What’s the most important thing I learned about design?
Keep things simple and consistent. Each element that you add to a piece should have a function, whether it’s helping to establish a hierarchy or create contrast; never add something in “just because.” Also there’s that one quote: good design is obvious, great design is transparent–follow that. I think this semester I learned to think of design as truly a means of communication. It’s our job as designers to present an idea or a message in a clear, interesting, and fun way, so it’s really important to think of who will be seeing or interacting with your work. The more decorative/unnecessary elements you add in, the more muddied that message becomes.
What’s the most important thing I learned about typography?
That each typeface has a different voice. What might be perfect for one project, could be a disaster for another. (*Although I’m still hoping that one day we’ll live in a world in which Caecilia is an acceptable choice for everything.) Beyond that, this class was like drinking the typographic kool-aid. Before, I had little-to-no knowledge of all of the little idiosyncrasies of type, but now bad kerning can literally stop me in my tracks. Now, there are so many little things that I need to pay attention to: is the leading okay between these lines? should that title be tracked out more? is that supposed to be an en-dash or an em-dash? All of these things can really make or break a design.
What’s the most important thing I learned about myself?
I need to try and not compare myself to others. Every one has their own strengths and weaknesses, and it’s easy to get stuck in a rut and just feel overwhelmed and intimidated. I think this class has really helped me to start discovering my voice and personality as a designer, and I think part of that is learning to feel proud of my work. Also, time management is a struggle–reigning queen of procrastination right here.
Now that you’ve been through it, what three pieces of advice would you give yourself if you were just starting to take this course for the first time?
1. Find a routine that works, and stick to it. I’ve finally discovered that for me, it involves locking myself in my room, a large coffee, an on-point Pixies Pandora station. Find a setting that helps you get in that creative mindset, find your groove, and your work will be easier and more fun to do. Also, don’t forget to take breaks. They really do help clear your mind, and sometimes it helps to leave a project and come back to it with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective.
2. Don’t be afraid. Take chances and try different things, and don’t be afraid of failure. Sure, maybe that cool (or so you thought) element totally does not work with your project, but now you know. And now you’ll know for future projects. Even with deadlines, don’t be afraid of them. They’re not the end of the world, you always have a chance to revise and improve your work. For every bad critique you get, it’s a lesson learned that’s only going to make your future work more awesome.
3. Don’t forget to have fun. Between this class and all your other ones, you’re going to have a lot of work. Sometimes you’ll feel buried under all that work. Work hard when you need to, but take time to enjoy yourself. You get to create beautiful, amazing things, have fun doing it! Don’t get too bogged down in technicalities or tiny details, and try not to stress yourself out too much. Do you really want to be worried and miserable every time you go to open InDesign? I don’t think so. Also, surround yourself with creativity and positivity. Learn from your professor and your classmates. It’ll open your eyes and give you new perspectives, which will help you become the great designer you want to be.