Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What is Graphic Design?

I spent a few hours the other night trying to figure out what my next blog would be about. I read other blogs, I pulled about six different books off my shelf, I took my dog for a walk, I even asked my dog what I should write about (yes I talk to my dog - she's a great listener).

Finally, I came across a competition, which happened a couple of years ago, that involved finishing the sentence "design is…". Some came up with very creative, humorous answers, and others were more technical, but all of them were unique definitions and unique designs. You can check out the submissions here: Veerle's Blog & Flickr

So, What is graphic design?

There are many different ways to answer this one, and I'll share a few with you in a moment. My answer: Graphic design is the visual communication of a message, created by the use of imagery, typography, colors and most importantly - strategy. Here's what a few others had to say:

"Graphic design is a popular art and a practical art, an applied art and an ancient art. Simply put, it is the art of visualizing ideas.” - Jessica Helfand, AIGA

"Graphic design is a creative process – most often involving a client and a designer and usually completed in conjunction with producers of form (i.e., printers, programmers, signmakers, etc.) – undertaken in order to convey a specific message (or messages) to a targeted audience." - Wikipedia 

"Since prehistoric times, people have searched for ways to give visual form to ideas and concepts, to store knowledge in graphic form, and to bring order and clarity to information. Over the course of history, these needs have been filled by various people including scribes, printers, and artists. It was not until 1922, when the outstanding book designer William Addison Dwiggins coined the term ‘graphic design’ to describe his activities as an individual who brought structural order and visual form to printed communications, that an emerging profession received an appropriate name." - Philip Meggs, History of Graphic Design

Graphic design is the most universal of all the arts. It is all around us, explaining, decorating, identifying; imposing meaning on the world... Without graphic design's process and ingredients - structure and organization, word and image, differentiation - we would have to receive all our information by the spoken word. We would enter another Dark Ages, a thousand years of ignorance, prejudice, superstition and very short lifespans. - Quentin Newark, What is Graphic Design?

In short, that's what graphic design is. But what is design?

Design is everything. Design is everywhere. The web page you're looking at right now, that's design, and the one you'll click to next, that's design too. Twitter, Facebook, the book next to your bed, that bag of chips you had with lunch yesterday (admit it), every single product and product packaging you have ever laid your eyes on, that's design. The clothes you're wearing, the chair you're sitting in and even the building you're inside, all of it has been designed by someone. Everywhere you look, everything you touch, design has had an impact. Massimo Vignelli says it well:

"design is a profession that takes care of everything around us (…) Everything that is around us, this table, this chair, this lamp, this pen has been designed. All of these things, everything has been designed by somebody (…) So what is design all about? It is to decrease the amount of vulgarity in the world. It is to make the world a better place to be. But everything is relative. There is a certain amount of latitude between what is good, what is elegant, and what is refined that can take many, many manifestations. It doesn’t have to be one style. We’re not talking about style, we’re talking about quality. Style is tangible, quality is intangible. I am talking about giving to everything that surrounds us a level of quality." - Massimo Vignelli, Vignelli Associates, via The Design Observer 

To me, design is communication. It's visual thinking, It's strategy. It's beauty. Design is change. It's challenge and growth. Design is what you make of it. It's art. It's artful. It's getting to the point. Design is representation. It's clarity. It's telling a story. It's emotion. Design is our future. Design is my voice.

I leave you with two things today. My own poster on "Design is.." and the question: What is design to you?

I also posted this blog at Stokefire

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Creative Fuel

Kids have the biggest imaginations. I can remember when I was a kid, I would make up stories, draw pictures of things that weren't really there, and imagine other worlds that don't really exist. As an adult, have you ever noticed that sometimes you don't have quite the same creative spark you had as a kid?

So, how do you fuel your creative world?

About a year ago, maybe more, I stumbled across a few books that help creatives find their muse. The two books I've been using (and will be referencing for this post) are: "Zing!" by Sam Harrison, and "Caffeine for the Creative Team" by Stefan Muman & Wendy Lee Oldfield. Both give exciting, interactive tips and exercises that help fuel the creative mind. After going through both of these books, I've pulled together some of my favorites; I even have some examples to show you. 

Get off your damn computer.

The biggest mistake I make when looking for an idea, is I keep Googling. Get your research and move on. Explore beyond the internet and actually get out there. Take a walk, sit in a cafe. People-watch, as some would say (just no stalking, please). Take a sketch book with you or a small pad of paper, sit somewhere and sketch or write out words. How are you feeling that day? What are some of the sounds you're hearing? What's the weather like? What types of things are around you? What colors do you see? Did you happen to overhear some weird statement while in line at Starbucks? What are the people around you like? What are they doing? What might you say to them if you wanted to start a conversation? Exploring can open your eyes to new things and in turn spark an idea. 

Do Something Different.

If you're a designer, like me, try reading a poetry blog instead of a design blog. Read something you wouldn't normally read, such as a local newspaper (print, not digital), a book about anthropology or ethnography (as Stokefire's very own Lena Blackstock would say). Eat somewhere new or cook a new meal, make a random turn on your way home or lay in the grass and stare at the clouds (you can find faces in them, I swear). Ride your bike instead of walking, keep a journal. Doing something different gives you a new experience, and new experiences can lead to new solutions.

Get others to help you. 
If you're stuck, have someone else help you. Talk about your ideas, collaborating with someone else can turn your mediocre idea into a great one. Great work rarely comes from just one person, it comes from a group of people. Maybe that idea you had 3 months ago for a different project might just work for this new one, bouncing ideas off of someone else can help that come out. 

Do a group exercise. 

The very first exercise in "Caffeine for the Creative Team" by Stefan Muman & Wendy Lee Oldfield goes a little something like this: "…each of you is going to use a pencil to create a monster. The only restrictions are: [1] once you put the pencil down to start drawing, you can't lift it back up - scribble, scratch, shade, do whatever you want, but you can't remove the pencil from the paper until you're done - and [2] you and a partner are working together to create one monster, so you must both start at the same time on the same piece of paper working on the same monster. You can talk it out as you go, or stay silent and read from one another's direction what you can add to the monster. Make sure you have enough space around a table to move, get different perspectives and see what's been created." 

This very first exercise caught my eye as something fun to do this morning, so I did. My Creative Director (Damir Brajdic) and I gave it a go. 

This little guy (nicknamed Kamir) only took a few minutes to do, he's lopsided, partly hairy and partly scaly, but he has a lot of character and it helped open up our minds for the day. Another book you can reference is "Caffeine for the Creative Mind" also by Stefan Muman & Wendy Lee Oldfield, I have this book at home, so maybe next time I can show off another example.  

There are so many ways to find inspiration and spark your creativity and these are only a handful. So tell me…

How do you fuel your creative world?

I also posted this blog for Stokefire Branding and Advertising.