Interview: Clive Piercy

Clive Piercy is the founder of Air Conditioned, as well as the founder and former partner and creative director of Ph.D in Los Angeles. Clive is also an instructor in the graphic design department at Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. Between running his studio and teaching, he also finds time to lecture corporations and schools on the importance of design history.

Explain the role you play in the design industry:

I’m a graphic designer, art director and creative director working in the cultural mainstream, hacking away at the pitface of creativity.

How did you become interested in design?

Album covers, Pop Art and fashion magazines.

What is the strangest experience you have had as a teacher?

I was “stalked” by a student for a while. 10 excruciatingly long e-mails per night, sent at 3am, telling me way more things about this person than I needed to know. It was actually quite worrying.

What do you think are the successes/failures of your school?

Art Center is a special place, with a lot of privileges. A strong, dedicated faculty and an enormous array of opportunities open to students if they can be bothered to look and ask.

You have an incredible book collection, so this may be a tough one, what is your favorite design book?

Tibor’s book is the BEST book about design, because it’s NOT talking about design. Bob Gill’s “Forget All the Rules About Graphic Design’ and Thompson/Davenport’s “Dictionary of Visual Language” have had the biggest effect on me.

What inspires you outside of the design bubble?

Football… MY kind of football, not yours… fashion, food, film, mountain biking, gardening. Annie. And London.

How do you deal with students that are not working hard enough to meet their potential?

If embarrassing them openly in class doesn’t work, I try to have a quiet word with them. Many of the students don’t have what it takes to make it out there. My main goal is to get students to enjoy what they are doing. They tend to work harder when that happens….

What are your thoughts on pushing a students imagination vs. restraining a project to fit real-world scenarios?

I set projects that allow students to approach them in either a conceptual, fanciful way, or conversely in an utterly practical way. I think I’m better at pushing the poetic side of design, while not forgetting that we are in the business of communication, and that at the end of all this a good portfolio is a collection of ideas, well-executed.

What is right/wrong with the design industry?

Wrong: It’s too professional. Right: Milton Glaser, Stephen Doyle, Maira Kalman, Paula Scher and all of the Greats that continue to point the way ahead…

What is the most important thing you have learned as a professional (Design or otherwise)?

To produce work that reflects who you are as a person. To understand that ideas count for much more than showy layouts and that an atmosphere of friendship and good humor must inhabit any worthwhile creative studio environment.

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