20 Design Quotes… and What They Can Inspire

Some days are just about inspiration. This is going to be one of those days. There are so many good ideas and thoughts and design practices out there that deserve to be shared.

So we have put together a roundup of 20 quotes that pertain to design or the creative process or the business itself as a conversation starter. This collection is from all over the world, from a wide range of sources and across various eras. Here are 20 great thoughts about design… and what they can inspire in each of us.

Quotes About Design

design quotes

“Good design is obvious. Great design is transparent.” — Joe Sparano, graphic designer for Oxide Design Co.

  • If you are designing to be noticed, you have the wrong idea. Good design works well – in visual and functional senses – and is not seen. (Maybe it’s time to rethink some of those drop shadows!)

“Content precedes design. Design in the absence of content is not design, it’s decoration.” — Jeffrey Zeldman, web designer and entrepreneur

  • Good design starts with the content. A pretty picture does not really mean anything if there is nothing in it; at that point it is just color. Start with an understanding of the content and what you need to accomplish before you begin designing.

“Good design is all about making other designers feel like idiots because that idea wasn’t theirs.” — Frank Chimero, designer and author of “The Shape of Design

  • What a great feeling – “I wish I had thought of that.” Good ideas live on and are made to be stolen. That’s why some of the most classic styles – minimalism, simple typography, classic colors – live on in so many design projects.

“Design is in everything we make, but it’s also between those things. It’s a mix of craft, science, storytelling, propaganda, and philosophy.” — Erik Adigard, designer and media artist

  • It is important to note and understand that design is not just the art of being beautiful, but it meets a combination of specific needs.

Quotes for Working and Process

design quotes

“It took me a few seconds to draw it, but it took me 34 years to learn how to draw it in a few seconds.” —Paula Scher, graphic designer, painter and art educator

  • It happens all the time – a client or boss thinks you can design something in a flash. And at some point you will learn to be fast, but that kind of speed takes time.

“Design is about making things good (and then better) and right (and fantastic) for the people who use and encounter them.” —Matt Beale, unknown

  • Design is a process. It is unlikely that you will create something and use it as is the first time. Draw and draft and redraw and redraft; it’s part of the process, and it will result in a better final product.

“Recognizing the need is the primary condition for design.” —Charles Eames, architect and graphic designer

  • Design solves problems. It is the answer to question; you need to understand that first in order to answer the riddle.

“Design is the search for a magical balance between business and art; art and craft; intuition and reason; concept and detail; playfulness and formality; client and designer; designer and printer; and printer and public.” —Valerie Pettis, co-founder of Pettis Design

  • Pettis acknowledges all parts of the process in a simple way. It’s something we sometimes forget. How many times have you gotten excited about a project only to realize a time or technical issue? Remember all the steps in planning so you can account for them in the beginning and avoid disappointment.

Quotes for Inspiration

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“Graphic design will save the world right after rock and roll does.” —David Carson, graphic designer and art director

  • Creative process is the stuff of inspiration. Go out and do something special to inspire others, just as you are inspired by other art forms.

“I want everything we do to be beautiful. I don’t give a damn whether the client understands that that’s worth anything, or that the client thinks it’s worth anything, or whether it is worth anything. It’s worth it to me. It’s the way I want to live my life. I want to make beautiful things, even if nobody cares.” —Saul Bass, graphic designer and filmmaker

  • Making something beautiful is the essence of what most designers want to do. While you still have to balance needs of the client or project, you end goal should always be to create something wonderful. Don’t skimp any project … ever.

“I try not to make any decisions that I’m not excited about.” —Jake Nickell, Threadless CEO

  • Every designer should try to make this a part of their routine. If you are excited about the work and the process every day, you are less likely to get burned out.

“I don’t need an alarm clock. My ideas wake me.” —Ray Bradbury, author

  • The best ideas might not come to you during the 9-to-5. Be ready to work when they do come. It can lead to sometimes crazy or hectic scheduling, but will result in more rewarding work. Keep a sketch pad and pen handy at all times so you can capture the ideas as they come, even if you can’t get to a project right away.

Quotes About the Craft

design quotes

“Design is so simple. That’s why it is so complicated.” —Paul Rand, art director and graphic designer

  • Using design tricks and tools is easy, but it can also be a trap. To work within constraints and in a way that is unseen can be pretty tough. Practice making design invisible.

“Don’t worry about failure; you only have to be right once.” —Drew Houston, Dropbox co-founder and CEO

  • Keep working at everything you do. Keep working every project. Keep revising every draft. Don’t worry about the “nos” or “I don’t like that’s” because eventually you will find the answer. It only takes one version that the client likes to be successful.

“If you remember the shape of your spoon at lunch, it has to be the wrong shape. The spoon and the letter are tools; one to take food from the bowl, the other to take information off the page … When it is a good design, the reader has to feel comfortable because the letter is both banal and beautiful.” — Adrian Frutiger, typeface designer

  • Designers often look at design and say “wow, that is good.” But users of design are much different. They only remember the disasters. When things work or behave or have a look that is consistent with a user’s expectations, they are part of positive or useful interaction.

“The ultimate inspiration is the deadline.” — Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari and Chyck E. Cheese

  • Do you ever get that I-can’t-get-started-because-it’s-not-due-yet feeling? Nothing can motivate a designer like a deadline. If you have trouble getting a project going, set smaller deadlines along the way so that you don’t procrastinate with a major project and get overwhelmed near the end.

Quotes About Typography

design quotes

“Readers usually ignore the typographic interface, gliding comfortably along literacy’s habitual groove. Sometimes, however, the interface should be allowed to fail. By making itself evident, typography can illuminate the construction and identity of a page, screen, place or product.” — Ellen Lupton, author of “Thinking with Type

  • Sometimes discomfort is the most comforting part of the design. When it comes to typography, consciously decide if lettering needs to be seen, and in what way should users respond to it.

“There is only one type of designer – the type that cares about type.” —Rohan Nanavati, manager of Roar Studios

  • Too often typography can be seen as an afterthought. The typefaces you select and styles you use can speak volumes about the rest of the design. Remember that much of your content is likely textual; making every letterform important.

“Times New Roman is not a font choice so much as the absence of a font choice, like the blackness of deep space is not a color.” — Matthew Butterick, author of “Butterick’s Practical Typography

  • Defaults are not for designers. Please, please, please go beyond the default settings in any software you use.

“Typography needs to be audible. Typography needs to be felt. Typography needs to be experienced.” — Helmut Schmid, graphic designer and typographer

  • Design as a whole is an experience. Remember that you are creating a specific emotional, physical and mental connection for someone with everything you create. Design for how this connection should feel and look.


Hopefully you’ve taken a few minutes to feel refreshed and inspired today. Personally, reading words like these can always serve as a great pick-me-up. Are there other timeless words that you find inspiring? Share them with us in the comments.

And I will leave you with this from design entrepreneur Robin Mathew: “Design is where science and art break even.”