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Richard Zeid asks, “What if?”

Posted May 3, 2011 in Events




The Graphic Design Career Day was particularly interesting to me, watching the students dash in, juggling coffee, back packs and large black portfolio totes. Seemed like there were more of the big portfolio cases than any of the other career days Kendall College of Art and Design I have attended. 

A group landed right in front of me and when a student perched his large portfolio on the chair ahead of me, one of the other students quipped, “What? Does your portfolio get a seat?” 

The answer was no. Too many students who wanted to hear what Richard Zeid from Chicago had to say. 

The owner of his own graphic design practice and a teacher at Columbia College spoke comfortably and with humor about what “makes me curious.” 

The visual presentation included images of a favorite food—bacon, and the elements of a Chicago Hot Dog—no ketchup.  Absolutely no ketchup. Bamboo Bikes.  While at first many of the images seemed to have no connection, the notion of curiosity ran throughout.

“Be like the new born baby,” he said.  “Always learning.  A newborn has to learn everything.”

He showed examples of the many artists and designers who have stimulated and inspired  him over the years. They include: Felice Varini, Mark Wagner, Calfee Design, Dale Chihuly, Dominic Wilcox, Oscar Diaz, Marcel Odenbach, Janine Benyus, Yann Legendre and Marina Abromovic.

Richard also talked to students about “giving back” to the world.  In his case, he won an award for a pro bono poster about the Sichuan earthquake in China and how to provide help.  “But I didn’t do it for an award. I do pro bono work every year.” 

The consistent message was to constantly ask, “What if?”  He advised students to look at a design issue and ask, “What’s the real problem here?”

He also said to learn to follow up on instincts.  “Like right now I am fascinated with circles. Don’t know what this means and I’m curious. What is this thing about circles?”  He shook his head, perplexed and well, curious.

This bewildered me a bit, but the students around me nodded their heads, seemingly understanding a fascination with a design element. They also nodded when he said; “I was always the kid who colored outside the lines of a coloring book. “ 

I suspect I was sitting in a room filled with kids who never colored within the lines.

He finished his talk with serious and solemn admonishments. He said, “Take time to be quiet, to think, to listen to your inner voice.  And…never use Helvetica or Papyrus. Or Comic Sans.” 

The group roared.  Clearly an insider joke and a wonderful smidgeon of comic relief.


Richard Zeid’s  recommended book list includes:


1.      “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be” by Paul Arden
2.      “Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite” by Paul Arden
3.      “Radical Careering” by Sally Hogshead
4.      “Biominicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature” by Janine Benyus
– Susan J. Smith 


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