Design Is Country

By Joe Duffy Dec 9, 2009

I love music, almost every genre. And I look forward to this time of year, with all the music award shows. I watched the Country Music Awards a couple weeks ago and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Country isn't the majority of my playlist but I return to it regularly. I guess it's because it does something to ground a person. It provides keen insight into life and does it in a style that communicates from the heart. The stories and sentiments cut an enormous swath across the cultural landscape, speaking to real people about their everyday lives. Artists like Tim McGraw and Taylor Swift appeal to people in almost every age group; white collar, blue collar; rural, urban and suburban, in every corner of this country and beyond.

That country audience is the one we designers need to "play to" if we're going to broaden the appeal of our best work. Country music is akin to beer, pizza, toothpaste and orange juice, the day-to-day products that fuel this economy. What separates perceptions of these basic products and speaks the truth about why one is better than the other for me and for my family? Design. And, why shouldn't even everyday products, basic household staples be things that even designers look to and admire?

Great design needs to reach the masses if designers are going to be considered business players vs. artists. It's also the only way to make a significant shift in the way the masses appreciate great design. We can't make a difference by speaking to ourselves. On many levels design is still a cottage industry--small shops doing artful work for tiny businesses or niche products. In order to have a place at the table in the world of business, we have to prove ourselves as savvy business people as well as first-rate creative thinkers. Contrary to the way many designers think, the two are not mutually exclusive.

There has never been a better time in all the years that I've been in business to reach the masses with design that you would also be proud to hang on your studio walls. There's a desire for it everywhere. Who doesn't want to bring a little joy to every aspect of everyday life? What better way to do so than with design? Design for the everyday moments that touch us all.

The appreciation for design is at an all-time high and growing constantly. We need to focus on the basics in life and celebrate them as a means to bring design to the masses.

I love Thelonious Monk and the opportunity to design a one-off poster for a design event every once in a while, just like many designers...but for my regular diet, give me Willie Nelson and a carton of orange juice any time.


1. Willie Nelson (courtesy of Myriam Santos)

2. Minute Maid OJ redesign


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