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The similarities between Knowledge Management and graphic design

1 February 2021
Michal Blumenfeld Sagi
color palette and notebook

The connection between design and Knowledge Management


Paula Scher is considered one of the most influential and prominent graphic designers and illustrators. She is known for her love of the written word, numbers and letters and her vast, considerable influence on the field of typographic design.

'Abstract-The Art of Design' is a documentary reviewing the lives, approaches and conduct of designers in different fields. I watched the episode dedicated to Paula. Besides great inspiration from her field, I also found some similarities, principles and insights related top the world of Knowledge Management.


Noticeable character traits


Being a people person- as the documentary reveals, and as her colleagues attest, Paula Scher loves people. She is accessible and seeks interaction and ongoing relationships with her crew, whom she defines as a group of uniquely gifted individuals. She advises and recommends pleasantly and respectfully and seems to empower her workers and customers.

I find that a knowledge manager and consultant's starting point is people. They are required to generate a connection with colleagues and customers, be accessible, retain open and pleasant communication, generate trust so to share knowledge and empower knowledge workers on each project so they can proceed independently.


Sensitivity and attention to detail- Paula Scher is part of New York's fabric of life. She is updated and involved in her environment. She walks the streets, rides taxis, and is exposed to local culture, people, and shops. She is essentially gathering information and seeking inspiration for her designs.

The Knowledge consultant and knowledge worker, likewise, are involved in the organization in which they operate. They stay up to date, understand the nature and identity of the people and the organization as a whole and accordingly formulates solutions, tools and processes.


Sources of inspiration- the documentary opens with Paula describing a taxi ride, a stroll in New York City or the moments in which she puts on her make up as sources of inspiration for solutions or a design concept.

Personally, I too am most inspired when out in the open, walking or running. Professionally, I think there's much to gain from holding some meetings outside of the confinements of the office.


Playfulness, State of Play- Paula states that you cannot approach a design project if your attitude isn't playful. I connect to that statement deeply and interpret it as a recommendation to arrive at the Knowledge Management project in a positive and playful state yet focused in order to lay the foundation for optimal communication and knowledge sharing. I think that's how I recognized of the importance of gamification and introducing it to the organizational field and professional life.


A love for the written word: to infuse data and information with meaning, transforming them into knowledge- Paula Scher travels New York City, passionately observing letters, numbers and words displayed on billboards, traffic signs, addresses, posters and ads. She observes their clear, misleading or imperfect display. For example, she says that a heavy, thick font may actually generate a sense of urgency. Some fonts are perceived as classy or conservative. Before one even reads, they are experiencing the tone and meaning of the words by association.


I find that a knowledge manager, too, seeks organizational personnel, documents, tables, portals and websites as anchors in which information and knowledge are stored. They deal with the challenge of charting material, considering whether and how to reorganize, edit, complete and present them in a manner that grants them desired meaning and makes them, ultimately, usable organizational knowledge.


Developing a niche or unique language: Scher's love of typography is noticeable throughout the documentary. That said, she needs to adapt her designs to customers demands. She discusses a project in which she was required to manually illustrate typographic maps of states and cities from across the globe on a large scale. This project later became an impressive exhibit. She defines the project as her need to connect to creative materials, data and information and present them visually, thus granting them meaning. This is a project she loves, is personally connected to and even obsessed with.

In the vastly varied world of Knowledge Management, dealing with data and information is essential. They become meaningful and are converted into knowledge when they are organized correctly, written clearly and displayed optimally. I think that over time, any worker, manager and consultant in the field of Knowledge Management finds their niche or area in which they feel most comfortable or which they enjoy. They then become experts on the subject.


Flexible thought process and understanding the situation- Paula says she approaches a project from an intuitive, strategic perspective. Strategically, she asks questions, listens to her clients, gathers information and understands the needs and expectations. The intuitive perspective allows her to understand what the client really wants, whether it is a client that will grant her liberty with the design or a serious, conservative client that doesn't really care for design and enable her to freely engage in her true love: typographic design.

Similarly, we in the field of Knowledge Management act strategically with goals, tools and methodologies and always must accurately define the customer, the work environment and the nature of the people who will eventually use the product of this project.


At the end of the movie, Paula draws a typical graph with a client, presenting the final product. She says that the client would like her to promise that this design and branding will work. This is something you can never promise, as it depends on users and conditions. This point brings me back to the beginning of the movie, in which she says that despite wanting her designs to suit the everchanging zeitgeist, she still finds herself returning to older projects and altering and improving them to fit the current fashion. She also argues that design is not meant to change, only improve presentation and representation.


In conclusion, a knowledge manager, like a designer, must approach projects with an open mind and adapt themselves to the workers and organization in which they operate. however, they must remember that they are equipped with knowledge, tools and an objective perspective which is very valuable to the project and the organization.


Abstract – The Art of Design – Paula Scher

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