5 lessons from designer Paul Smith
1. Be childish
In almost every story about Paul, it’s clear that he looks at the world with fresh, playful curiosity. One way that seeps into his work is his collection of interesting things. “Smith’s fondness for tin robots of all shapes and sizes and antique bakelite radios…velvet Elvis paintings and rubber chickens.” “If I see something strange or funny or something I’ve not seen before, I want it.”
2. You can find inspiration in everything
Anything can be a source of inspiration, but the problem is most people don’t look. They don’t even try! “When you travel around the world, you must look and see; many people look but do not see. They are always worried about the time of their flight, that the food is weird.” One way Paul practices this looking muscle is by taking lots of photos of interesting and unexpected things.
3. Lateral selling
Another problem Paul is always facing is how to stand out. Think about it, you’re selling socks and shoes and suits, and so are a lot of other people. For inspiration, he looks at how other people (outside of fashion) solve that same problem. For example, how grocery stores sell tomatoes. Some organize messy, some orderly, different signage. He notices one stall that had put tissue paper under each tomato, suddenly making the tomatoes look more delicate and delicious.
4. The wrong thing in the wrong place
Another advertising concept is a visual pun or visual humour. Humour has become a deep part of his brand, his USP is basically ‘traditional with a twist’. Paul has this great collection of photos of these ‘wrong’ observations but act as inspiration devices. A tree growing on a roof. A large car parked in an impossible space. A cardboard box that has ‘helicopter’ printed on it.
5. Don’t design for yourself $$$
This one has become such a cliche.. Talk to your user etc. But a common theme with Paul is his connection to the business. He says he has this fear of becoming detached, the classic egotistical fashion designer. “The danger for a designer, if you are short or fat or tall, is to design clothes for yourself, because obviously that limits who will buy them.”