8 Design Lessons from the Gilmore Girls


Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life premieres in 11 days! Oy with the poodles already! In honor of this momentous occasion, I have rounded-up some great design lesson takeaways from those incredible Gilmore Girls. And if you stick around to the end of the post, I have a fun announcement. First, let’s see what Lorelai, Rory, Paris, Luke, Lane, Richard, and even Taylor have to say about design.


In honor of the new episodes coming to Netflix, I wanted to do a round-up of some design lesson takeaways from those incredible Gilmore Girls.

Done is better than perfect


PARIS: Our pictures have sucked eggs lately, and so I sent out two photographers to cover the same story. They each came back with about 40 of the crappiest pictures ever to have been committed to film, completely unusable. RORY: It was supposed to be a picture of a football game. PARIS: I know. RORY: Well, was there one with a guy in a helmet holding a football? Because that's really all you need. PARIS: They were predictable and standard. RORY: Guy in helmet holding ball. PARIS: Cover of the Harvard Crimson, after the big game, guy with helmet holding ball. Stanford game, guy in helmet holding ball. I wanted something more, okay, something that really said something about the game. RORY: Like "we forgot to go"?


We all love Paris, but sometimes her perfectionism got in her way...to the point of having blank image spot on the front page of the Yale Daily News. Calling your work done and getting it out to the world is better than stressing over every little detail and never publishing it.


Choosing colors can be so hard


LORELAI: Okay, dude. Check them out. Don't overthink it. What looks good to you?[holds up the paint samples for him and he licks one] Ooh! He licked the dark magenta. LUKE: You know dogs are colorblind. LORELAI: Okay, technicality. What about the baseboards? Baseboards. [he licks again] Ooh! Dark magenta baseboards. Interesting choice. LUKE: I need a beer. [gets up and makes his way to the kitchen] LORELAI: Oh. Oh, get one for me, too, please. [to Paul Anka] How about the ceiling? [the dog licks again and Lorelai gasps] Dark magenta!


Lorelai had a hard time choosing the colors for her house after she and Luke renovated it. She even went so far as to asking her dog, Paul Anka, for help. Color has meaning like most things in design, so the color choices are important depending on the message you want to send. You can check out a post I wrote all about color theory here.


Choose your fonts wisely


PARIS: Why did you use this font? RORY: I was on the crack.


Like colors, fonts have meanings to. If your design is kid related, don’t use a hard to read curly script font. Paris will judge you. You can check out the post I did all about typography here.


Design is all about communicating a message--make sure it is the right one


RORY: No. Now you three listen to me. We agreed that this was going to be the world’s largest pizza. That was the concept. Now I realize it can’t be the world’s largest pizza because that pizza was insane, but it is still going to be large. Very large. Crazy large. PETE: But we – RORY: No buts! That was the concept – get back to the concept! This is not Gangs of New York now with Cameron Diaz. This is Gangs of New York twenty years ago with Meryl Streep as Scorsese originally imagined it. Come back, refocus, remember the goal. Am I making myself clear?


While Rory’s original plan wasn’t going to work out, the pizza guys were getting too far away from her original concept. In design, the message is the original concept. Make sure that the original message is still communicated, no matter how many changes are made to the design.


Design for your target audience


RICHARD: Well, what makes you think you can get a young person to spend good money on something that they could get for free, or at least at a lower cost? PARIS: Because I know one thing about the modern teenager. RICHARD: And what is that? PARIS: That you can get them to buy anything as long as it comes in a leopard print. LOUISE: True. MADELINE: Very true. PARIS: We get them with style. We dress up the kits with sparkles, colors, pictures of bands. Sport themes for the boys, animal pictures for the puppy and unicorn bunch, chess boards for the Bobby Fischer freaks – a style for every taste. Plus, we use neon band-aids, pink or blue gauze for the bandages, anything that seems young or flashy or bright.


Paris definitely knew what her target audience would look for in a locker first aid kit and designers need to have a similar mindset. Know the target audience of the design so you can use elements that will catch their attention or intrigue them.


Only include necessary info


RORY: She’s writing her drummer-seeks-rock-band ad. LANE: And it’s not reading right to me. Could you guys look it over? RORY: Let’s see – "Drummer with strong beat seeks band into the Accelerators, the Adolescents, the Adverts, Agent Orange, the Angelic Upstarts, the Agnostic Front, Ash. . ." You went alphabetically. LANE: Seemed tidy. LORELAI: And a little OCD. RORY: And a little long. LANE: I can’t make cuts. RORY: It’s three pages, single spaced – make cuts. LANE: But this is the cut-down version. I mean, just from the letter A, I excluded AC/DC, the Animals, and A-Ha, footnoted as a guilty pleasure. RORY: If we can’t get through it, no one can.


Lane got a little too wordy when it came to her ad when she was looking for a band to join. Especially when it comes to advertising, keep it short, sweet, and to the point because for the most part people are not going to have much time or spend much time looking at an ad. As a designer you have to grab their attention and give them only the necessary info.


Use scale to make elements stand out


LORELAI: Look at the horse drawn carriage. TAYLOR: My thought was to park it out front with the name of the business painted on the side. It’s very eighteen-hundreds. BABETTE: The horse is taller than the front door. LORELAI: Way taller. LUKE: What are you up to, Taylor? Are you breeding giant horses? TAYLOR: It’s slightly out of proportion. BABETTE: Slightly? That little guy there could walk right under the horse without even ducking. TAYLOR: You’re missing the big picture here, townsfolk. Now, this wonderful business belongs in Stars Hollow – whether Luke rents the space willingly or not.


While Taylor can get a little crazy, though that is why we love him, he teaches an important design lesson here. If you want certain elements of a design to stand out, one way to accomplish that is through scale. Making those elements bigger than the rest makes them stand out. But don’t make them stand out too much or you will just distract everyone with giant horses.


Ultimately, just pursue your calling passionately


RORY: Hello? LANE: I have found my calling. RORY: What are you talking about? LANE: I am talking about my future, my path, my destiny, my thing, my scene, my bag. I'm talking about the number one item on my cosmic to-do list. RORY: Which is? LANE: I'm gonna be a drummer! RORY: You're kidding. LANE: I went into that new music store today -- I don't know why I went in, I just had to. Something told me, ‘Lane Kim, there's something in there that you need to see’, and there it was, and it was red and shiny and I'm so excited I can't breathe. RORY: That's amazing. LANE: I know. RORY: But how are you gonna do this? LANE: I don't know. RORY: How are you gonna buy a drum set? LANE: I don't know. RORY: And even if you do buy a drum set, where are you gonna play it? LANE: I don't know, I don't know any of this. But I will figure something out, because I am Keith Moon, I am Neil Peart, I am Rick Allen, with and without the arm, because I am rock 'n' roll, baby! I'll call you later.


Hope you enjoyed those lovely design lessons from the Gilmore Girls, but now for my big announcement... *drum roll*

Gilmore Girls Week Sale!

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I love Gilmore Girls and am super excited for the new episodes. So next Monday, I will be having a Gilmore Girls Week sale in my Etsy shop leading up to the premiere of the new episodes. Each day starting on Monday Nov 21, 1 (or 2) of my Gilmore Girls printables will go on sale (no coupon code required). The schedule for the sale is:

  • Monday: NEW “Copper Boom” printable
  • Tuesday: The Boyfriends Illustration printables (Lorelai & Luke, Jess & Rory)
  • Wednesday: Lorelai & Rory Illustration printable
  • Thursday: “Oy with the poodles already” and “Buttface Miscreant” quote printables
  • Friday: New Episodes Premiere & Black Friday/Small Business Saturday/Cyber Monday Sale begins! (Copper Boom!)

So get excited and follow me on Twitter and Instagram so you can keep up with what’s on sale each day.