God is not willing to do everything, and thus take away our free will and that share of glory which belongs to us.”
~ Niccolo Machiavelli
Dusk on Lake Harriet
My sabbatical allowed me to to visit my past. I had a chance to visit my alma mater, California State University Dominguez Hills and thought back to my senior year in college and the capstone course of marketing program. Thinking back we had two choices for that course either a doing a case study for as a volunteer for the Small Business Administration or reading the Prince. I chose the case study and worked developing a marketing/business plan for Gumbo’s Market. The market was located in south central Los Angeles and this individual wasn’t what the owner of Gumbo’s market needed nor that community but I did my best. It wasn’t until years later after my experience at Ford Motor Company that I picked up that book. Now looking back I think, I should have picked reading the Prince by Machiavelli.
After re-reading the book again and reading a few reviews I’ve decided to assign it to my freelance business class to read. To my mind’s eye, Machiavelli was a realist and anyone stepping into business today should have an opportunity to discuss and consider some of the advice that Machiavelli gave to the “new” prince. I sold art on Christopher Street in NYC for a couple years art at All State Art and other later I was a gallery manager at Circle Fine Art for two more years. During that time there is one statement that stands out more than any other, that was a statement made to me by Artie, the owner of All State Art, one day when we were talking about the pieces in the gallery and he said, “It’s only paper, my boy, only paper.”
His meaning was that the only real value the art had was the value that people gave it. It in itself was ink on only paper. People gave it value, the influence of the market, and the culture that surrounded that “paper” gave it value. I know there will be many people that will be upset with that remark but bottomline, it is the marketplace and society that gives the artist, the art, the politician, or “piece of paper” value… Nothing more. Understanding how people think, act, and do… is key to the artist or designers success.
That being said, I do think that the artist has a duty to “thine own self be true” and not play for the marketplace. The graphic designer on the other hand best know the marketplace. That’s their job.