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Jack of all trades, master of all

A trip to the Paul Smith exhibition got me thinking about multi-disciplinary designers.

Most of us think of Paul Smith as a fashion designer, but he’s so much more than that. He applies his combination of tradition and modernity to clothes, shoes and an eclectic range of accessories. He’s collaborated with a variety of famous brands to create distinctive Limited Editions in his own imitable style from HP sauce, to Evian water, to the classic Mini. He also happens to be a pretty savvy retail designer. His many stores around the World reflect his character but are each totally unique.

Think of a great designer. More often than not they will have applied their skill outside a single discipline. Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway, of the eponymous Hemingway Design call themselves “multidisciplinary designers with a conscience”. Having previously built (and made a fortune from) the iconic Red or Dead fashion brand, they now design anything from radios to wallpaper to affordable urban design projects. Sir Terence Conran founded Habitat and The Conran Shop; runs a successful and beautifully designed series of restaurants; publishes books; builds brands; has an architecture practice etc. Stefan Sagmeister: record cover designer, typographer, packaging designer, film-maker etc.

Need I say more? Just this …

In the UK at least, we seem to love pigeon-holing designers. A book designer can’t design packaging and a web designer can’t do retail design.

That’s rubbish! The business of design is changing at a greater rate than ever before. Technology is constantly evolving, shaping not only our tools but our culture. Now, more than ever, it’s important for designers to start thinking beyond a single discipline.

Great design is based on creativity and curiosity. That’s the only expertise really needed. The technical aspects of how you make, code or print it can be filled in by the technical experts. What a liberating thought!

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Author: Sophie

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