Gravity

In our own physical world, we see the results of what gravity can do. We feel the affects of it. If we are to believe Newton’s assessment that it’s a simple force of attraction of masses or Einstein’s model of a warping of spacetime, its still one of the greatest mysteries of science. We can measure it, quantify it, yet we still don’t know what it truly is.

Designers often are asked about the nature of their creativity. We should think of our creativity the same as we accept gravity. We can demonstrate it and analyze it, but we don’t know what it truly is. We should accept that its a force of attraction–we can utilize our creativity to attract our target audience to interface with our creations. We can also understand that our creativity is a warping of spacetime–our creations can take control of our target audience’s reactions and those reactions control our creations.

There are many mysteries within our physical world. Our creativity is the same. Undefined and yet we feel the strength of it every day of our lives. We are attracted to great design and its because of that attraction that it interacts with us and we interact with it. Next time you enjoy great design, think of the mystery of its origins.

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Similarities

We often think of newness as something that is created from nowhere–ex nihilo. When we hear about what’s the next biggest trend or product or service, we are led to believe it has to be something never thought up before and we are sadly disappointed that the newness of things is not that big of a deal. We have to understand that when thinking of new ideas, products, or services, instead of looking for differences, try looking at similarities.

Its the similarities that create the relationship that works for us as humans and consumers of new products or services. Designers use the term design semantics. An object has to say something about itself; say something about its larger context; and about the user who interacts with it.

Design semantics is communication through displays of information; graphic elements; shape and texture; and indications of internal state (e.g. battery life left, etc…). In short, a design has to convey what it does. For example, a car has to look like it functions as a car. With typography, the letters have to be readable as letters.

As designers, we have to operate under the premise that people are stupid and consider that when designing each aspect of your work. Don’t make people think too hard. If it takes more energy to interpret your design, then your user will go elsewhere.

Similarities lead to better design semantics and a better experience.

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Caterpillars

Just when the caterpillar thought the world was ending, he turned into a butterfly.

Think of your initial design concepts as caterpillars–rather clumsy, slow, vulnerable to a quick death, etc… But, if you let it continue to thrive with evolving iterations determined by your own somatic changes as well as outside feedback, this caterpillar of a design concept will incubate into a full-fledged viable design solution.

No idea is viable from its initial conception. It has to become viable through feedback from the real world. Designers should never design in a vacuum. Being part of a group to get feedback helps an idea become something beautiful.

Let the design process happen and let the world benefit from your butterflies.

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Failure

All the greatest successes that we can tally, either of or own doing or of those that are famous (e.g. the iPhone), are not because of constant success, but of consistent failures.

We all want to be perfect. But perfection comes with strings of heartbreaks and disappointments. These are what we call failures. And, failure is not a bad thing that the word connotes. It’s the interesting thing that comes between those failures that counts toward success. It’s the things we learn from failure to failure. It seems the universe keeps a running tally of what we learn between failures that points us in the right direction towards successes. But, we have to be open to those failures. And, failure is good and what we learn from failures counts towards success–a much better way to look at our lives and our accomplishments.

In the design world, there is a reason why a concept works and why a concept doesn’t work. Success and failure are the same. Don’t confuse the lessons learned. Failure is just our sub-conscious pointing us in the right direction. So don’t get discouraged and don’t dwell. Keep working towards success.

Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.

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You Get What You Always Got

 

When having to deal with corporate branding, I’m constantly frustrated by the incredible amount of money spent on graphic identity that seems to plagiarise, er… borrow, from other organizations’ details. So-called big agencies tout their incredible attention to the so-called buzzwords of the day, surveys, trends, etc… blah, blah, blah. You can tout all that stuff, but, ultimately, the end product has to blow us away. Unfortunately, the majority of what I see these days is the same old thing. I can’t sigh too many times.

We are in the days of Brutalism in graphic design. Brutalist architecture is a style of architecture which flourished from the 1950s to the mid 1970s, spawned from the modernist architectural movement. Brutalist buildings usually are formed with striking repetitive angular geometries. A building may achieve its Brutalist quality through a rough, blocky appearance, and the expression of its structural materials, forms, and (in some cases) services on its exterior. Graphic design is still going through its Brutalism phase and I’m, frankly, very tired of it. This whole concept of brutal simplicity has gone on way too long. And, corporate entities are, unfortunately, all looking the same.

My last post was about Discovery and the journey we must take to change design. These days of design are begging us to push out of this brutalist movement. Let’s push the boundaries like David Carson did in the ’90s.

Designers… Please remember, “If you do what you always did, you will get what you always got.” Cue the sad trombone sound.

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Discovery

Seeing is a huge part of being a designer. The sense of sight allows us to create an organization’s look, identity, and experiences. The work involved to getting a successful finished piece goes far beyond a designer’s sense of sight. Great design involves so much more. Discovery is ultimately what gets designers to their promised land. We need those adventures to embark and we have to be willing to undergo that journey.

Some designers never leave the security of their own little world and thus create the same things over and over again. They may be content with that, but we have a greater responsibility to the design world. We have to keep pushing and discovering new undiscovered worlds of thought and experience. We have to embark on our own hero’s journey. Only then will we run into the conflicts with others, within, and our world. These conflicts will leave us changed forever–changing how we see our own world. And, ultimately, changing design.

Discovery consists of seeing what everybody has seen and thinking what nobody has thought. When we get restless and bored with our design is when we need to go discover new worlds of design.

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Wait… Don’t Wait

We often hear the phrase, “…good things come to those who wait…”. This is great advice for those who have issues with being impulsive. As designers, for the most part, we don’t have that luxury–We are valued based on our ability to get things done.

I see it way too many times, especially in academia. Design students have a tendency to procrastinate and let a deadline guide their design. There’s no glory in waiting to the last minute to put a presentation together. Although, this seems to be the status quo even in the professional world–our lives would best be served to have project management skills that would create less stress for everyone involved.

Designers, both academic and professional, please consider adding project management as part of your repertoire. In this day and age of increasing speed from concept to production, our tools can only take us so far. Our design skills are what differentiate ourselves from our competition (and there are plenty out there). So, utilizing the right skills and the right tools at the right time is paramount to a designer’s success.

Good things come to people who wait, but better things come to those who go out and get them. Design waits for nobody.

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