Design Inspiration: Tibor Kalman

 Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist Book

A million years ago in the 90s when I was in design school the way to get inspired was to buy (expensive) design magazines or even more expensive design books.

I treasured these magazines and books. The designs in them that sparked my imagination were precious, not easy to come by and there was a substantial amount of variance between designers and their work.

One book that I still return to for inspiration today is called Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist. It's a compilation of the life work of designer Tibor Kalman. 

Tibor Kalman: Perverse Optimist Book

Tibor, along with his wife the illustrator Maira Kalman, grounded the influential New York design agency M&Co. in 1979. Tibor and the agency produced some of the most notable graphic design in the 80s and 90s.

Probably the most well known work is the design of COLORS and Interview Magazines. The design still holds up today.

Colors Magazine - Tibor Kalman - e.m.papers

Interview Magazine - Tibor Kalman - e.m.papers

What also inspires me about Tibor Kalmans' work is not only that it's 'witty and imaginative' but he was unapologetically political and much of the work had a global perspective. The tagline of COLORS magazine was that it was a magazine about 'the rest of the world'.

Tibor Kalman Design - e.m.papers

Tibor Kalman Design  - e.m.papers

You may not have heard of Tibor Kalman or M&Co., but you may know of or watched Stefan Sagmeister and one of his great TED Talks. Sagmeister is an M&Co. alumnus. You can see the Kalman/M&Co. attitude aesthetic in his work.

Tibor Kalman Design  - e.m.papers

Tibor Kalman Design  - e.m.papers

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It may sound strange, but in this age of democratized design. I find it incredibly hard to find inspiration to produce original work. 

There is a constant flood of beautiful work issuing out of sites like Pinterest and Instagram. However, some times it seems like it all starts to look the same. 

During our time in California last year my aunt commented that she has a hard time finding things like stationery or gifts that feels fresh, unexpected or surprising. Everything is lovely but nothing is new.

Could it be that we're at a collective design dead end? The digital age has made everything accessible all the time. There is no fringe, trends are over before they even begin.

It sometimes feels impossible not be influenced by the ubiquitous visual design at our finger tips. 

When I'm overwhelmed or bereft of ideas, it still helps me to turn off my computer, walk over to my bookshelf and pick out some of my old design books like this one.

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