Thoughts and answers that were found, stolen, and learned on the topic of design.
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When we get out of school, we shouldn’t be happy to think that we don’t have to participate in auditing, research, and having dialogues with our clients. This just reduces designers’ control over the whole project. Not being able to see the problem from every angle and having a clear understanding of everything mean designers won’t have a firm ground to stand on to fully unleash their creative potentials.
When non-designers try to work with both designers and clients to bridge the gap between them, they come up with words and concepts that are harder to translate into visual language. There is a solution to this. Designers need to think, read, and write more to become familiar with the literature that non-designers are familiar with and throw the handouts down the drain.
Inspiration is for amateurs–the rest of us just get to work.
I had to present one of my works to a professor. It was a one-on-one session. I briefly described the company and its visions, then went on to the designs. After the presentation, he told me that the branding felt like it was done by an insider of that company. That day, I didn’t exactly know what he meant by that and didn’t bother to ask him because it was the last day of the class and I was eager to get out of there.
Today, I realized what he meant. The class I presented my work was a branding strategies class. There, we learned about branding without doing much designing. Strategies and charts like brand pyramid and positioning maps. I am certain that majority of us overlook those strategy processes when we start branding projects. In reality we all come up with our hand-picked five or six key attributes to start designing right away after doing research for a couple of weeks, but we are not told to focus on the very core idea of the whole process in our design classes.
I am sure most of us had a problem developing a visual style to hit all the key attributes of that brand. “How can I make this brand feel warm and gentle, but loud and experimental at the same time?” If you asked this kind of question to yourself, you should not spend more hours and try to make it work. A brand pyramid is built from bottom-up, but design should start from top to bottom. Focusing on the key attributes to revolve the design around means that the process is starting from the middle of the pyramid and it’s going whoever knows where.
The first thing to nail down is the brand essence. The brand essence is on the very top of the brand pyramid. It’s an idea. It can just be one word, or two, but not usually more than three words. This one idea defines everything. It nullifies the boundaries within the brand, unifying everything to a single idea. Design should be appropriate to the key attributes, but those key attributes ultimately come from the brand essence. By focusing on that singular idea, rather than multiple key attributes, the designs come out more simple and clear because the idea and processes are simple and clear.
By adopting this method, the end product becomes meaningful because the rationale of every design decision respects that one idea. By designing for the brand essence, the brand gets a style that is highly meaningful and appropriate. This makes a branding project look and feel like it was done by an insider with care and heart. The process shouldn’t feel like going through a maze. A simple design comes from a simple idea and it penetrates the communication barriers to deliver the message with impact and clarity.
To be able to think, you have to risk being offensive.
Jordan Peterson is a Canadian clinical psychologist who gives talks on the Internet. In one of his videos, he thinks that people who just go with the crowd are miserable. He encourages his audience to be more disagreeable and get themselves into debates and conflicts with other people because if a person says yes to everything all the time, it means that there is less or no thinking.
I was like that since a long time ago. I was scared that I would get into conflicts with other people and risk exposing my flaws in the public. Even at this very moment that I am writing all these notes on my website for other people to see, I am scared that they will criticize some of my notes and ideas, but this is the first step for me to properly think. This means that I may be going against the crowd time to time with a good chance of confronting conflicts or in worst cases, viewed as failure or idiotic, but Jordan says that all of this is worth it if I can take in all the failtures and become more articulate in few years if I keep this up because being articulate is the most dangerous thing you can possibly be.
Imperialism is bound by colonization. It’s an act to expand an empire. Imperialism is also a system in which a cultural work is viewed dominant and other cultural works are viewed as inferior and marginal. It is also a system of organizing political or social class on the global stage. When the second World War ended, the rising demand for rebuilding global economy led to creating international corporate identities by using objective universal visual language. The countries that were marginalized from the corporate identity world struggled to create when they developed and came into power, because they were never in the position of creating. Instead, they resorted to imitation.
We have to be aware that the system itself is a manifestation of colonization. In foundation design classes, we are taught Eurocentric design principles, such as Swiss typography. This is problematic, because every visual problem comes from different cultural and sociological backgrounds. However, the system teaches us how to solve those problems through the same dominant colonized design methods and ideas. Because we are constantly pushed by the dominant ideals from day one, we lose the opportunity to develop and create our own system and ideals. The result is that every project being executed robotically hindered our pathways to exploration and experimentation needed to provide appropriate solutions for each different design problem. In the end, most of the solutions are unified by the same idea, culture, and system.
When we look back and examine our works, we don’t even think about the design decisions we’ve made after a while; we just accept it and think that they look ideal and good. Our styles, thinking, and seeing have been colonized by the system. In order to break away from the system that governs us, we must be courageous and explore beyond what they have taught us whenever we can.
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.
I believe Jan Tschicold’s belief that every typographic work must deliver a message in the shortest, most efficient manner must transcend to everything we designers do today. Not just about typography and editorial design, but all the design decisions that we make. Designers must know that one of the very purposes of design is being efficient and this is especially true nowadays because of sustainability.
One of my friends came to me for advice about packaging materials for her project. I suggested sustainable materials that would be appropriate for her project, but she argued that the qualities and attributes of those materials wouldn’t aligned with her brand for the packaging. I tried to pursuade her, but I think she ended up using other materials that are less sustainable. I don’t think sustainability should be trumped so easily. Efficiency and sustainability should be given for everything designers do.
Ever since I started designing abstract symbols, I tried to find meaning behind the aesthetics of abstraction and simplicity. Whenever I start a branding project, I would look through books that contained logos designed during the Mid-Century modern movement. I looked up to those aesthetics and tried to imitate them often, and their aesthetics still take part in most of my projects. Today, I came to embrace their philosophy and mentality even more.
In the illuminated manuscripts of the Middle Ages, the vertical line meant heaven and the horizontal line symbolized the world. Human figures were used as grids to communicate ideas of power and law during the Enlightenment period. After the first World War, paintings showed pure lines and colors. When the artists and architects saw the devastated world after the war, they wanted to have a positive and constructive role in society. Seeing nationalism as one of the major factors behind the start of such conflicts, that saw subjectivity as a dangerous form of communication; thus, promoting a rational-objective form of communication that could be universal and pure with the language of form. The need to rebuild the world economy triggered multinational corporations to rise and they utilized the visual language developed by the Modernist to communicate their utopian ideals.
Whatever you do, promise me that every project you make or design, you’ll take the risk of doing something for humanity.
During the early days of our design education, we develop an eye to see details in basic visual elements, such as form and color. These technical abilities are crucial, but there is another skill we develop as designers. From time to time and project to project, we are challenged to come up with creative and striking solutions to problems, so we develop an intuitive skill that identifies and recognizes an interesting idea faster than other people.
As I climbed my school’s curriculum, I realized how fearless and intriguing the ideas in my portfolio have become in comparison to my earlier works. This means that we are capable of generating compelling stories and ideas to clients better than anyone else if the end product is a form of design. Designers need to realize this and try to take control of everything as much as possible for the sake of producing good work.
Building a Great Architecture
Would an architect think a brick is precious? I want to believe that they do, and I think only those who think a brick is precious are able to construct great architecture. These architects are similar to graphic designers in how they see and treat the things around them.
We learn to appreciate small things that are related to our craft. Without being able to appreciate those things, we can’t become great designers. To do something great, I think appreciating the little things helps and not just things that are related to design, but the little things in life itself.
When you make a design, your personality comes through that design. So, if a nice and kind person designs, all the designs come out as nice and kind. If an obsessive and twisted person designs, all the designs come out as flawless and striking. I think it’s good to be a “bad guy” when designing, because you think about various schemes to surprise the audience. But, if a person is nice through and through, the designs look just “nice” and that’s it.
I am not encouraging others to become bad and rude. People should be kind to each other, but designers need to be more ridiculous and twisted when designing. Being nice all the time isn’t always good when it comes to designing.
Every visual creative work is a manifestation of the character of the designer. It is a reflection of his knowledge, his ability, and his mentality.
Josef Muller Brockmann
At Art Center College of Design, there are two major styles that are employed by the students. One is experimental, trendy, and usually type-driven. The other one is classic, simple, and corporate. I belong to the latter and have been practicing this style since the beginning.
Every term, students submit their works to be reviewed by instructors. During these times, I keep my eyes on the floor and set up my works quietly, because I started to feel that my works were inferior to the ones that use experimental and type-driven styles. Was it wrong for me to do what I have been doing? I desperately tried to find the answer for that question.
When I had dinner with a couple of friends one night, I told them about how I felt about my style. At this point, I wanted to stop doing what I have been doing and learn a new style. My friends told me not to do that. They compared my situation to being in a relationship. One of them told me that the corporate style has been my “girlfriend” since the beginning. Because she and I’ve been “going out” for quite awhile, it’s just that I’m not feeling the same excitement I used to feel in the early days of our “relationship.”
If I were to think my style as my girlfriend, would it be okay to just abandon her and switch to someone else? As there are devotion and trust after the flame goes out, I didn’t let her go. What I was lacking was actually purpose and conviction. At first, I started using corporate aesthetic simply because of how it looked. But now, the idea and philosophy behind that aesthetic push me forward and always guide me to make decisions that are right, and not just beautiful. In my case, it comes from the idea that design should be used to promote objective and universal ways of communication to create positive impact on society and contribute to general culture.
If you look at some of my works, you will notice that they are driven by a purpose or idea that ultimately benefits the society. Without this kind of mindset, those designs wouldn’t have happened. It may be important to choose an appropriate style for a particular project, but the intention and meaning behind the design decision is more important. Don’t think about whether it would look beautiful or not. Think first about whether it will be the right thing to do.