It’s easy to think of design as a fleeting visual imprint on our brains — we see something beautiful and intricate and next thing we know, it is gone. Well, Michelle Obama doesn’t think so. Earlier this summer, FLOTUS delivered a national design award to Paula Scher and then quoted one of the most influential designers today in her own speech. Not too bad, right?

Scher is just one of a long list of many influential designers, but her accolade from The White House draws attention to a growing influence that designers (and their designs) have. Other notable influencers are Stefan Sagmeister ( who has designed album covers for everyone from The Rolling Stones to OK GO — and he’s won Grammys for his work). There’s also David Carson, who is known for his innovative magazine design and extensive work on high profile brands. Another influential designer who is still around? The guy responsible for the “I <3 NY” design: Milton Glaser. He’s also done the bullet logo for DC Comics, the Brooklyn Brewery logo, and he helped found New York Magazine. The last designer to crack the top five of the 50 most influential designers list is Paul Sahre, who is best known for his illustrations in The New York Times, his invention of the typeface Fur, and his book designs for authors like Ernest Hemingway and Chuck Klosterman.

Michelle Obama’s opinion on the most influential designers today is probably the best way to say it:

“So these designers aren’t just making a fleeting, momentary impact on our lives when we happen to glimpse their work. Instead, they’re leaving a lasting impression on our hearts, in our minds, and in the way we see the world. They’re inviting us to push our boundaries, to stretch our imaginations. And they’re showing us that it’s okay to have a little fun, too.”

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