. A fine artist creates a bridge between herself and the world around her. Designers go through 21 rounds of text corrections. But then, what is art?

How do you approach the interplay between copy/content and design?

We’re very much editorial designers, having worked so closely with writers and editors over the years. Content is king. We will always make editorial suggestions with the writers as we expect them to art direct us. Our job is to make the words and pretty pictures fit while looking clean and elegant. In order to do so, we have to work closely with the writers.

We know you do a lot of illustrations. Where is the use of illustration particularly effective?

Many times an illustration works better than a photo because we can hit a solution dead on. I like to think illustration is the humanizing of design. It softens the communication and allows the audience to understand the design better. Sometimes I use illustration to lighten things up.

I once interviewed with a design firm in Boulder and was chastised because of my use of illustration. The potential client said, “You need to make a decision to be a fine artist or a designer because you can’t be both.” I think I may have proven him wrong. And opened up a can of worms about visual problem solving. Sometimes good design IS fine art.