See inside the sketchbooks of famous graphic designers and illustrators

Permission to Fail includes the sketchbooks of Milton Glaser, Debbie Millman, Gary Baseman, Thirst and many more.


It’s not the phrase artists expect to hear but Permission to Fail may be just what they need to spark the creative process.

This is the view of the School of Design Gallery at Mount Ida College in Massachussets, which is hosting a wide-ranging show of the sketchbooks of more than 30 well-known graphic designers, illustrators and photographers.

Image: courtesy of Rick Valicenti

More than 250 prints of rough sketches, thumbnail drawings, and production notes, as well as the resulting finished pieces are on display until the end of January.

Image: courtesy of Eric Hunn


Participating designers, photographers and artists include Gary Baseman, Donovan Beery, Pep Carrió, John Cuneo, Chaz Maviyane Davies, Marc English, Ed Fella, Jim Fitts, Nathan Fox, Milton Glaser, Rodney Greenblat, Brad Holland, Eric Hunn, Mirko Ilic, Jeff Johnson, Lou Jones, John Langdon, Ross MacDonald, Jeffrey Marshall, Chaz Maviyane-Davies, Bill Mayer, John McHugh, Debbie Millman, Shogo Ota (Tireman), Alison Poor-Donahue, Jeff Scher, Ross Storey, Scott Thomas, Rick Valicenti (Thirst) and Cary Wolinski.

Image: Copyright Bill Mayer. Courtesy of Bill Mayer.

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“Great graphic design, illustration, or photography doesn’t spring fully formed from the mind of the artist,” said Jim Fitts, co-curator of the show and professor of graphic design. "Most artists begin by creating a multitude of small thumbnail sketches usually in notebooks, sketchbooks, or journals. Today’s artists want to log on, design and save.  They need to take the time to fail - to discover -  to create."

Image: courtesy of Brad Holland


Guest speakers at the opening reception were were John McHugh, design director of Arnold Worldwide and Bob Domenz, founder and CEO of Avenue in Chicago.

Image: courtesy of Cary Wolinksy


McHugh and Domenz lectured about the importance of sketching out your ideas prior to beginning any creative project at the reception.

Image: courtesy of John Cuneo

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Permission to Fail: Sketchbooks of Graphic Designers, Illustrators, and Photographers is at The School of Design Gallery at Mount Ida College, in Newton, Massachusetts.

Image: courtesy of Donovan Beery


There's also a Facebook page for the exhibition.

Image: copyright Milton Glaser. Courtesy of Milton Glaser Inc.