quotes, updated now and then
last update: 4 January 2007
Not being of the type to come up with pithy maxims of my own, I instead collect design, science, art, and creativity-related quotes for inspiration. Here, I share them with you, kind reader, in the form of this handy alphabetized list. Enjoy!
Quote count: 257
If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
At a meta level, design connects the dots between mere survival and humanism.
Design is in everything we make, but it's also between those things. It's a mix of craft, science, storytelling, propaganda, and philosophy.
[I]ntrinsic value follows meaning follows form follows economics follows function follows more economics follows market research.
The inadequacy of the purely purpose-oriented form is revealed for what it isa monotonous, impoverished boring practicality.
Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful; yourself.
The materials in every book tell a tale that rivals the one conveyed in the words.
Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories.
People think that design is styling. Design is not style. It's not about giving shape to the shell and not giving a damn about the guts. Good design is a renaissance attitude that combines technology, cognitive science, human need, and beauty to produce something that the world didn't know it was missing.
Let each person exercise the art they know best.
The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not “Eureka!” but “That's funny…”
We are all victimized by the natural perversity of inanimate objects…and the assorted human beings who perpetuate and maintain this perversity.
As biological organisms made of matter, we are subject to the laws of physics and biology: as conscious persons who create our own history we are free to decide what that history shall be. Without science, we should have no notion of equality; without art, no notion of liberty.
He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.
If a man will begin with certainties, he shall end in doubts. But if he will be content to begin with doubts he shall end in certainties.
We have no art. We do everything as well as possible.
[Designers] think everything done by someone else is awful, and that they could do it better themselves, which explains why I designed my own living room carpet, I suppose.
Style is engineering that gives you freedom.
We ought to spend more time "wondering" than "doubting whether." Wondering is the key to progress.
Design is about making things good (and then better) and right (and fantastic) for the people who use and encounter them.
Don't think that even an engineer, when he buys a motor, takes it to bits to scrutinize it. Even he as a specialist buys from the external appearance. A motor ought to look like a birthday present.
Technology, like art, is a soaring exercise of the human imagination.
When you get to the fork in the road, take it.
You can observe a lot by watching.
Graphics is the visual means of resolving logical problems.
To say that something is designed means it has intentions that go beyond its function. Otherwise it's just planning.
Art is passion practiced with great discipline. Science is discipline practiced with great passion.
Human history shows that any effort to confine the inquiring human mind, to seek to bar the spirit of inquiry, is doomed to failure.
The opposite of every great idea is another great idea.
You are not thinking. You are merely being logical.
Typography at its best is a visual form of language linking timelessness and time.
Product design and development is a combination of creativity and analysis. But it depends on communication.
Writing is the ultimate decision-making experience. Every paragraph, every sentence, every word is a decision.
Telling the future by looking at the past assumes that conditions remain constant. This is like driving a car by looking in the rearview mirror.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.
Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men's blood.
The purpose of technology is not to confuse the brain but to serve the body.
Someday all Americans must be able to program their own VCRs.
The question of whether a device will come into being depends upon three things: first, whether there is a practical use for it that warrants its development and manufacturing costs; second, whether the laws of physics applying to the elements available for its design allow the attainment of the needed ranges, sensitivities, or the like; and third, whether the pertinent art of manufacture has advanced sufficiently to allow a useful embodiment to be built successfully.
The function, what a nice form!
It is this quality, the power of seeing order in apparent confusion, that has marked the work of all great men.
Nothing is more dangerous than an idea when it's the only one you have.
Good design, at least part of the time, includes the criteria of being direct in relation to the problem at hand‚ not obscure, trendy, or stylish. A new language, visual or verbal, must be couched in a language that is already understood.
Sometimes there is simply no need to be either clever or original.
Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it's unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there's no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there's a chance you may contribute to making a better world. The choice is yours.
Some consider it noble to have a method; others consider it noble not to have a method. Not to have a method is bad; to stop entirely at method is worse still. One should at first observe rules severely, then change them in an intelligent way. The aim of posessing method is to seem finally as if one had no method.
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert.
Fanatics are defined by their hatreds; free people by their humanity.
Trying to get people to reason in a way that is not natural for them is like trying to teach a pig to sing. You don't accomplish anything and you annoy the pig.
When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Form follows function straight to hell.
A good piece of technology dreams of the day when it will be replaced by a newer piece of technology. This is one definition of progress.
What comes from the heart lands on the heart creatively.
Continuity is not only the uninterrupted steps from one point to another, but it is also the cohesive force that holds a diverse composition together.
If there is an information revolution, it's over: information won.
Art is the stored honey of the human soul, gathered on wings of misery and travail.
The products we design are going to be ridden in, sat upon, looked at, talked into, activated, operated, or in some way used by people individually or en masse. If the point of contact between the product and the people
becomes a point of friction, then the industrial designer has failed. If, on the other hand, people are made safer, more comfortable, more eager to purchase, more efficientor just plain happierthe industrial designer has succeeded.
Client wants: 1. Good, 2. Fast, 3. Cheap. Designer replies: Pick two.
Everything that can be invented has been invented.
Symmetry is static‚ that is to say, quiet; that is to say, inconspicuous.
A good scientist is a person with original ideas. A good engineer is a person who makes a design that works with as few original ideas as possible.
Your mind is like a tipi. Leave the entrance flap open so that the fresh air can enter and clear out the smoke of confusion.
[Design is] a plan for arranging elements in such a way as to best accomplish a particular purpose.
Genius? Nothing! Sticking to it is the genius! Any other bright-minded fellow can accomplish just as much if he will stick like hell and remember nothing that's any good works by itself. You've got to make the damn thing work!…I failed my way to success.
Invention is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.
Let the public throw bouquets to the inventors and in time we will all be happy.
I never think of the future, for it comes soon enough.
Intellectuals solve problems; geniuses prevent them.
We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.
Genius seems to consistent merely in trueness of sight.
Knowledge is the antidote to fear.
The engineer's principal work is to discover and conserve natural resources of materials and forces, including the human, and to create means for utilizing these resources with minimal cost and waste and with maximum useful results.
We must not believe the many, who say that only free people ought to be educated, but we should rather believe the philosophers who say that only the educated are free.
Form follows emotion.
Maps are useful but never neutral.
Most products are ugly. The harsh reality is that in many of these markets, form follows funding. And that products go where the market takes them.
If design isn't profitable, then it's art.
Form follows finances instead of function.
One sometimes finds what one is not looking for.
Don't find a fault. Find a remedy.
The function of the machine is to liberate man from brute burdens, and release his energies to the building of his intellectual and spiritual powers for conquests in the fields of thought and higher action.
No design works unless it embodies ideas that are held common by the people for whom the object is intended.
If you would not be forgotten, as
I am human: Do not fold, spindle, or mutilate.
Technology…the knack of so arranging the world that we don't have to experience it.
Dare to be naive.
I am enthusiastic over humanity's extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuities. If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat may come along and make a fortuitous life preserver. This is not to say, though, that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top. I think we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday's fortuitous contrivings as constituting the only means for solving a given problem.
All good technology should be used to piss off people's parents.
A complex system that works is invariably found to have evolved from a simple system that worked….A complex system designed from scratch never works and cannot be patched up to make it work. You have to start over, beginning with a working simple system.
The very greatest is the alphabet, for in it lies the deepest wisdom; yet only he can fathom it, who truly knows how to put it together.
The best computer scientists are…technologists who crave beauty.
The future was and remains the quintessential American art form. Other nations sit back and let their futures happen; we construct ours. We can let the future happen, or take the trouble to imagine it. We can imagine it dark or brightand in the long run, that's how it will be.
Letters are things, not pictures of things.
I had a monumental idea this morning, but I didn't like it.
Form follows function.
Simplicity does not mean want or poverty. It does not mean the absence of any decor, or absolute nudity. It only means that the decor should belong intimately to the design proper, and that anything foreign to it should be taken away.
Ease of use and ease of learning are not the same.
Every tool carries with it the spirit with which it has been created.
Computer design is often bad design done on a computer.
I am convinced that we humans are just at the beginning of our journey, on our way to becoming something more wonderful than we can imagine.
What people mean by the word "technology" is the stuff that doesn't really work yet.
Life is short, Art long, Occasion sudden and dangerous, Experience deceitful, and Judgment difficult.
No, Watson, this was not done by accident, but by design.
Action will remove the doubt that theory cannot solve.
…it's very easy to be different, but very difficult to be better.
Invention has become more automatic, less the result of intuition or flashes of genius and more a matter of deliberate design.
Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.
Many things difficult to design prove easy to perform.
People want to run their computers and have them do the things that they really don't want or have time to do themselves.
Thoughts exchanged by one and another are not the same in one room as in another.
To me, nothing is more vibrant than having the power to do something but not having the experience of knowing what's right and what's wrong.
We can have a transparent telephone. But I don't mind having a telephone which looks like a table-top sculpture. Nice to have it! So then this is the choice: I can have a choice to have beautifully sculptured machines or transparent machines!
We've probably designed 4,000 products at IDEO over my career, and for every one of them I'd like to send a little note with it that says, "I'm sorry that it's in this present state. Given what I know now, if I could start over again it would be a lot better."
Success has many fathers.
The more technology becomes complicated inside, the more it has to be simple outside.
The simplest way to assure sales is to keep changing the productthe market for new things is indefinitely elastic. One of the fundamental purposes of advertising, styling, and research is to foster a healthy dissatisfaction.
Television is a medium, so called because it is neither rare nor well done.
A tool knows exactly how it is meant to be handled, while the user of the tool can only have an approximate idea.
If I do not know that I do not know, I think I know.
A design isn't finished until somebody is using it.
You don't have to please everyoneyou have to please the user.
Science has done absolutely nothing about noise. The worst design flaw in the human body is that you can't close your ears. The reason you can't close your ears is, if a lion was coming, you had to wake up. Today no lions are coming. Beeping trucks are coming. I read the other day that the guy who invented the beep when trucks go backward, he died. I thought: Of coursehe dies, I have to listen to it.
The present is big with the future, the future might be read in the past, the distant is expressed in the near.
I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand.
I hold that while a man exists, it is his duty to improve not only his own condition, but to assist in ameliorating mankind.
Whatever a man imagines he can attain, if he doesn't become too arrogant and encroach on the rights of the gods.
Form, which should be the clean-cut expression of mechanical excellence, has become sensuous and organic.
No manufacturer, from General Motors to the Little Lulu Novelty Company, would think of putting a product on the market without benefit of a designer.
Ugliness does not sell.
The most reliable appliance has simplicity and quality, does what is demanded of it, is economical to use, easy to maintain, and just as easy to repair. …It also sells best and looks good.
I am not sure that I want my tv, which is my window on the world, to be anything other than a window. Don't give it to me with pink stuff on it, it's a window and windows are made of glass.
Only the most foolish of mice would hide in a cat's ear, but only the wisest of cats would think to look there.
I make solutions that nobody wants to problems that don't exist.
Simplicity of device is always the sign of the master, whether in science or in art.
I have broken the blue boundary of color limits, come out into the white; beside me comrade-pilots swim in this infinity. I have established the semaphore of Suprematism. I have beaten the lining of the colored sky, torn it away and in the sack that formed itself, I have put color and knotted it. Swim! The free white sea, infinity, lies before you.
The designer is a visually literate person, just as an editor is expected by training and inclination to be versed in language and literature, but to call the former an artist by occupation is as absurd as to refer to the latter as a poet.
Questions about whether design is necessary or affordable are quite beside the point: design is inevitable. The alternative to good design is bad design, not no design at all. Everyone makes design decisions all the time without realizing itlike Moliere's M. Jourdain who discovered he had been speaking prose all his lifeand good design is simply the result of making these decisions consciously, at the right stage, and in consultation with others as the need arises.
It seems that one only has to be able to watch television and hold a potato at the same time in order to be equipped to be a designer these days.
We become what we behold..we shape our tools, and thereafter our tools shape us.
Love is the triumph of imagination over intelligence.
More power and more choice and more freedom require more wisdom if they are to add up to more humanity.
Technology often reveals what technology has not created.
We live in a culture where the one who shouts the loudest gets the most attention. It's not in the vulgar, it's not in the shock that one finds art. And it's not the excessively beautiful. It's in between; it's in nuance.
Products never speak for themselves. Someone had to teach us that a chair is meant for sitting on, that a spoon is for putting food into the mouth…The medium is not the message.
I doubt whether all mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day's toil of any human being.
Instead of asking, "How much damage will the work in question bring about?" why not ask, "How much good? How much joy?"
Eventually, robots will make everything.
The machine replaced human labor and now human brain-power. But I think technology's next step will be to work for the spirit, the heart.
It's not rocket science. It's social sciencethe science of understanding people's needs and their unique relationship with art, literature, history, music, work, philosophy, community, technology, and psychology. The act of design is structuring and creating that balance.
All consumers are equal in their right to expect products to be safe and usable regardless of a person's physical or mental capabilities.
Good design defuses the tension between functional and aesthetic goals precisely because it works within the boundaries defined by the functional requirements of the communication problem. Unlike the fine arts, which exists for their own sake, design must always solve a particular real-world problem.
Endeavourwith most diligent labour, O aspiring artist!to master content. The form will rise to meet you.
It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are so ingenious.
Designers are not highly paid cake decorators.
Method helps intuition when it is not transformed into dictatorship. Intuition augments method if it does not instill anarchy. In every moment of our semiotic existence, method and intuition complement one another.
[Industrial design in 50 years] will be less about looks and more about personality of artifacts.
Design is easy. All you do is stare at the screen until drops of blood form on your forehead.
Design is intelligence made visible.
I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the seashore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
A man who works with his hands is a laborer; a man who works with his hands and his brain is a craftsman; but a man who works with his hands and his brain and his heart is an artist.
On the day when two armies will be able to annihilate each other in one second all civilized nations will recoil
from war in horror and disband their forces.
Attractive things work better.
Keeping an open mind is a virtue, but not so open that your brains fall out.
In most agencies, account executives outnumber the copywriters two to one. If you were a dairy farmer, would you employ twice as many milkers as you had cows?
What use would this company make of an electrical toy?
We are the music-makers,
Style impresses, true beauty expresses.
All designed tools and objects are sort of extensions of human abilities, and they do tend to make life richer for us. But, an awful lot of designs, especially in this country, make life a lot more inconvenient. I'm thinking, for instance, of high-fidelity units that have so many switches and toggles and buttons and things that they confuse most people.
The only important thing about design is how it relates to people.
Our opportunity, as designers, is to learn how to handle the complexity, rather than shy away from it, and to realize that the big art of design is to make complicated things simple.
Chance favors the prepared mind.
Make three correct guesses consecutively and you will establish a reputation as an expert.
Some problems are so complex that you have to be highly intelligent and well informed just to be undecided about them.
…high end does not necessarily equal high price. It's a matter of attitude.
Form follows failure.
Our expectations for a technology rise with its advancement.
Personalising one's own space like this leads naturally on to the personalisation of other possessions as a statement of identity.
Computers are worthless. They can only give you answers.
Every act of creation is first an act of destruction.
I am always doing things that I cannot do; that's how I get to do them.
Technology frees the task of design and production from technical limitations.
Where a calculator on the ENIAC is equipped with 18,000 vacuum tubes and weighs 30 tons, computers of the future may have only 1,000 vacuum tubes and perhaps weigh 1 1/2 tons.
Function is a fantasy…the form of designed things is decided by choice or else by chance; but it is never actually entailed by anything whatever.
We have received an invitation. A very unusual invitation. Maybe it is to go to a banquet. The Earth has never been invited to a banquet. It would be impolite to refuse.
Art is an idea that has found its perfect visual expression. And design is the vehicle by which this expression is made possible. Art is a noun, and design is a noun and also a verb. Art is a product and design is a process. Design is the foundation of all the arts.
The public is more familiar with bad design than good design. It is, in effect, conditioned to prefer bad design, because that is what it lives with. He new becomes threatening, the old reassuring.
Objects do not have meaning. But if an object is thoughtful we project meaning onto it in daily life.
The future is itself a story, and predictions are stories we tell to amaze ourselves, to give hope to the desperate, to jolt the complacent.
They are called computers, simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them … To describe its potentialities, the computer needs a new name. Perhaps as good a name as any is "information machine."
I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.
Designing a product is designing a relationship.
Less is more.
Everyone is a lot of people to design for.
It is hard to prevent oneself from believing what one so keenly desires.
Our bodies are the time machine.
Creativity…involves the power to originate, to break away from the existing ways of looking at things, to move freely in the realm of the imagination, to create and recreate worlds fully in one's mindwhile supervising all this with a critical inner eye.
One of these days an alien is going to say, "Hi, I'm here." And everything you thought about your world is going to change.
Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
There is in this Universe much of what seems to be design.
We make our world significant by the courage of our questions and the depth of our answers.
Perfection is not reached when there is nothing to be added anymore, but when there is nothing to be left out anymore.
…if, before every action, we were to begin by weighing up the consequences, thinking about them in earnest, first the immediate consequences, then the probable, then the possible, then the imaginable ones, we should never move beyond the point where our first thought brought us to a halt.
It works better if you plug it in.
Design is a means toward accomplishing the end goals of serving markets and generating profits. Furthermore, design is an element in social responsibility. Good design allows "form to complement performance." The way things look is not irrelevant to the way things work: how they work is how they should look.
It is easy to fail when designing an interactive experience. Designers fail when they do not know the audience, integrate the threads of content and context, welcome the public properly, or make clear what the experience is and what the audience's role in it will be.
The true scientist never loses the faculty of amazement.
The devil hath power
Some men see things as they are, and say why? I dream of things
that never were, and ask why not?
You can either get something done or get the credit for it, but not both.
The design process, at its best, integrates the aspirations of art, science, and culture.
Industrial design is the process of developing an elegant and functional improvement to the physical interface between man and machine-made products.
Real art has the capacity to make us nervous.
These days, information is a commodity being sold. And designersincluding the newly defined subset of information designers and information architectshave a responsible role to play. We are interpreters, not merely translators, between sender and receiver. What we say and how we say it makes a difference. If we want to speak to people, we need to know their language. In order to design for understanding, we need to understand design.
You cannot not communicate.
My dream appliance circa 2050 has one big dial on it, and when I twist it to the right, my IQ goes up to 450.
If you begin to think you're changing the culture of the world, just ask your mom what she thinks you do for a living.
Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all details and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
We are prop managers and set builders in the wings of the cultural stage. No one knows who we are but they do feel the results of our work.
Vision is the art of seeing things invisible.
Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.
Any modern invention of consequence will be found exploited in some measure by those whose social conscience is relatively primitive.
So much has already been written about everything that you can't find out anything about it.
Sir, I have tested your machine. It adds new terror to life and makes death a long felt want.
Technology makes it possible for people to gain control over everything, except over technology.
Good design is a lot like clear thinking made visual.
As soon as you have made a thought, laugh at it.
If it works, it's obsolete.
A mind that is all logic is like a knife that is all bladeit hurts the hand that uses it.
The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be.
An ellipse here, a square there, some type‚ Boom! It's done.
Beauty is the result of clarity and system and not of optical illusion.
Bring ideas in and entertain them royally, for one of them may be the king.
Less is a bore.
The machine technology takes no cognizance of conventionally established rules of precedence; it knows neither
manners nor breeding and can make no use of any of the attributes of worth.
Common sense is not so common.
In signs, one sees an advantage for discovery that is greatest when they express the exact nature of a thing briefly and, as it were, picture it; then, indeed, the labor of thought is wonderfully diminished.
Science, as well as technology, will in the near and in the farther future increasingly turn from problems of intensity, substance, and energy, to problems of structure, organization, information, and control.
Planning is everything; plans are nothing.
Home is no longer a location, home is a concept. I want the feelings of home wherever I am.
This world is a comedy to those that think, a tragedy to those that feel.
God is to be found in the details.
I think there is a world market for maybe [about] five computers.
Good design is good business.
Great design will not sell an inferior product, but it will enable a great product to achieve its maximum potential.
No one can write decently who is distrustful of the reader's intelligence, or whose attitude is patronizing.
It is the business of the future to be dangerous.
Consistency is the last resort of the unimaginative.
Imagination is imitativethe real innovation lies in criticism.
Always take flight to where there is a free view over the whole single great problem, even if this view is still not a clear one.
Everything that can be said, can be said clearly.
…designers can make life more bearable by producing stuff that touches its audience rather than fucks them in the head.
I never design a building before I've seen the site and met the people who will be using it.
Less is more only where more is no good.
It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge & skill.
Information anxiety is the black hole between data and knowledge, and it happens when information doesn't tell us what we want or need to know.
The fundamental failure of most graphic, product, architectural, and even urban design is its insistence on serving the God of Looking-Good rather than the God of Being-Good.