There are many aspects I enjoyed while reading the process books.
Jane A. Dorn’s Process Book:
My first observation is an appreciation for balance between the more gestural thought in her roughing out her ideas in contrast to the clear design prompts and explanations of her notes. This very successfully balances out for the reader what is going on and engages the reader to want to explore her sketches. The roughness seems to imply a freedom to explore where this project may lead her.
One of the things I take away from this book is her building on her drawing skills in combination with her design skills. I think that this is a tactic that I could take advantage of as an illustrator. I am also impressed with her frankness in the process. Like when Dorn describes being “on the math short bus.” This sense of humor engages the reader to see the direction she is going to go in order to compensate her math deficiency.
What Dorn lack’s in math she more than makes up for in design skills. It is exciting that she takes what makes her book initially interesting in the first place and translates that into the finished product. Dorn using that creative balance between the chaos of thought with the simple compliment explanations gives a vitality and visual interest to her work. The only drawback from a distance it becomes visually confusing. Overall, she creates a very engaging product.
April Bliss’s Process Book
Right away when I look at Bliss’s book I am reminded of an old Apple campaign. Bliss’s approach appears more formal than Dorn’s. The use of photography is much more prevalent in Bliss’s book almost allowing for the images to speak for themselves in terms of her development process.
The questionnaires and the feedback devices used I thought were very intelligent, and help Bliss get a rough sense of who her demographic is that she is targeting. This was smart. While our attack style to solve the problem might be slightly different. There is a lot I have learned from observing her process book.
I love her end product. The fun captured in Bliss’s sleeve almost caught me by surprise as her initial work was so formal. It was clever and had an almost Tim Burton quality to it in the aesthetic sense. Definitely engaging, but got across clearly the intended message. I found her process and product effective.
Jamie Turpin’s Process Book:
Turpin’s strong sense of color is prevalent in her initial design of the book. Her visual references are a bit more chaotic than Bliss’s or Dorn’s. However, in Turpin’s layout there is a definitive organizational method in the arrangement that makes visual sense.
When one gets to the schematic section, there is a strong return to more organization. Turpin’s color studies seemed informed and backed up by strong references. She lays them out like selecting swatches. The rigorous testing adds credibility to her end product. She has given me things to ponder when it comes to how I do color studies. Her choices are gauged carefully with other successful products. It is less instinctual than I have worked in the past, but very, very smart.
I was surprised by the use of toned paper in the end product. It works. The toned down saturation is actually more visually appealing than some of the arresting color choices she experimented with. I think it engages the viewer better, by not overloading the color of the visuals. In the end, you are left with an energetic design, that is pleasing to look at, and that cleverly uses hierarchies.
“Amateurs look for inspiration; the rest of us just get up and go to work.” …Chuck Close
I had my students write this quote down, and introduced them to the idea that typical high school excuses look pathetic to what Close overcomes everyday to chase his passion. In this same week I also showed them the evolution of one of Gene Roddenbery’s dreams.
I joked with my students how my Yoda like instructor at Hartford, Murray Tinkleman would wink with eyes of tiger about to eat you and say, “Inspiration is for amateurs.” Is he right? Yes and no, we need inspiration, just not excuses to find it. We as designers should be immersed in inspiration. Ideation is part of the discipline required to be what we are. Actively seeking, researching, adding new visual ideas consistently to our visual vocabulary should be just what we do. Many of the Ideation concepts had the idea of breaking down an idea and seeing how to reapply it. Being uninspired is dangerous. Saying you have a block means you may not be able to put food on the table. So I believe we must take an active role in how we are personally creative.
A great way to harness your ideation abilities is to actively seek out creative people. I love scifi because the field pushes the boundaries of thought combining philosophy with science creatively to envision the future. Gene Roddenberry was definitely vision of a future where humanity had fixed many of its ills. Part of this vision was technological. While we haven’t fixed most of our problems, our future is being enhanced by the vision of Roddenberry. While his ideas inspired such technology as the modern cellphone he also inspired what would become one of my favorite devices…the ipad. The above photo is a device called the PADD ironcially enough, and Apple like the idea so much they tried to create a similar product in the 1980′s called the Bashful.
This product was never released to the mass public, but it later serve as the inspiration for the Newton.
This would be the precursor to the ipad. Apple was inspired though originally by Gene’s Vision. Inspiration comes from finding sources…wells to draw from. Once those wells run dry find new ones. Chuck Close doesn’t make excuses. He works as a quadriplegic and creates enormously fantastic visions despite learning and physical disablities. Chuck is an inspiration. One of my ideations…How can I be more like Chuck.
For many years design for me was stabbing in the dark. The above picture is a clear example of this. This was the underlying drawing of an illustration I did years ago for a Sleepy Hollow illustration. My biggest problem with design was a filter. Now all my work was not this busy. However, I really struggled with understanding just because I could put something in …doesn’t mean I should. I used to love hiding things in my work. I felt it was a fun reward for viewers of my work. Yet this fun came at a terrible price of overloading the viewer with too much information. Everything was a rendered explosion of information that harmed my readability and hiearchies.
I think my trouble lay at my analysis to synthesis stages. Instead of offering the best solution, I offered all the solutions and just made priorties out of that as answer. Not good for a designer, but great for a politician. As a result, I began to recognize my weaknesses and attemtped to find artists, illustrators and designers whom I appreicated for their effeciency. My M.F.A in illustration was as much an exploration on directness for me personally as was for my acutal thesis topic.
When I have heard of flow before, I have usually heard it referenced to sports. When I played football in high school there was a rhythm I could get into as an athlete. There was a focused zone where training became instinct. The sounds of the world quieted to breaths and heartbeats and a whistle was the only semi reprieve to reality.
I also was a musician in high school and in college. When jamming with my friends or a band there was a place I could go mentally that blocked out everything but the sound of the music. I would visualize notes as guiding steps for my voice and guitar.
However, the greatest zone I would get into was from drawing. I love to draw. As an illustrator I could disappear in my drawings for hours. Honestly, I would lose sense of time. Eating and sleeping can become unimportant if I really get into a “flow” moment. It was funny because to get in a zone, I would usually begin playing music that would get louder and louder, but then my wife would interrupt me for a phone call or dinner, and she would joke about how loud the music was. I wouldn’t even notice the music until she got my attention. It was like somebody cranked the dial zero to “11” the second she walked into the room and tapped me on the shoulder. This is because the music’s sound would disappear the further I delved into the world or character I was trying to create. We joke about it often because I am very ADD otherwise.
I think it helps to be in a quiet environment initially free from distraction. That is why my studio doesn’t have a television and when I draw I stay away from the computer. Usually, my reference is already printed. If I am working digitally I make a concerted effort not to go to web as much as possible. My music starts off low, but I have specific playlists that I know that will help me concentrate my focus. These are songs that I have selected either for that specific project or I know have sparked creativity in me before. There is no greater rush than being in the zone…and seeing what can happen. It is like waking from an adventurous dream to see as if by magic you grabbed souvenir in the form of your art.
1. Creative Process
Examine The Problem:
In defining the meaning, I find looking up definitions help solidify my understanding and change my assumptions.
Using a Thesaurus aids me by allowing me to make visual connections and opens possibilities.
Word Trees allow me to play various creative games such as Random Connections if I am stuck with a particular concept.
Picking Hierarchies is crucial as I am designing a focus which leads me to the Papa-Mama-Baby Bear trick. I usually write a sentence and see what my subconscious picks if I am struggling in determining what to focus on.
Actor-Stage-Action is more of a illustration design trick to create visual analogies.
Examining previous solutions is important two fold. First, it can help set you up not to repeat mistakes or coming up with a solution to close to what has been used before. Second it gives you a history of the marketplace.
Determining the Demographic assists with helping to determine style based upon audience.
Image Banks are great visual resources. They allow designers to source their inspirations for concepts. Slush files are just hard copy versions of Image Banks that are tangible reference examples that a designer can hold in their hand.
Reading and Research allows a designer to explore the product or problem needing the solution, its parameters and its tangibles. A good designer is an informed designer.
Movies, Video games, Reading a Book are great ways to exercise the imagination and can sometimes give unpredictable inspirations for problem solving.
Thumbnails sketches are crucial for exploring design possibilities. These are quick snapshots of possible solutions. Scale, design, gesture are all tested in thumbnails.
Value studies are more important than color studies. Our eyes read light and dark before color so if it works well in value it will work well in color.
Color can be unpredictable if not tested. Test your colors!
Our first instincts are not always correct. I tell my students they don’t want to fly in a plane that has never been tested. A fix is not always correct either. This is when efficiency comes to play. Once you have possible fixes to your solution to get the possible answer, you have to test till get the best answer that time allows.
Hand in finish product.
2. Considering your current skill set and recognizing your weaknesses,
My biggest weakness is at times over thinking an idea. My illustration mode doesn’t always play nice with my design mode. So editing can slow me down.
There are many things I can still learn. I’m not familiar with many self printing methods like book making or web design, so would gladly collaborate with others to learn more. In fact, I enjoy being a student of others as I feel there is always room to learn more in anything I do. Some of my greatest design experiences were on collaborative projects such as working for Jane Goodall on a unreleased video game. We had a very strong team of designers, illustrators, and computer animators. I felt our concept really was a combination of the best of all these worlds and we learned so much from one another.
This project has been evolving quite nicely for me. Honestly, I believe I picked a very broad topic, but one I am very passionate about.
Design needs to be valued more, because of its important role in society. My research has led me to understand connections through integration are bolstered by the way people learn. Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences demonstrate that while a piece of information made mean one thing, how people access and process that information is different. This is a great case for integrated learning. The fact that designers could use more science, writing and math skills for the future as according to the Vice President of Apple is another great reason for Integration. Lastly, integrated thought helped bring about the Renaissance.
Rebranding is another solution I see for design. Design markets everything else but itself. There is room for change. If current industry and education trends are bothersome to our profession we can not sit idle as they worsen. As a profession we have to fight for our position of importance. In Florida, high schools that teach web design are doing it through their business programs not their art and design ones. This is because design teachers didn’t fight to teach it. How does this help our industry’s future? We need as a profession to re-establish ourselves, rebrand and take ownership and responsibility of what we do and who we are.
Prior to graduate school I believed that graphic design was logos and typography. Sure I understood that designers created websites, art directed, and designed layouts, but illustrators viewed graphic design with suspicion. In the illustration world there is the idea that illustrators create the content and designers create the cover. Of course, that statement is both demonstrably and offensively false. Silly illustrators, you can have the most wonderful activities planned to do on a cruise ship, but the boat has to float. It really doesn’t hurt if the ship looks good doing it too.
There were stories over shared drinks of how some designer butchered the equivalent of Rockwell’s Four Freedoms. The punch line of these stories usually involved a cropping nightmare that would have been better handled by a blindfolded monkey tossing gardening shears. Of course, it couldn’t be that the designer was trying to salvage what material they had to work with to fit the client’s needs more than the illustrator’s ego.
However, this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of what graphic design actually is. Personally, I started evaluating my strengths and weaknesses as an illustrator. I wanted to be better and noticed that efficiency was an issue in my work. So I started to re-evaluate design as it applied to illustration. How to improve my composition through design was something I explored. Relearning size relationships and understanding the beauty of tension. As I started this exploration by looking at other illustrators, I began to realize the sheer beauty and efficiency that graphic designers approached these same problems.
The question, “What is Art?” was asked in my illustration class in grad school at Hartford. My instructor replied art is communication. I enjoy that answer because it rings true to me. Illustration is storytelling, and before I took this particular class I believed that graphic design was a sentence, a command, or a visual word. Simplicity through efficiency maximizing visual memorability is what design was to me. That definition has changed for me a bit. I now see design as education. It is communication meant to inform. The exit sign is important as the balloon packaging given the context of the moment. Don’t believe me tell the child who doesn’t have balloons at their birthday. Education is not design, but design is education. All visual information for better or worse passes through its hallowed gates either with the care it deserves or the catapult of negligence. I am proud to say that I am a designer, and hope I am worthy of the responsiblity of what being a graphic designer implies.
Design responsibilty can be fun. My students and I were approached with a project to help a local chapter of the Salvation Army. There is a popular game called Cornholing where people throw a bean bag through the hole to score points, and the Salvation Army had come to us with a few beat up boards and a request. There is festival for children called the Manatee Children’s Summit that the Salvation Army runs every year. They asked if we would design something for the festival that would cleanly represent who the Salvation Army is, but still be fun. Knowing there will be lots of media at the event, we wanted to clearly advertise the Salvation Army. My students had a blast designing these and learning that our work can make a difference in our community.
I just used a What? How? Why? method in my classroom yesterday and the day before. Working on composition theory, I was using a series of images to introduce the Rule of Thirds, hierarhcies, and order of focus. The lesson began with a story about my previous career as a journalist and political cartoonist. I taught them the journalist questions that most stories should answer. The Who, What, Why, When, Where, and How are questions every news story should try to answer. These are also questions that illustrators should possibly explore in image creation for storytelling. The story can have implications on the design so I wanted my students thinking stories for their next project. Their next project is a gig poster design in which they are creating marketing materials for their favorite, band, musician, or recording artist. Every musician has a story so the design problem for the students is to convey that story to convince other people to listen to the music.
What I did was have the students write without communicating to one another what they felt the story was in the image that I was flashing on the screen. They had to answer the journalist questions to the images. I did encourage them to be wildly creative. The best image was an animated gif with rainy water and face drifting away. The responses were everything from its a mermaid coming to save you, to a creature coming to get you, or even you are the lone surviors of a plane crash in the water. I compared the answers with my students and shared the unscientific results to great amusement to all of them. This was a great thinking excercise and a great way to get students thinking about design from a story perspective.
Another method I have used as an instructor is the Story Share and Capture method. I tell a story about a huge train bursting through the wall and almost hitting me their instructor right before their very eyes. Like detectives the administrators are going to rush in immediately afterwards and get all their impressions because they each will have their own perspective. I also tell them at lunch all their friends are going to want to know what happend too. Some of the students are going to say they are heroes that warned their friends to dodge the train and the debris from the wall it smashed through. Others in the room are still going to be afraid because a train almost hit their “favorite” teacher lol, and others are going to be angry because the train missed. The point is each person will have a unique view that is based upon a variety of issues such as economic diversity, religious differences, family relationships such as single parent homes can all make a difference on how a person sees the world. After we discuss the value of differences, I read them a story and ask to draw their impression of the story. Over the years the story has varied because I become bored easily. Afterwards they break up into small groups and share their impressions with the images they created. Lastly, we do a class critique to compare and contrast what each student did and to recognize trends and strays from the interpretation of the story.
Challenger by Doug Pedersen (http://www.wired.com/design/2012/09/nasa-space-icon-mashups/)
There is a group of computer scientists who claim to have written a program that understands art as well as most critics. This program correctly correlated and organized 34 different painters by styles. While examining the artists, this program utilized over a 1000 paintings that computers used as evidence to categorize these artists (http://phys.org/news/2012-09-humans-art.html.)
Color me not impressed. Or wait my sensors are not at maximum appreciation capacity? The problem I have with articles like this is that these are non-aesthetically trained people trying to make aesthetic assessments. The real reason I am not impressed is that I teach video game design in the afternoon to my students. All the coding software would have to do is categorize pre- programmed variables and sort through the distinctions in the images. Then it would simply tally up a score and place the artists in the appropiate categories. Recognizing styles can be tricky because of how people think, but this is more a memorization issue. Styles are grouped and indentified because the artists chose to be identified with those styles in the first place. I am not impressed.
The real problem with articles and research like this is the trivialization of design thinking and aesthetics. If you asked a computer to build a challenger that would go to outer space based upon existing imagery…you could very likely get an image like the one above. Why, because computers do not think. They are information retention tools. What is offensive is that designers are thinkers, and while it may not seem a big deal on the surface this is kind of though processes that devalue what we do on a larger scale.
Look at Dan Brown’s mistakes in the Da Vinci’s Code. He is a fun writer, and his novel makes for an action packed read. However, his art criticism accuracy left alot to be desired. The reason being is that he lacks judgment in aesthetics.
The point is designers should not be testing pharmaceutical products on amebeas and scientists should not be building Paul Rand bots. I would pay to see a giant Milton Glazer robot fight King Kong any day. I imagine the movie tag line being,” I love NY.” The script writes itself, but I digress. Scientists are free to explore what they like, but respect the discipline. Designers should explore science too, but respect the discipline. Most importantly designers need to defend their discipline. Scientists defend theirs.