Famed designers Eduardo Danilo Ruiz and Roger Black merged their mega talents to form Danilo Black, a global design firm for print, Internet and broadcast media. PrintMedia was fortunate enough to work its way into their very busy schedules and pose a few questions.
PM: Much of the work you have done has appealed to people both critically and commercially. How do you achieve such a balance?
Ruiz & Black: When we design, first we focus on the reader, the viewer, the user, the customer—and then on our client. We never think much about the critics. If the readers are happy, then ultimately our clients are happy, too.
PM: When television came along, pundits sounded the death knoll for radio and newspapers. Initially, the Internet provoked a similar reaction regarding television, magazines and newspapers. Obviously, this has not been the case. What relationship do you envision developing between the various media in the years to come?
Ruiz & Black: It's not so much the media that is converging as the disciplines around it. Editors, writers, publishers, producers, directors and designers are all getting into each other's back yards. We're beginning to realize that our customers are not content with one form of media. So, we have to make our brands cross the old boundaries.
This is really a fantastic opportunity, and even though radio, for example, is no longer the king of broadcasting, there is still much potential. Who wouldn't want to own a radio station? And how much fun if you could integrate your radio brand with a cable channel, a magazine, a book publisher and a music company!
Content is the key for building brand value, and designers will be more often than not designing "experiences" rather than media components—this is where the real change will happen. Sooner than later, media companies will become omnimedia companies. The Internet is bringing a new platform, but the components of audio, video and content distribution/aggregation will take on new behaviors, building not a new media, but a new platform for business, communication and entertainment.
PM: Has the proliferation of the Web affected how you design for print media?
Ruiz & Black: It has changed some of the reader's habits. Now, newspapers and magazines must be visually entertaining. They have to provide a sense of "flow" in navigation. And they should offer interactivity with their readers, in how content is organized and displayed. No one has much of an attention span! We have too many distractions.
PM: How has the treatment of editorial changed between now and, say, 20 to 30 years ago?
Ruiz & Black: It's the same issue: Readers don't read anymore. People look at magazines first, then pick what bits to read, like shopping or zapping the remote control. The design must he more context-sensitive . . . We've seen a revolution in publication design, primarily in newspapers, in the way they talk to different readers with different visual layers of information, using infographics and placing more reading "points of entry."
PM: Both of you have achieved much success and fame in your careers. In partnering together, do you find there to be a healthy competition—design-wise—between the two of you?
Ruiz & Black: The creative process is always constructive, but tense. You start with inspiration, and then edit. We learn from every project, and try build new ideas into each project. We both believe that every design should be challenged and a good critic makes a better design. We believe in a team effort, founded on the old idea (but one that is not always practiced in design studios) that two heads are better than one.
PM: What advice would you give to aspiring designers?
Ruiz & Black: First, typography is the basis of design. Watch trends, but focus on effective design, things that work and reader "ergonomics"—readability and usability! Second, check out the classics. If something looks good after 50 or 200 years, chances are it will still look good in six months. Third, start small and work up. It's better to get experience as art director of a small paper in a small town than to be a third assistant in a big city.