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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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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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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Language

Design first and foremost is communication. It’s a language that is easy to learn but infinitely difficult in its execution (Note: just ask anyone who has taken my design courses at UCLAx). As a form of communication it differs immensely from our spoken language. Not only from its obvious use of the senses engaged, but also in its inherent structure.

Vocal languages commonly only stress one side of an interaction. For example, “A stone is hard” describes its properties. It doesn’t convey anything more than a simple one-sided tidbit of information. The structure is very simple–remember your grammar and you’ll understand.

Design is all about a visual language that describes not only a component’s properties but how other things interact with each component in the composition. Each component itself conveys its own set of properties as well as its visual relation to other things around it–the composition also conveys another level of meaning. If done with careful consideration for Composition, Components, and Concept, the visual language of design can communicate and spur more levels of communication long after its initial contact by the viewer. Design can speak to the soul.

So, when you see anything created by humanity, listen to what it conveys. You’d be surprised with the conversation.

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Courage

Having taught Design for over 11 years, I’ve seen students come and go through the academic design world. A common denominator amongst the students is their underestimation of the complexities of being a designer. Many call themselves a designer because they have access to software and equipment. Others call themselves designers because they’ve taken an art class or they’ve been told they’re talented. Whatever the reasons for being a designer, the discipline of design requires much more than software, hardware, classes, or talent. One of those is Courage.

Courage is defined as having the ability to do something that frightens oneself or having strength in the face of pain or grief. Describing fear in the same breath as design is strange. But, consider our comfort zones that we have to expand in order to succeed in this field that has no right or wrong path and whose target is constantly moving or being redefined. Design is a wicked problem and fear is a natural feeling in all aspects of design.

Courage is what’s needed to overcome those fears. This is one of the deciding factors that will dictate whether a student will make it in the world of design outside of academia. Courage requires a certain humility–an acknowledgement that we aren’t the center of the universe and that we’re bringing to life someone else’s vision. I’ve had students have so much of an idealistic point of view that they aren’t able to push beyond their own egotistical styling. They believe their own hype and when tasked to create something outside of their comfort zone, they crumble. They weren’t able to overcome fear nor garner the strength.

In the words of the great Walt Disney, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.”

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Fortune Cookie

If you’ve ever had Chinese-American food, no doubt you’ve come across the iconic fortune cookie. When broken open you come across a printed strip of paper that states a wonderful message of good will–your fortune. It makes us feel good for a moment in time and we either keep it or toss out that strip of paper. It’s also true that the message stays or is thrown away from our psyche.

Our human brain works in ways similar to our reaction to a fortune cookie’s message. The message creates a thought in our heads that could make a neural connection if we want it to. If that neural connection happens, it becomes an intention. If you believe the cookie’s message, your intentions will make it happen. After all, the body follows the brain. For example, if your brain says the body is hungry, the brain will direct the body to find something to eat. If your brain believes, your body will follow. It’s a learning response–response, stimulus, reinforced behavior. I will elaborate more on learning in a future post.

Design is like a fortune cookie. It carries a message that we hope will connect with its viewer. The struggles are there in hopes that it will leave a neural connection that a viewer will hopefully create an action (call, connect, visit, purchase, inspire, etc…). Beginning designers tend to be more ego driven and not thinking of the so-called fortune cookie effect. Remember that ego never inspired anyone.

When designing, think of how wonderful the experience is from the fortune cookie. And, just maybe, you will leave a lifelong connection with your message.

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