Dave Brubeck applied to Design

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One of my jazz heroes is Dave Brubeck because of how he challenges the typical format of music, but does so without completely throwing western civilization out the window.  Dave Brubeck knows that the key to any good design (or anything creative) is pattern with variation.  There’s a fine line between having good discipline and getting attention.

A good example of Dave Brubeck’s masterful creativity is in his song “Unsquare Dance”.  Most songs have about 3 or 4 beats per measure.  In this song, Dave uses 7. The song is in 7/8 for all my music theory junkies out there.  It is incredibly hard to play with an odd number of beats like this, but Dave “phrases” his song in such a way that it sounds almost normal.  This work is just different enough to grab your attention, but not so outlandish that you have to think about it too hard.

Make your work stand out, but not in a way that detracts from the message you’re trying to send.


  1. Bryson Edmonds
    on 23.11.2013
    at 5:41 PM

    You make a great point here John. I am taking design this semester is one of the things that is stressed subtle variation. When you make things so different and odd sometimes you cause people to miss the message. Being subtle allows people to receive the message in a more interesting way.

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