Why Sometimes The Best Ideas Are Accidents

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Why Sometimes The Best Ideas Are Accidents

Words by Mr Adam Welch

4 April 2016

A new book from Pentagram’s Mr Harry Pearce.

The proposition that “design is all around us” is nothing new these days. Of course it is – from the logo-emblazoned latte you might sip as you saunter into work, to the artfully composed shots of their shoes and breakfasts your friends curate for the world’s viewing pleasure on Instagram. (Spoiler: no one really lives like that.) But Mr Harry Pearce, a partner at Pentagram, the world’s most prestigious design company, has taken the idea a step further with his new book Eating With The Eyes, available now from Mr Adrian Shaughnessy’s sublime publishing imprint, Unit Editions. In this expertly designed volume, Mr Pearce collects hundreds of photographs he has taken on his travels, each one focusing on seemingly incidental details of our environment, which then become a starting point for an idea or observation. Piled up sacks in Shanghai have “a weight and gravitas far beyond the flour they contain”. A broken chair in Naples is “insect-like” with “a life of its own”. It works, both as an attractive travel diary and a source of visual inspiration. But really, we should let off here: Mr Pearce describes it best himself.

“With every brief, my journey to a design solution [is] so varied and unexpected that I’ve given up trying to predict how it will happen. The first spark of an idea can come to me when I’m half asleep or dreaming, when I’m walking or I’m reading unrelated books that trip my mind into new territories of thought. I’ve found often that the more I wrestle with an idea, the further away the answer remains. So I’ve learned to let the answers come to me and to look for clues in my surroundings. This is my way of using absent-mindedness as a route to graphic inspiration, of planning not to plan.

“Ideas might come from the overlooked and forlorn detritus of everyday life – spilt paint, old damaged posters peeling off walls, rust marks left by the movement of a chain, accidental typographic surprises in damaged street signs. It’s a method for consistently fresh thinking. This approach has no structure and therefore prevents your mind getting stuck in narrow paths. We are surrounded by unintentional answers that we need to actively allow into our perception. For me there are no accidents, only ideas trying to find us.”

Eating With The Eyes is available now from Unit Editions.

For more design inspiration, read Mr Adrian Shaughnessy’s guide on (How To Be And Stay) Creativeon The Journal.

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