In the world of super-modernity, a bus ticket can’t be just a bus ticket. It has to exhibit the branding of the bus company; it might carry an advertisement; and it will use sophisticated computerized tyopgraphy.

It’s only a bus ticket, yet we’ve turned it into a scrap of commercial graphic theatre that utilizes the brainpower of designers, marketing people and IT people.

Much American graphic design works on the ‘shock and awe’ principle. It uses maximum firepower to sell the guilt-free joys of consumption.

I’ve found that typography is a pretty reliable guide to a nation’s character. Typography in Tokyo is feverish and urgent; typography in rural France is languid and restrained; Dutch typography is intellectual and omnipresent.

Semiotics is the study of signs and their meanings. Designers are natural semioticians – signs and their meaning are the designer’s stock and trade.

Learning to deal with failure is an essential skill for all creative people. Everyone has work rejected. But good ideas are good ideas, and what one client rejects might find acceptance with another, so we should never see failure as total.

However, the only way to deal with rejection is to accept responsibility for it. It’s only by doing this that we can turn rejection into success.

How do we know which books to read? There are so many to choose from we couldn’t read them all – not to mention the blogs and magazines – even if we wanted to. One of the ways we decide is by studying reading lists. And there’s no shortage of reading lists to choose from.

Reading about design is as important as the act of desiging itself. And it’s not only design books that designers need to study; in fact, it’s unhealthy for them to only read design books.

We have to build up an internal reference system. We have to develop a new way of storing images, ideas and visual metaphors so that we can call on them when needed. Notebooks and sketch books are essential adjuncts for this.

Interrogating clients is an essential part of being a designer. If we don’t learn to ask questions, we run the risk of never getting to the heart of what good design can be. No question is ever too dumb to ask, and if we are frightened of exposing our ignorance we will never understand anything.

In life, you will become known for doing what you do. That sounds obvious, but it’s profound. If you want to be known as someone who does a particular thing, then you must start doing that thing immediately. Don’t wait. There is no other way. It probably won’t make you money at first, but do it anyway. Work nights. Work weekends. Sleep less.

Whatever you have to do.

There are dominant emotional and behavioral currents that run through society, and designers often have a knack of being able to read these cultural waves. Each generation has its own, and like a baton in a relay race, it gets handed on to the next generation. Yet each time the baton is transferred, it changes.

We don’t have to immerse ourselves in it, but we have to be able to spot it.

Always finish with a conclusion. This must be short (no more than 100 words) and should be an at-a-glance overview of the proposal. It allows those who can’t be bothered to read your entire document to have it all in one hit. It is always advisable to add a copyright line to any proposal. And a cheerful ‘thank you’.

The key is to say one thing that’s different about your product (of genuine interest to the consumer), or be the first to say something that the competition could say, but has yet to realize it through its advertising.

Begin with a summary of your intentions – and keep this short and to the point. By telling the reader what your intentions are, you can often lead them to the conclusion you’d like them to reach.

Clients have a habit of failing to explain the stuff that to them is grindingly obvious. They are quick to accuse designers of failing to understand their business, yet they often make the mistake of not explaining what they understand implicitly. They just assume everyone knows what they know.

Consumers seem increasingly resistant to modern selling strategies. Cold-calling, most forms of direct mail, and the ubiquitous spam are imprecise, intrusive, wasteful, but, most of all, resented.