Following are some of the things I think about when given an assignment.

First and foremost, I need to communicate.

Someone has a product or service he'd like to sell. Or she has a company or a product that needs a unique identity in the marketplace. Or, in the case of interactive and editorial projects, there's a body of information that needs to be made appealing and digestible. In all these cases, I'll attempt to deliver the desired message in the strongest and most efficient way.

I'm solving a problem.

Commercial art is like a puzzle. Using the tools at my disposal -- photographs, illustrations, writing, typography, sound and motion -- my challenge is to create a message that gets noticed and makes sense to its intended recipients.

I'll consider the audience.

To whom am I speaking? A 15-year-old fan of rap music, or a 50-year-old looking to refinance her home? In subtle ways, each audience speaks its own language, and I'm the translator between my client and his market.

What is the message?

What about the company, product or service is unique, and how can I best state this advantage? Can the message be created based solely on the product's attributes, or is the product's identity best presented in the context of its competition? With products lacking a clear advantage, or in the case of products with only subjective appeal -- like music, for instance -- how can I impose an identity or create a message that is compelling yet appropriate?

As you'll conclude from looking at my work, I find a different answer to these questions every time they're asked. As Jayme Odgers, a teacher of mine, once said (in paraphrasing Paul Rand, a designer for whom he worked and an internationally renowned commercial artist): The solution to a problem must come from the problem. This view is in stark contrast to that of designers who have developed personal styles, and who are hired to apply their "look" to a problem -- or others who "borrow" solutions from the latest design journal. My approach to commercial art dictates that the message be heard over the messenger, so I look to the product for clues to the content of my communication about it.

Beyond simply passing on to the reader what is remarkable about a company or product, it's my job to pack the biggest punch I can, to present the thing in its very best light. This is where the artistry in commercial art comes in: enhancing the product without distorting it unduly, restating the obvious in a fresh way, and making the message as compelling and appetizing as it can be. It is in this aspect of my profession that I find the greatest pleasure in being a commercial artist.

Michael Diehl

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