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Portraits of Creativity Portraits of Creativity: That handsome devil is Armin Vit, boo-yah!
 

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Veer:

How important do you think it is for designers and young designers to have design heroes or people they look up to and try to emulate?


Armin:

I think it’s very important for young designers to have a standard they want to achieve. If that implies copying, that process can help develop their own voice, which is what happened to me. I tried to copy Tibor, stuff from Pentagram, or Martin Venezky. You try to copy but it’s never going to be the same because it’s you who’s doing it. If in the process of emulating you can find your voice, that’s great. I think most people get their style doing that.


Veer:

How much do you think design can be taught in school, and how much of it is learned or gained through experience? How much is just innate natural aptitude?


Armin:

What I learned at school was how design is built. The craft. I was one of the last generations to be taught things like mechanicals and overlays. I’m trained as a designer, so what I learned and what kids are learning these days through things like InDesign is just understanding things like how black space works up against white space or what forms the structure of layout. I think that’s the best you can do at school.

I’ve always thought that if you want to be a graphic designer, you have to have a strong foundation in the basics. Then after that, it’s just closing your eyes and hoping for the best when you get into the real world. A lot of it comes from interaction, fucking up and figuring out what works and what doesn’t and hoping you don’t get fired. A lot of it is intuition, following your instinct and hoping you’re right.


Veer:

What experience in your design history did you find most educational?


Armin:

I think that now, looking back, you should never keep your mouth shut or just say yes to everything. If the client asks for something, rather than agreeing with it, make sure you have your point of view on why yes is the correct answer. Expressing your point of view is very empowering.


 

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Veer:

Do you think geography and location have any effect on design? How have the places you’ve worked affected your perspective?


Armin:

Totally. Chicago was great because it was somewhere between Atlanta and New York, with the peacefulness of the Midwest in a big city. Chicago is a great-looking city. There’s a lot to be inspired by, starting with the elevated train downtown. Walking down there, it’s easy to imagine the police chasing bad guys. Things like that get your imagination going and feed what you do.

In New York there is a chance for something unexpected to happen on every block. The people and the energy all play a huge role É also the competition. In New York you have to work at your highest level or there are a dozen other design firms ready to take your job, or hundreds of designers who are equally or more talented.


Veer:

Do you have a process that you turn to when you start a project?


Armin:

More or less. I’m not a sketcher because I really can’t draw to save my life. Everybody thinks, ‘Oh, a designer can draw,’ but I really can’t. I will sketch because I need to see something that a computer won’t let me do, but I always jump on the computer right away and start editing information. A lot of it is writing. I write sentences and words that explain things. Once I get the idea, I can spend 30 hours refining something. I’m anal retentive about things being perfect.

I’m not a fan of collaboration or brainstorming. I really can’t stand it. When someone says, ‘Let’s have a brainstorming session,’ I cringe. I’ve never been able to contribute anything valuable in a brainstorming session, and I never get anything out of it. I just go to the meeting, cross my arms, and hope nobody notices.


Veer:

What differentiates art and design?


Armin:

They’re completely different things. I hate when designers say, ‘I’m an artist.’ No you’re not. If you were an artist you would have your stuff hanging at a gallery and you would make a lot of money selling it. Instead you’re at a computer, you take requests from a client, and you make things on their behalf. And we’re not even commercial artists because it’s not art, it’s communication. It’s type and images put together, and eventually you do something - a brochure, a logo, a web site, a report. None of that shit hangs in a gallery.


Veer:

What makes you creative?


Armin:

I think creativity is letting your personality and your point of view manifest in your work. What makes people creative is that everybody’s different and has a different personality. If you allow your personality to come through your work, and if you have something to say, then it becomes creative to other people because you have a point of view different from theirs.

Creativity is not something you can go after. It’s something that just happens. I don’t want to say that it only happens to people with talent, or who are funny, or smart. Regardless of who you are, if you’re confident enough in what you do, what you know, and what your experiences are, that can translate into creativity.


Veer:

Where do you turn to when you have no ideas and the well is dry?


Armin:

The romantic answer would be that I walk the streets of New York and let the city inspire me. But more realistically, if there’s no way in hell I’m going to have a good idea on a project, I just make something that looks respectable and get the job done rather than trying to bang my head looking for inspiration in a magazine or a museum. It doesn’t work. You can go to see a movie, you can listen to music, but in the end, if you don’t have an idea, you’re not going to get it from there.

Everything that we do is informed by our experiences of what we see, what we hear, what we know. It’s like when Paula Scher talks about the Citibank logo, she says, ‘It took me five minutes to draw it, but it took me 30 years to learn how to draw it in five minutes.’ It’s that kind of thing where, based on what you know, you say, ‘This is what I think it should be,’ and just do it rather than try to come up with all of this process and finding inspiration. At one point, you just have to sit down and do it.


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