Mule Trail

I’m often asked, “Sean, how do you manage to have only cool projects?” I could say, “Well, I’m just that wonderful,” but that probably is not the response desired. The truth is that every project has the possibility of being great. Sounds corny, but it’s true. I’ve interviewed young designers who have told me they were only interested in cultural organizations or social causes as clients. To me that sounds worse than working at a poultry plant. I like the diversity of clients in many areas. And I am adamantly opposed to the idea that good design is only design for cultural organizations or social causes.

A good example of a project that might be deemed by someone too highfalutin, “utilitarian, and not my kind of thing,” is the Mechanized Mules of Victory booklet designed by Paul Rand. This is a publication designed in 1942 for the AutoCar Company. AutoCar produced armored vehicles for the war effort. To our highfalutin designer, this would be a double whammy: armored vehicles and an actual corporation. Rand created a book that is as raw and functional. It’s absolutely correct for the subject. The American Typewriter typeface speaks to DIY, mechanized content. The banal images are transformed by the use of silhouettes, repeating images, and solid shapes. It’s a simple two-color printing job with a spiral binding. The binding references notebooks, and technical plans. The composition is rigid and unbending, but the pagination of the pages keeps the book alive.

The next time you’re asked to work on a dog kennel catalogue, or dental tool brochure, don’t say, “I’m too good for this. Who has the telephone number for Greenpeace?” Make something wonderful.