Some fundamental lessons of design
Are you a designer? From copy inspired by the AIGA
Do you like to solve problems?
Do you see the world differently?
Do you refuse to yield to those who say it can't be done?
Do you get frustrated at incompetence?
Do you usually procrastinate? But still get things done?
Do you genuinely like people?
Do you embrace challenges ?
Are you a visionary?
Are you frustrated by bureaucratic barriers?
Are you a participant, not a bystander?
Do you love to travel to new places?
Do you like puzzles and mind games?
Do you generally enjoy life?
Do you see problems as opportunities?
Do you live for the Eureka, I've got it moment?
Do you strive for personal growth?
Do you like to form your own opinions?
Do you think progress is good?
Do you pay close attention to detail?
If so, then you just might have what it takes.
Are you eccentric?
If at least 10 of the characteristics below, ranked from most important
down to least important, describe you, you are probably an eccentric:
3. Extremely curious
4. Idealistic, altruistic
5. Happily hobby-obsessed
6. Aware of your differences as a child
8. Opinionated, outspoken
9. Noncompetitive, inner-directed
10. Unusual lifestyle and eating habits
11. Content to be alone
12. Mischievous sense of humor
14. Oldest or only child
15. Bad speller
Where the most USA eccentrics live
A few famous eccentrics
Test your common sense
By Marilyn vos Savant, Parade magazine
Take this test to learn how much 'common sense' you have. You may use only the information that appears in the question, and you must select one of the two choices given. Click answer for Marilyn's answer and explanation.
You are about to cross a busy intersection as you walk home, but the walk light is out of order. What should you do?
Cross with caution or Don't cross
Tuna is your favorite food, and you love all varieties equally. Today, you find the fancy grade on sale at half-price; now it costs only a little bit more than the unfancy grade. You're always short of cash. What should you do?
Buy the fancy kind or Buy the unfancy kind
You should get a haircut before you go on a job interview tomorrow, but you don't have enough money. What should you do?
Go to the interview or Reschedule the interview
Your favorite shoes are wearing out. They can be repaired as good as new for $50. A new pair costs $100. What should you do?
Repair the shoes or Buy a new pair
You're looking for an apartment and find two that you can afford. One has a view of a park. The other has a view of a flashing neon sign. You love flashing neon signs. Which apartment should you rent?
The one with the park view or The one with the view of the flashing neon sign
Common sense is fundamental to happiness and important for success. According to Marilyn vos Savant, the term means good judgment that arises from no particular source of learning and is present in varying degrees from person to person, regardless of his/her intelligence. Consider how often we've heard, "He's smart, but he has no common sense". People are capable of all kinds of good thinking, but some just don't see what's right in front of their noses. Many different problems exist. Some people spend too much time thinking and too little time observing the real world. Life is not hypothetical. Other people give too much credibility to their feelings, not noticing that emotions are a poor measure of reality. Still others are constantly critical; they always look for a way to disagree. What they all have in common is neglecting to focus on the obvious.
Common sense is not a quality that "you either have or you don't." It can be developed, most easily when you're young and your parents and mentors can help. Young people learn lots of things from their peers, but common sense is usually not among them. When you're an adult, no one else can impose common sense on you; you must decide to develop it yourself. But of you realize that you don't have as much as you would like, take heart. That realization alone will help you begin to acquire common sense. Like learning to love, all you need is the desire.
How to develop common sense
Read the front page of a newspaper every day, including the stories that don't interest you.
Add more nonfiction books to your shopping cart, such as the biographies of famous explorers or inventors who had to handle myriad situations.
Avoid the silliest sitcoms and reality shows (which should be called Unreality Shows) on television in favor of more documentaries - including those about serious people doing productive work.
Take charge of practical planning for projects such as social gatherings, weekend visitors, and family vacations. Handle all details personally.
Participate in conversations by listening and asking questions. Tap into other people's knowledge and common sense foundations.
Traits of great designers
The items listed below are some of the qualities and skills necessary to be a successful Graphic Designer. Use this list as a benchmark to conduct your own academic and career choice evaluation.
innate sense of design
high sense of aesthetics
fluent flexible ideas
reason, logic, practicality
skeptical, curious, exploratory
adaptable, flexible, pliable to situations, problems, & surprises
confident speaking skills
persuasive convincing logic
use of proper terminology
proper use of materials
neat clean work
thorough attention to detail
accurate precise rendering
high level of initiative
willing to work long hours
accept criticism well
like to have fun
sense of humor
separate self from work
tolerant of others
Habits of highly creative people
By Amy Morin
Creative people seek answers
Highly creative people are curious by nature. They don't simply accept things for what they appear. They want to know how things work or why things happen. They seek answers to satisfy their curiosity and work hard really trying to understand a topic until they're confident they get it.
Creative people are spontaneous and flexible
Highly creative people often plan ahead, but they aren't afraid to change their plans. They may see something that catches their eye and they act on it while they're excited. They aren't afraid to start a new project when something has sparked an idea. If they're working on a plan and it looks like they need to change that plan, they're willing to embrace change. When creativity strikes, they can go with the flow. They understand that their original plan may not work out the way they want so they're willing to adapt and change as needed to create the best outcome possible.
Creative people are rebellious
Creative people color outside the lines. They don't feel the need to follow all the rules. In fact, they often feel confined and constrained by the rules. Therefore, they can often see the value and beauty of breaking the rules to create the best outcome. Their willingness to break the rules is often calculated however. They aren't simply throwing caution to the wind or setting out to hurt people. Instead, they look at the potential consequences and then try to find ways to justify their behavior if they plan to break the rules.
Creative people lie
Many highly creative people lie more than the rest of us. The reason seems to be that creative people have active imaginations and they can find ways to justify their actions; they may tell lies to explain away their behavior. Many creative people will deny that they tend to lie - their perception may be different from others, they may not be lying on purpose, or they may feel their justification supports what they say.
Creative people behave passionately
Creative people are passionate about what they do. Whether they work as an artist or work at a bank, creative people strive to reach a successful outcome. They can come across as intense at times, but it stems from their passion to create something wonderful.
Creative people look at the whole picture
While most people might just jump into a task focusing on what needs to be done first, creative people think about every step along the way to ensure that all the steps will come together to create the best outcome. They tend to look at the whole picture before they begin a project and they're able to keep it in mind throughout their project.
The 2 most important keys to solving design problems effectively
Concept. Great design is based on a great idea. Without one, a 'solution' is just decoration or embellishment.
Empathy. See, think, and act from the target audience's point of view. Not from the client nor designer. More
How to be a better designer, from interviews with more than 40 designers
By Catharine Fishel, MS
Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
Forget about good. Good is a known quantity. Good is what we all agree on. Growth is not necessarily good. Growth is an exploration of unlit recesses that may or may not yield to our research. As long as you stick to just good you'll never have real growth.
Process is more important than outcome. When the outcome drives the process we will only ever go to where we've already been. If process drives outcome we may not know where we're going, but we will know we want to be there.
Love your experiments (as you would an ugly child). Exploit the liberty in casting your work as beautiful experiments, iterations, attempts, trials, and errors. Take the long view and allow yourself the fun of failure every day.
Go deep. The deeper you go the more likely you will discover something of value.
Capture accidents. The wrong answer is the right answer in search of a different question. Collect wrong answers as part of the process. Ask different questions.
Drift. Allow yourself to wander aimlessly. Explore adjacencies. Lack judgment. Postpone criticism.
Begin anywhere. John Cage tells us that not knowing where to begin is a common form of paralysis. His advice: Begin anywhere.
Don't be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort.
Ask stupid questions. Growth is fueled by desire and innocence. Assess the answer, not the question. Imagine learning throughout your life at the rate of an infant.
Collaborate. The space between people working together is filled with conflict, friction, strife, exhilaration, delight, and vast creative potential.
Work the metaphor. Every object has the capacity to stand for something other than what is apparent. Work on what it stands for.
Make your own tools. Hybridize your tools in order to build unique things. Even simple tools that are your own can yield entirely new avenues of exploration. Remember, tools amplify our capacities, so even a small tool can make a big difference.
Don't enter awards competitions. Just don't. It's not good for you - almost all who enter are losers.
Make new words. Expand the lexicon. The new conditions demand a new way of thinking. The thinking demands new forms of expression. The expression generates new conditions.
Listen carefully. Every collaborator who enters our orbit brings with him or her a world more strange and complex than any we could ever hope to imagine. By listening to the details and the subtlety of their needs, desires, or ambitions, we fold their world onto our own. Neither party will ever be the same.
Take field trips. The bandwidth of the world is greater than that of your TV set, or the Internet, or even a totally immersive, interactive, dynamically rendered, object-oriented, real-time, computer graphic-simulated environment.
Coffee breaks, car rides, green rooms. Real growth often happens outside of where we intend it to, in the interstitial spaces - what Dr. Seuss calls "the waiting place." Hans Ulrich Obrist once organized a science and art conference with all of the infrastructure of a conference - the parties, chats, lunches, airport arrivals - but with no actual conference. Apparently it was hugely successful and spawned many ongoing collaborations.
Jump fences. Disciplinary boundaries and regulatory regimes are attempts to control the wilding of creative life. They are often understandable efforts to order what are manifold, complex, evolutionary processes. Our job is to jump the fences and cross the fields.
A few definitions
The science and art of arresting human intelligence long enough to change its mind.
Beautiful - it is both a science (formulas, research) and an art (creativity, aesthetics, reactions) that arrests (captures, holds onto) the mind just long enough, no more (boring) and no less (inattentive) to persuade the viewer/listener/reader to do something.
Advertising is not about selling - that is just one result of effective advertising, but its not what advertising is. Advertising is mental stimulation, manipulation. All ads are propaganda.
Areas of Design
The specific professions or areas of study within the broad category of design can generally be grouped into these six areas:
Architecture: Building design, landscape design, environmental design, urban planning.
Fashion: Almost everything that adorns the human body: clothing, fabrics, jewelry, make-up, hair.
Graphic: Design, illustration, cartooning, digital design, corporate identity, animation, advertising art, information design, environmental graphics.
Industrial: Product design, furniture and furniture systems, equipment.
Interior: Residential, commercial, space planning, lighting, furniture, traffic flow.
Theater: Set design, lighting design, costume design.
Asking numerous artists and 'non-artists' to define art yields one response - no one seems to have a clear grasp of what art is. We know it when we see it. But how to define it? The only definition that everyone, so far, seems to agree on is that 'art' is a shortened form of the name Arthur. Other than that, there are just observations:
Art is any experience from which one derives aesthetic pleasure (whatever that is).
Art is an experience, a feeling, a reaction; not an object.
Art is new and original - we most likely have not seen it before.
Art is not absolute, it is up to the viewer.
All great art has a heartbeat.
Great art changes the viewer in some way, even if just for a minute.
Good art should cast a spell - pitch you out of your world.
Good art should help the viewer:
see in new perspectives,
inspire awe, and
Art is short for Arthur.
The person (or group) who desires the determined result and who solicits and pays for the designer's services.
The entity in need of a solution.
Propose design solutions that address the client's marketing and communication problem, not what the client says he/she wants. Clients rarely know what is best for their needs. Research to determine the real problem and the real need.
The exchange of information to comprehend a message.
• Four components of communication:
1. sender: source of the message.
2. message: the content. Carried by a medium - the vehicle that transports the message.
3. receiver: the intended audience of the message.
4. response: for communication to take place, there must be some reaction to the message.
Concept - the Big Idea
An idea is a new thought: specifically a combination of previously unrelated thoughts that create a new concept or direction. All these thoughts were in the mind. They just needed to be put into new arrangements. A creative idea is often based on pattern recognition. That looks somewhat like that which reminds me of that. That thought, perception, or image then becomes memory and can form the basis for later pattern recognition. An idea is the stimulating sensation of a mental event. Its an entity with its own character and personality. There are 2 main types of ideas:
1. Ideas in response to an addressed problem: solutions to problems. These ideas are a response to an itch, a problem within your mind, something that your mind has determined that needs attention.
2. Unsolicited ideas, flashes of subconscious and revelation. These are also in response to an itch in your mind, but you had not consciously sought a solution to a problem. You may not even have been aware of the itch. The mind is always working: exercising, thinking, and solving. It loves to do so.
A creative thought can be defined as pure thought: thinking without constraint or thinking without fear. The natural state of the human mind is to think creatively. Humans are compulsive creators.
Writing a concept statement
A concept statement briefly explains the visual direction you propose for the solution. It provides the foundation and basic rationale for later choices you make with regard to color, images, layout, typography, etc. A concept is the essence of the innovative solution to a design or marketing problem - its how you would describe the solution to someone else. Its the 'big idea', the 'Eureka Ah Ha' moment that designers live for.
A design studio produced a piece to recruit students into a college theater program - the concept was driven by "Hey, I've got a great idea - How about a box of soap, since you'll get your hands dirty in the Theater program." That was the basic concept - it was refined and clarified and led to a successful solution to the design problem - Boxes of soap (with actual soap inside) were printed with the necessary program recruitment information. Or, for another piece, A bag of grass seeds with the tag line, 'Help us plant the seed'. The concept statement for the old UPS logo might be something like: A symmetrical mark integrating a shield beneath a present with a bow on it. For a restaurant, A standing whimsical cartoon pig that is fat and jolly, holding a knife and fork. Or A simple country kitchen cast iron with stove smoke that forms the words, Smoky Joe's Barbecue Kitchen.
Exercise: Describe, preferably in one sentence, the idea that serves as the solution to the problem design. It should be thorough but it does not need to be too detailed. The concept statement does not address objectives, specific type faces, exact rendering style (other than to say, abstracted or realistic or stylized, etc.) or too much minutiae. You're just talking to someone and describing the concept. Ideally, you should address the primary driving element first - A whirling stein of beer flying through space with the foam forming letters that spell 'Joe's Pub'.
When you write a concept statement, avoid putting it in first person. A design solution should not be about what you want, feel, or believe but what will work effectively for the audience (your wants are somewhat irrelevant to the client.)
Try not to get bogged down with specific detailed descriptors, objectives, criteria, project assignments, etc. The concept statement is just the big idea.
What concepts are not
Color is not an idea. Type is not an idea. Illustration, photography, paper, film, computer, magazines, are not ideas.
Target audiences are not concepts.
Objectives are not concepts. A concept statement should not read, To [do something] . . .
Concept statements should not include the word 'I' as in I think . . .
Wisdom form Sondheim
The composer anbd lyricist Stephen Sondheim offered 3 principles necessary for a songwriter:
Content dictates form
Less is more
God is in the details.
All these truisms, he wrote, were "in the service of Clarity, without which nothing else matters."
Thinking without fear.
Thinking without constraint. Pure thought.
Fear is the greatest block to creativity. Feel the fear and do it anyway. Fail forward. Its better to fail while taking a risk than to succeed while playing it safe.
A mental creative problem solving process to change an attitude.
Conscientious effort to impose meaningful order from chaos.
A conscientious effort to impose meaningful order.
Design creates order out of chaos.
Definitions of design from other people
"Simply put, it is visualizing ideas."
Jessica Helfand, Graphic Designer
"A synergy of form and function, a coming together of these elements rather than a pulling apart."
Richard Lambertson and John Truex, Accessory Designers
"The creative leap sparked by enlightened trial and error."
David Kelley, IDEO
"Instilling structure and soul into our naturally chaotic and unintelligible environment."
Laurinda Spear, Architect
So, while it is hard to define, most designers and scholars acknowledge that the act of designing involves these 3 things:
1. It is a problem solving activity
2. It is an act of creativity
3. It is about visual communication
Successful design should be innovative, original, and unique. Design is primarily a mental exercise. The activities of research, discussion, execution, and production are physical acts but they exist only to support the mental act of creative problem solving.
Great designers have a passion for great solutions, courageously take risks, possess integrity and enthusiasm, think innovatively, and truly believe design is fun.
The process of designing is called the creative problem solving process, the design process, the creative process, the problem solving process, and/or Design Thinking. They all mean the same thing: allowing the human mind to work through a series of steps to create order from chaos, solutions from problems, opportunity from adversity.
The effective visual communication of a specific body of information to a specific body of people to achieve a specific result.
Formerly called Commercial Art, graphic design is usually two-dimensional work presented to an audience in mass quantities: corporate identity, newsletters, brochures, posters, maps, signage, etc.
• The vehicle which carries a communicated message.
The plural of medium is media, not mediums.
The deferment of actions or tasks to a later time (From the Latin word procrastinatus: pro- [forward] and crastinus [of tomorrow]) The behavior may help in coping with the anxiety from starting or completing a task or decision. Procrastination may result in stress, a sense of guilt, the loss of personal productivity, the creation of crisis and disapproval from others for not fulfilling one's responsibilities or commitments.
Some examples: putting off an important decision, leaving a critical task undone, and keeping 'busy' on needless, less important work.
Procrastination is counterproductive, needless, and delaying. To behave this way takes real mastery - you have to learn how to procrastinate - it doesn't just happen. You've got to use your physiology, create the right emotions, and get it all working perfectly and in the right sequence. And when you get really good at it so you can do it without thinking, then you've really mastered it.
Most people think procrastination is a negative thing. They don't realize that they learned this behavior. If you can learn how to procrastinate and do it well, then you can just as easily learn how to become motivated. You're teaching yourself either how to get motivated or how to procrastinate. To get really good at procrastination you had to learn how to use your emotions because your emotions are what drive your behavior.
Two ways to help overcome procrastination
1. Eliminate Fear. You've got emotions pulling you back and forth. It's like an internal tug of war - positive emotions push you towards what you want; negative emotions pull you away. If fear didn't exist then you wouldn't be putting things off. You'd just go for it! But since you're putting things off then your negative emotions must be stronger than your positive emotions; or in other words, your fear is winning the tug of war. If you want to eliminate procrastination, then eliminate your fear. Just ask yourself: Am I pushing away the things I want? And if you are, are you pushing them away because of your fear of success or your fear of failure? Once you get clear on what's stopping you, you can reframe those fears and empower yourself to take action.
2. Cultivate Desire. Emotions govern your behavior - fear pushes you away from what you want and desire pulls it towards you.
Someone once asked me, "Why did you get into coaching?" I thought about it and said, "Because I have an overwhelming desire to do it." It's not an overly complicated answer, but here's my point. Your emotions are what drive your behavior. If you keep putting something off, then you don't have a burning desire to do it. No desire = no action. Strive to cultivate desire: start with the end in mind. How will things look when they're all done? What will you see and how will you feel? If you can associate strong emotions with the end result, you can cultivate a burning desire. Then watch how fast you jump into action.
The body of people to whom the message is aimed.
Design is about communicating a clear message - it is important and vital to know exactly who you are talking to. Not everyone is interested in the design problem - nothing you say or do (short of offering free stuff, money, or fame) will reach those people and its a waste of time and client's money to try. Addressing people's interests makes the TM more precise and will help you tailor the message.
There are often primary, secondary, and tertiary target markets. These targets or markets must be very specific.
Synonyms: audience, reader, user, viewer
Purpose of advertising and graphic design
To persuade the target market to change its mind/attitude; a changed attitude then changes behavior which then results in: buy, attend, participate, donate, call, vote, etc.
One traditional definition of advertising is to sell a product, idea, or service. That is not it. Selling is a result of changed behavior which is a result of changed attitude. It is important for designers and advertisers to understand that one is dealing with the human mind and its attitudes, perceptions, and prejudices.
What design is all about
Problem solving, problem seeking.
Great designers are not satisfied with the status quo, the norm, or mediocrity, or 'good enough'. They constantly are on the lookout for challenges and problems to address. They understand the process and procedures necessary to complete to effectively develop efficient solutions to challenges/problems.
Mary Wells Lawrence, who founded and ran a successful ad agency, said:
"The more you understand the problem, the easier the solution becomes."
Innovating. Creativity, open-minded exploration, taking risks.
For design to be effective, it must be unique, it must be fresh. Design solutions must be accepted by the user and they should convey that the user will be better off with the solution than they were before the solution. This improvement requires new ways of looking at options, new materials, new combinations of ideas, and new ways or production. Great designers solve problems with open-minded exploration. They take risks.
Communicating clearly. Break through clutter to the real message.
Great design requires communication between the designer, through the client, a to the intended user, audience, or target market. People today are bombarded with vast amounts of information. For a design solution to be effective, it must break through that clutter to get to the real concept, idea, or message. For this communication to be most effective, it must be clear - legible, readable, comprehensible; appropriate for the intended user.
Persuading. Change people's minds and attitudes.
For design to be effective, the solution must be accepted by the audience/target market. The solution must change people's minds and attitudes to do its job. Manipulation of materials, information, and procedures is necessary to implement successful solutions.
Paying attention to detail. In thinking, producing, and presenting.
Details are the fine points - the manifestations of thorough exploration and production. Details complete the task, make it whole. Designers who pay close attention to the fine points, the details, will have an easier and more efficient way of producing and selling design.
Asking the right questions. Specific, focused.
Design solutions require research and information - vast amounts of information. For the solution to be effective it must be based on appropriate possibilities. To efficiently determine what information is valuable, the designer must ask numerous questions. These, however, need to be the right questions - they must be specific, seeking specific information. Research can and should start off with broad inquisitions, but the focus must be narrowed as soon as feasible.
Jack and Max are walking from a religious service. Jack wonders whether it would be all right to smoke while praying.
Max replies, "Why don't you ask the Priest?"
So Jack goes up to the Priest and asks, "Father, may I smoke while I pray?"
The Priest replies, "No, my son, you may not! That's utter disrespect to our religion."
Jack goes back to his friend and tells him what the good Priest told him.
Max says, "I'm not surprised. You asked the wrong question. Let me try."
And so Max goes up to the Priest and asks, "Father, may I pray while I smoke?"
To which the Priest eagerly replies, "By all means, my son. By all means. You can always pray whenever you want to."
Moral of the story - the reply you get depends on the question you ask.
Reality vs perception. Designers don't deal with reality, they deal only with the viewer/target's perception of reality.
Making things better. Find improvements, impact society.
Humans progress by finding ways to accomplish tasks more efficiently. Some of these ways are to make things (products, ideas, systems, processes, materials, etc) more convenient, safer, easier to operate, a better value, and easier to produce. Great designers seek such improvements in order to better impact society.
Passion. Commitment, desire, love, dedication, pleasure.
To excel at anything, certainly design, requires a sincere deep love to push oneself further. Great designers are committed to be their best. Their desire and love of the process, influence, and impact of design allows them to succeed. It is passion that connects us to our work and to others. It helps create our personal identity.
Courage. Assertiveness, confidence, less fear, taking risks.
Pushing the envelope in design is scary. It requires the designer to take risks. Those that are on the cutting edge, where the fun is, have a high degree of self-confidence, assertiveness, and they more easily overcome their fears. It is their courage that allows them to be unique, exploratory, curious, childlike, and inventive.
Persistence. Stick-to-itiveness, commitment.
To make things happen, great designers don't give up easily. They are committed to solving problems and finding solutions that work.
Participation. Team player, confidence, offer.
Designers are active participants in the communities around them. They are not bystanders. Experiencing life fully allows designers to make connections more easily.
Doing more than is expected. Push further.
Design is a competitive industry. Anybody can do what is expected or what the client asks for. Great designers don't limit themselves. They and their work go beyond, to provide greater value.
Taking action. Just get up and do something.
Great ideas and courageous thoughts do no one any good until they are put into action. To be a better designer, just get up and do something - anything - just get moving and get started.
Compromise. Tolerance, sensitivity, team player.
All decisions one makes are compromises. To gain something, something must be given up. Designers must be sensitive to the line of compromise. Many design decisions require agreement by other team members, supervisors, or clients. Some give-and-take will be necessary.
Having fun. Enjoying the process and results, joy.
The human brain loves nothing more than meeting challenges, finding the 'Eureka, Ah Ha' moment. That is growth and excitement. Your brain lives for that. When it stops solving problems, improving, making things better, persuading, innovating; then it stagnates, slows down, and dies. The mind derives much joy from the design process and its results. The creative problem solving process of design is just plain fun.
Great designers have a passion for great solutions, courageously take risks, possess integrity and enthusiasm, think innovatively, and truly believe design is fun.
Graphic design vs Graphic decoration
Graphic Design is creative problem solving.
Graphic decoration is:
Rearranging: moving elements around
Arty: just making things look 'pretty'
Shallow: not at the root of issues or problems
Randomness: haphazard layout compositions
Mimicking: following and copying trends and fads
Why so much decoration?
Much 'design' is just decoration, prettier pictures. Not effective. Just surface response.
Are designers afraid to dig deep?
Are they lazy?
Artists trying to make a living?
Instant gratification - gotta have it now.
Designers seduced by technology - see it as a panacea, not a tool.
Influenced by the immediacy of the internet & web, MTV, ads.
Clients who don't know better - and are willing to pay for decorations.
Many 'designers' flip through CA magazine and mimic trends, the fashion, the gimmicks, the clichés. This isn't design.
Great design is concept-driven and content-driven.
Decorators usually don't come up with good concepts nor understand the content or its audience.
The Plain Writing Act of 2010 requires the federal government to write all new publications, forms, and publicly distributed documents in a "clear, concise, well-organized" manner.
By now, all agencies are supposed to have a process to ensure they communicate more clearly with citizens and businesses.
"We still have a long way to go to make government forms and documents simpler and easier for taxpayers to understand," said the sponsor of the legislation.
According to the Center for Plain Language, federal agencies are still churning out plenty of incomprehensible English. The center's chairwoman agreed. "You do see more documents coming out that are in relatively good, plain language. But "it's very spotty." A sample from the Plain Language.gov website:
Planning a Plain-Language Website
Users require three things when using a website:
1. a logical structure so they know where to look for information,
2. an easy-to-use interface to get them to that information,
3. and easily-understandable information.
A website needs all these elements (information architecture, usability, and plain language) to be successful.
From the Center for Plain Language: Plain language is information that is focused on readers. When you write in plain language, you create information that works well for the people who use it, whether online or in print. Our measure of plain language is behavioral: Can the people who are the audience for the material quickly and easily
• find what they need
• understand what they find
• act appropriately on that understanding
I applied for Social Security recently. I was not looking forward to the process, because of experience with government agencies - having to get lots of paperwork together, make an appt, wait in an institutional waiting room (have you waited hours to renew your driver's license?), meet with someone who would probly not care about me, and wait for confirmation to be sent.
Whoa. I was very wrong. I completed the entire process in about 10 minutes, all online! No prep, no appointments, no meetings, no runaround - just the most efficient and clearly designed website I have experienced. It was a pleasure to deal with this government agency.
In this absolute order, design and critique works of design for:
1. Target audience, the user
Good clients will agree that your solutions are for their customers, not for themselves. Bad clients will often interject their own biases, ignoring the characteristics of their users. Unfortunately, there are many (probly too many) of these clients. Bad design often happens when designers don't adhere to the correct order. It is imperative to fully understand the audience: its wants, needs, and attitudes. Think of IKEA and Apple - innovators there designed for the user first. Once, I was a Guest Juror and charged with critiquing senior portfolios of design majors. I would ask a student who the target market was. I too often got the answer, "I don't know." or "Students." or something similar. They hadn't put much thought into who the end user/reader/viewer of the piece would be or their target was just too broad. I would stop the critique and move on - telling them, How can we discuss the effectiveness of a piece if you, the designer, do not even know who the user is?
Lesson: The better you understand the audience, the easier the process of creating an effective solution will be.
When design is ego-driven, it rarely is well-done.
Remember to consider every detail from the viewpoint of the end user. Each element - image and words - should enhance the clarity of the message. Clutter has little positive value in today's barrage of info.
The components of design
A survey of the design elements and principles and the development of design components
By James Robert Watson, PhD; Fall 1981, revised 2003
In a beginning design class, the student should be exposed to several facets of design: graphic, product, fashion, interior, and architecture. The elements and principles of design, discussed in almost every beginning design course, include the basic terminology for understanding the concepts of design. Design elements are tools that designers use to create solutions to design problems. They are the components that are put together to form original solutions - the systems of organizing the elements into a particular composition. Often they are very consciously thought out by the designer, in order to express a certain idea. More often, the designer, while consciously making a certain amount of decisions regarding these principles, will employ them on a subconscious level. It is through the awareness of, and conscious use of these principles that one gains a deeper understanding of them, eventually reaching a point where they become instinctual, simply part of the way one addresses a problem. These principles are really methods of involving the viewer, of inviting an understanding of the composition or design. The principles themselves are universal ways that we respond to visual input. They are ways and methods we use to relate to the visual world around us. These principles are the same ones employed in any creative medium: music, architecture, film, theatre, and writing; they also seem to have a base deep in humanity, running across cultures and ethnicities.
Successful design often has gestalt, or a wholeness that cannot be determined by examining each individual part. More simply put, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts or its individual components.
Survey of terms
In 1981, I conducted a survey of 16 art and design textbooks to determine exactly what the elements and principles of design are. The results of that survey are listed by author:
Faulkner (1941): Elements: form, line, space, texture, color; Principles: balance, continuity, emphasis
Lauer (1979): unity, emphasis/focal point, balance, scale/proportion, space, motion, rhythm, line, shape/form, texture, color
Batchelder (1904): line, rhythm, balance, shape, value, harmony
Evans (1973): Elements: line, form, space, time, movement, light, color, texture; Principles: proportion, balance, rhythm, emphasis, unity
Preble (1973): light/value, color, mass, space, time, motion, shape, texture, line
Bevlin (1977): line, space, shape/mass, color, texture/pattern, unity/variety, balance, emphasis, rhythm, proportion/scale
Scott (1951): contrast, texture, form, composition, variety/unity, movement, balance, proportion, rhythm, color, depth, space
Hull (1976): Elements: line, space, color, texture, value; Principles: balance, emphasis, proportion, rhythm, movement
Mancusa (1965): color, line, mass & space, value, texture
Downer (1947): symmetry, balance, line, rhythm
Bradley (1946): proportion, balance, rhythm, emphasis, color, texture
Compton (1945): line, form, value, texture, color
Cannon (1948): Principles: unity, proportion, relation, harmony, discord, contrast, domination, subordination, symmetry, asymmetry, duality, balance, rhythm, line & form
Nelson (1970): Elements: line, tone, color, texture, shape, size, direction; Principles: balance, proportion, sequence, unity, emphasis
Thiel (1981): Elements: pattern, number, position, size, shape, direction, texture, color, duration, brightness, motion; Principles: similarity, proximity, continuance, closure, rhythm, movement, contrast, ambiguity
Fitzgerald (1974): Elements: line, shape, form, color, texture, space, value, content; Principles: balance, harmony, emphasis, contrast, continuity, movement, proportion, symmetry, repetition, domination, subordination, variety, rhythm, unity, opposition, transition, appropriateness to content
No two lists agree on which items are called elements and which items are called principles.
No two lists agree on the specific elements and principles. David Lauer says "It seems that no two designers will ever agree on the same list of design elements and principles - nor on which are which."
The number of terms in the lists ranges from as few as 5 to as many as 23.
The average number of terms listed is 10.4.
The total number of times each term is listed:
12 Value/light/light & dark/contrast
10 Emphasis/focal point/domination
The above findings may be due to several reasons:
Art/design is a visual medium - perception, seeing, and expression. Much art needs no verbalizing for creation or understanding.
Art is a personal medium. The artist works at expressing him/herself in an individual way. Harwood says, "Education in general, and art education in particular, seems continually harassed by terms with ambiguous meanings and expressions offering varied connotations to different individuals."
The concepts of art and design are so complex that it may be difficult to classify concepts with a simple term. "In other subject areas, attention is paid to the exact meanings of words. This has not always been the case in art education, partly because the vocabulary of art has tended to be nebulous, and partly because teachers have not always attempted to build for themselves a precise vocabulary of art terms." (Gaitskell)
It seems art educators and authors have accepted the disagreements and confusion of terms as listed.
The disagreements of design elements and principles does cause a few problems.
Design instructors are not consistent among themselves concerning the teaching of design basics. There are indications of attempts to rectify the confusion, but the logistics against an easy solution are overwhelming.
The variety of terms may present some confusion for the design student. Students may be exposed to one set of terms in high school, a new set for each instructor in college art and design classes, and even others from personal readings of design books. This ambiguity of terms puts the burden of clarification on the student. The student must determine the terms that make the most sense. This disagreement, however, may encourage a discussion of the basic tools of design.
Communication effectiveness among designers and between designers and the public may be diluted.
The need for design terms
The other fine arts rely on words, sounds, or combinations of these for creation and execution. Theater has the spoken word and a script, music uses descriptive notes and sounds, dance needs musical accompaniment, and literature is read, written, and recited. Most of visual art does not require words or sounds. There is still a need for art and design students to understand basic terminology. "The acquisition of an art vocabulary is intended to lead to the formation of more adequate concepts about the visual arts. Concepts sharpen and direct perception. Words about art can add meaning to art." (Fitzgerald)
Art is individual expression, but design is more scientific and, therefore, has a greater need for consistency among its practitioners. Design is problem solving and problem solving requires verbalizing.
Language is symbols for communication. The meanings of terms are the shared use of these symbols. The terms usually have agreed upon meanings. "The meaning of a term is in its use in the language. Words neither possess an inherent reality nor are they the property of experts." (Fitzgerald)
Proposal for new design terms
There is a need for design students to understand the terms of design; design terms are a vital part of most beginning design courses; there are numerous lists of terms - no two alike; the variety is confusing to the student; and communication may be hampered. Design educators need a set of terms that will help solve these problems. One of the main reasons for having terms of design elements is to analyze, communicate, and understand a design piece. When one looks at design there are certain qualities attributable to that piece. Those qualities can be classified into a concept group with a descriptive term heading. Through a process of analysis, the concept groups can be clarified.
Naming the design terms
Referring to these terms as elements or principles may be unclear. Some elements are principles and some principles are elements. It seems advantageous to avoid splitting the group of terms into two groups. When one analyzes a piece of design, one doesn't think in terms of elements or principles, one just thinks in terms of each concept. The same is true when communicating with another person - the elements and principles are not mentioned, just the concepts. A simple, descriptive, and common word should be selected that easily represents each concept group and effectively communicates its essence.
Saying 'design terms' might be too general, too broad, and too confusing. A word is needed that includes the concept groups only and is descriptive of such. Referring to the dictionary, 'component' comes from the Latin word meaning "to compose; to put together" and refers to one of the parts of the whole. That fits well with needs to be communicated. Design terms are part of the whole of the design piece. They are put together to make a composition. The given definition even states that a component is any of the elements onto which something may be resolved on analysis.
A common word should easily represent each concept group listed below and clearly communicate the essence of each one simply and effectively.
Components of design
The groups of design concepts listed alphabetically below adequately cover all aspects of critique, analysis, and discussion of a design piece. Each is unique - it does not share similar specific ingredients with other groups. Each of the current terms of design elements listed from the survey can fit into one of the following concept groups.
Alignment provides clarity by creating a sense of order. Using an invisible grid system to align elements aids in comprehension by providing unity, a sense of order, and familiarity. Each element on a page should create a visual connection with something else on the page.
Order, grid, lined up = alignment
The composition of the parts or shapes in the piece will usually create some type of balance - symmetrical, radial, or asymmetrical. Balance also provides some stability which makes most people more comfortable (as does order). balance may vary depending on the piece and its function. Symmetry can be very effective at times, but most often it leads to static rather than dynamic compositions. Asymmetrical compositions achieve balance through elements of differing weights. A very small element of great visual weight can balance a much larger element of lower visual weight. Visual weight is like magnetism for the eye: a visually heavy object demands attention. Visual weight depends on several factors, any of which can be combined. These include, most obviously, size and position. Larger generally carries more visual weight. Farther from the center usually carries more visual weight. Additionally, color, value, and texture or detail, play parts in visual weight. Darker values are seen as heavier visually. Brighter hues or colors are seen as heavier visually. More detailed, either in texture or in shape, is seen as having more visual weight. Balance should be considered both horizontally and vertically. We automatically relate a scene to a landscape, putting in a horizon. You can use this as a simple way to divide a composition. Elements placed above the horizontal middle will seem to float in the space, while those placed below will seem grounded. Converge to create a equal distribution of visual weight within the particular composition. The design or arrangement of elements that appear to be a whole with equilibrium. The simplistic type of balance is called symmetrical balance which has a basic appeal to the viewer. Asymmetrical balance is achieved by unlike object that have "equal eye attraction".
Symmetry, radial, order, visual weight = balance
Effective design is enhanced by using only those elements which contribute to the idea of the composition, and the elimination of anything extraneous. Decoration is discarded in favor of clarity. If you don't need it, don't use it. Economy is the essence of abstract art - an attempt to convey the essence of the subject. Given a minimal set of stimuli, the viewer is invited to complete the message. Closure directly involves the viewer.
Economy, communication, effectiveness = clarity
Most design pieces use color to create an emotional response within the viewer. If designing strictly on function, the color might be totally irrelevant, unless the color was dictated by the materials used (steel in a building, wood in furniture, etc.) Most often, color is used because of what it means to the viewer. A simulated walnut finish on a plastic countertop represents more elegance and durability than the neutral cream colored plastic might. Even though some people might not classify them as colors, black and white can also evoke strong emotional responses. White is a color since it is a combination of all wavelengths of light just as yellow is a combination of certain wavelengths. We rarely see black - the absence of light - in a design piece. Some light is reaching our eyes from that 'black' area of the design piece. Therefore, it would have to be considered a color since color is wavelengths of light reaching our eyes. (Technically, one can never see true black since one can't see the absence of something - we do see variations of dark colors and grey that we perceive to be 'black'.) Our perceptions of colors are affected by the variations of tint, tone, and shade. The value, or lightness and darkness, of colors and color relationships such as contrast, complementing, and color averaging are also included in this component.
Neutral, black, white, intensity, tint, tone value, contrast, lightness = color
Design work relates to its surrounding. This environment completes the effectiveness of the piece. Meaning of work can be confusing and incomplete when design is taken out of context - removed from its surrounding environment.
Environment, relationship, surroundings = context
Contrast adds power and emphasis by providing a clear difference between elements, a dynamic tension. This difference aids focus, motion, and space. If two items (type, color, line thickness, shape, etc.) are not exactly the same, then make them obviously different. If they're not clearly different, they create conflict which can be uncomfortable to the reader/viewer. Contrast on a page draws the viewer's eyes - our mind likes the excitement that contrast provides. The basic purpose of contrast is to create interest on the page and aid in the organization of information.
Difference, attraction, clarity, distinct line = contrast
Viewers seem to yearn for some focus or emphasis in a design piece. Focus provides a starting point for the eye to scan a piece. We do not want to have to decide where to look first or what to look at next. One strong dominant target is usually preferable to two or more of equal emphasis that compete for our eye's attention. Sometimes, as in an advertisement or graphic design, if there is not an obvious choice of where to look first or if two parts of the piece are competing, our eye/mind may not want to struggle with it and it will go on and look at another piece or another page. Dominance or emphasis can be created by difference in size, color, shape, texture, etc. There should be a fairly obvious direction of eye movement within a piece - the visual hierarchy. This is the extension of the focus or emphasis. A focal point or main point of interest creates the guideline for the rest of the composition, giving the viewer a starting point. There are various ways to achieve emphasis. Placement. The most obvious, but often least effective, placement is at the center of a composition. Moving the main point of interest off the center will tend to activate the rest of the composition, even when there is little or no actual content. Isolation. A small element can gain much visual weight by isolating it from surrounding elements. Contrast. Contrast can be generated by various means, including mass, shape, value, hue, and texture, or combinations of these. For the graphic designer, emphasis is very important, as it reflects the organization of the content. In a very direct way, form should follow function. When looking at a text-based layout, the inherent structure of the language needs to be rectified in the visual structure of the layout. A heading should be seen first, then subhead, body text, and tagline or closer. Emphasis in graphic design most often involves creating a visual hierarchy of information, reflecting the hierarchy of the content.
Accent, focal point, emphasis, dominance, attention, target = focus
Our eye, which is constantly scanning and darting about an object, will follow the path of the most obvious direction. This flow of direction may be created by an established rhythm, repetition, a sequence of elements, or an apparent direction of advancement. The eye and brain seem to prefer activity and variety to passiveness. As a result, our flow of vision easily moves about a place. This inherent movement we see in a piece helps us to analyze and understand the design of the piece. Timed movement through space - the repetition or alternation of elements, often with defined or regular intervals between them. Rhythm can be created through repetition - a duplicated use of the same image, word, line, or other element; as a means of creating rhythm. Rhythm is produced by repetition. Its most obvious is staccato, or even, equal pulses. Much as in music, rhythm can vary from very staccato, abrupt, to very flowing and smooth. Working in conjunction with other principles, one can produce very complex visual rhythms, or may use very simple, straightforward ones. A recurrence or repetition of one or more elements within a visual composition with the goal of creating harmony, i.e. a rhythmic feeling. In visual arts it is the flow and movement of graphic elements. It is a principle based on repetition. It a distinct reputation of elements that are the same or slightly changed. Rhythmic reputation do not only occur in regards to shape and their arrangement by also in colors or textures. Alternating rhythm consists of successive patterns in which the element(s) continue to appear in a regular distinct order. Progressive rhythm is repetition of a shape the changes in a very regular manner. Repetition can unify and add visual interest - the reader can feel more comfortable with the familiarity that repetition provides.
Scanning, path, direction, movement, rhythm, flow, repetition = motion
Proximity refers to grouping bits of information or elements close enough to form an association. This grouping provides some comfort through familiarity. We humans like change but only if we can experience it from a foundation of something comfortable. Grouping like elements also aids clarity of understanding of information by creating a hierarchy of information.
Grouping, likeness, clarity = proximity
Upon approaching any design object - a building, a logo, a product, or a living room - we see that it exists. It is. It is real. Therefore, it must have some form, some shape to its being. This can be either a three-dimensional mass or a two-dimensional shape. To create or define this shape or mass, lines are formed - either lines within the piece or lines created by adjacent surfaces. The line could be an outline, as in a logo or graphic piece, or it could define smaller parts within the piece. A line in design is useless until it defines a shape - a curve, a rule, etc. A mass has no clarity until it is in a specific shape. Shapes can be either geometric - formed by mechanical straight-edges or organic - natural biomorphic forms. Shape in a 3-D environment creates volume and mass, either real or perceived.
Exists, form, volume, mass, line, surface, outline = shape
Another thing one can notice about the piece is its size. Size is strictly relative. That is, an elephant is large only when compared to people or a mouse. An elephant is small compared to the Sears Tower in Chicago, but we think of it as large because within its species of mammals, it is larger than the other members. A design piece by itself could have no relative size. It just is the size it is. One can better determine its size by putting it into a specific scale - a benchmark to judge it against. Proportion is important in design. A design piece must fit in with its environment. A flower pot may not look pleasing if it is so much larger than the plant that it overpowers it. The piece should be large enough to perform its function. A design piece can be monumental or miniature depending on the criteria used for measurement. Size cannot be determined without another object to relate the piece to (the two pieces do not have to be related in any other way.) Scale and proportion are concerned with the relative size - the relation of one object to another and the mathematical ratio. The golden rectangle or golden mean is a ratio in which the width is to the length as length is to length plus width (w:l as l:l+w).
Large, small, scale, proportion, fit, monumental, miniature = size
Another sense that is sometimes employed in analyzing a piece is the sense of hearing. Many pieces must convey a certain image. The sound of the object can either be created by the object itself (like a typewriter or the whirring of a fan) or by the piece being struck or striking another object (like a ball or dice in a game). The sound or silence created must convey the intent of the designer just as the shape or texture must convey the designer's intent. A successful industrial designer designed a fan that was absolutely quiet - no disrupting motor noise. Placed on the market, the company discovered the fans were being returned because the consumer felt the fans were not cooling very well. They were, but the consumer could not hear them working (as conditioned to with other fans) and assumed they could not be as effective. The sound of the fan proved to be an integral part of the design piece. Another designer created a new game board. Usually made of wood or felt covered, the new board was made of plastic. The sound of the dice striking and rolling on the game board gave a connotation of inferior quality. The sound of the pieces in the game were an important factor in conveying a certain image of the design piece.
Hearing, striking, quiet, loud = sound
The piece exists within a space. This space can sometimes be an integral part of the piece. The piece fills a space in a way that no other object can (except a duplicate of the piece). In two-dimensional pieces the space is created visually. The illusion of depth or space can be created through the use of perspective, overlapping, difference in size, difference in color, placement on the page, or a difference in detail. The illusion of space or the reality of space in a three-dimensional piece puts the piece in a dimension that goes beyond its basic shape or form.
Depth, perspective, overlapping, illusion = space
Taste & Smell
Taste and smell sometimes have to be considered as integral elements of design. If a product is designed to be used in the mouth (toothbrush, musical instrument, etc.) the material would have to be judged on its taste. If there was an offensive taste or one that did not help convey the appropriate image of the product, the user might use the product less or none at all. The smell (of materials, adhesives, inks, etc.) might hold true for the same reasons. Although rarely mentioned while talking about design, designers should avoid taking for granted any aspect of a design.
Aroma, sensation, salty, pleasant, sweet, = taste & smell
Another aspect unique to each design piece is the texture the piece conveys - its surface quality. The texture can be either tactile: literal and felt by the sense of touch or it can be visual: an image formed in the viewer's mind by mental association with previously felt textures. Certain patterns might evoke specific textural responses. Many times we place emotional feelings with the texture. We know that something smooth feels slick, sensuous, and usually more elegant than something that is rough, bristly, or coarse.
Literal feel, visual feel, touch, slick, rough, smooth = texture
A design piece needs to last for an amount of time that will allow the piece to perform its function. This duration can and should be influenced by the designer through the materials in the piece, the methods of construction or production, and the manner in which the piece is to be used or can be used (whether intended or not). This element of time seems obvious and yet it is worthy of mention as a factor for consideration while designing and during analysis.
Duration, existence, lifespan = time
The manner in which different forms in a design piece relate to each other is important - the harmony created by proximity, repetition, and balance. The parts of a piece may work well together and provide unity or they may clash with opposition or they might provide variety. Unity helps to create order. Design helps create order out of chaos. Even opposition or variety can unify a piece. Unity can be achieved with textures, colors, or other parts of the piece. Repetition of elements provides unity and comfort. Continuity of elements allows the viewer to quickly gain familiarity with the structure of a design. Multiple pages can share the same layout, or variations on the same basic structure. Web page navigational elements, menus, and content can be consciously arranged to appear in the same place on each page.
Relate, clash, variety, opposition = unity
Some activities to teach the Design Components
Conduct a discussion of the need for design components in analyzing, understanding, and communicating responses to design pieces. Students should be warned that they may find many variations of design elements and principles. Let students see the rationale for using these terms and show them other lists. Discuss additional terms and where they might fit into the list of components.
Discuss each component individually. Give examples for each as found in the classroom, or show images of examples, or have this discussion in a gallery or museum. Show how one can analyze a design piece by going through the components and discussing each aspect of the piece.
Have students find examples of each component in pictures from any published source: magazines, posters, websites, etc. Each image should show one component more strongly than the others. It should be obvious to someone looking at the image which component is being illustrated.
Have students draw symbols representing each component. The symbols may not help in verbalizing or communicating, but they might help the student to understand the basic concept. Some guidelines should be given: size, format, and whether the symbol can contain any text or letterforms.
Assign the students to create picture words to show the relationship between the written word and the concept it symbolizes. Relating the two might help the student make the mental connection between word and concept. Examples:
The 5 steps of the design process
All healthy humans are capable of solving problems. Some people take the process and their design sense further than others. Those are successful designers.
Great designers are not only problem solvers, they are also problem seekers. They feel annoyed when they encounter an entity that is poorly designed. Great designers always seek a better way, how could that be done better, more efficiently.
Following are steps the mind works through to achieve solution to problems. The mind will complete each step, maybe in varying times and in varying order, but each of the 5 will be addressed.
Assess the problem
State the problem clearly.
Set thorough objectives that the solution should achieve.
List adjectives and descriptors that the solution should convey
Determine specific target markets.
Provide a strong motivation to solve the problem.
Determine deadlines to meet for solution.
This step is where you do the groundwork to provide a foundation of information for your mind to begin addressing the problem. It is important that you state the problem clearly to understand exactly is involved in the issue. Is there really a problem. Sometimes it is not what it seems to be at the surface. Dig deep and determine the underlying problem that should be solved.
The objectives should include the obvious like staying within a budget, to more obscure like not offending the user.
Input: feed information
Become an authority on the problem and its solution.
Feed your brain a wide variety of information.
Review periodically the problem assessment.
Understand fully the problem through comprehensive research: learn all you can about everything associated with the problem: ramifications, influences, impact, audience, etc.
The solution to the problem is usually inherent in the problem. The more you understand the problem, the easier and more obvious the solution becomes. Designers become authorities on the problem: its source, ramifications, people affected, impact, etc. A designer can learn so much about a problem that the best solution will be obvious and apparent.
If a designer hits the proverbial block, that wall or barrier that stops the flow of ideas, he/she should knock it down by learning more about the problem. See it in new ways. Try to see the problem as the user, viewer, target would.
The more you understand the problem, the easier the solution becomes. The solution is often within the problem itself. Learning about the problem allows the solution to emerge.
Process and incubate
Allow incubation: processing, integration, synthesis, analysis, sorting, judgment, etc.
In this step all you do is just allow imaginative processing. If you provided your mind with a clear statement of the problem, adequate information for processing, strong motivation, and a valid deadline; then your mind will solve the problem. This step is letting the unconscious do its job of sorting, processing, and comprehending the information.
This step can happen in a split second, you may get Eureka solutions while conducting research; or solutions may come after much processing; or solutions may not come at all. If your mind hits a wall or barrier, it usually means you need to provide more information. If you often hit barriers, then the activities in this Kit can help you free your mind to retrieve innovative solutions more easily.
Output: retrieve options
Execute a variety of possible solution sketches (thumbnails: fast, very prolific, exploratory, non-judgmental). Determine an appropriate theme, storyline, concept, or big idea.
Test those options to determine which most efficiently meet the stated objectives and convey the adjective/descriptors.
Refine those solutions and finalize all design decisions with more sketches: color, type, composition, materials, renderings, textures, fabrics, layout, etc. in tighter renderings (rough sketches).
Thumbnails are all about exploring options - numerous options. Strive to remain non-judgmental and open to possibilities. There are 2 main reasons for sketching thumbnails:
1. they allow you to get an idea on record and out of your mind, thereby freeing your mind to explore more options
2. seeing options on paper allows you to see them more objectively which might prompt even more option explorations.
Sketch a variety of possible solutions as thumbnails: fast, prolific, exploratory sketches. Develop numerous options: explore both fluency and frequency of ideas and options.
During the thumbnail/concept exploration phase, push yourself to go past the obvious. You need to go through the simple and obvious ones - they deserve rendering and consideration. But then you should push your work to go past the obvious. Strive to communicate the message with more sophistication, wit, cleverness, and viewer participation.
Avoid work that looks like what a junior high kid would doodle in Algebra class.
For a Christmas card, the obvious is Santa's sleigh flying over a roof, someone a Santa hat, the city under a blanket of snow, etc. You should think about those things - even sketch them in your journal or sketchbook - they are valid, they might lead you to a new direction, and you need to get them out of your system. But then go farther (or is it further?) Interviewers and art directors don't want to see that you can do the obvious, they want more than that. Do not settle for good enough. Show the initiative, confidence, creativity, and intelligence to go past the obvious to the outstanding.
Explore the unexpected for a card - maybe consider emotions - the way the holidays make us feel, not necessarily how they look.
Cynical but maybe valid approach - the holiday season is now mainly about shopping, excessive consumerism, and outbuying our friends and relatives. Secondarily its about food and parties.
Build rough sketches: further explorations of color, type, layout in tighter renderings.
Evaluate the rough option that is working best.
Figure out what's working in the piece: enhance that and minimize the rest. Every element in your work deserves respect. And life, an existence. If an element cannot be justified nor explained it should be deleted. It would just become clutter: garbage getting in the way of communicating the message.
The idea, the theme, copy line, should be innovative tug at a new emotion or thought. Involving the emotions aids memorability and user participation in the solution.
The strongest solution option should balance the familiar with the innovative. If the solution is too familiar, we reject as boring. If too innovative, we reject it as foreign, uncomfortable, and incomprehensible.
Determine the single best selling point, theme of the piece, message to convey to the reader, the benefit to the consumer, the copy line. The designer has the responsibility to communicate the proper and appropriate message to the consumer, to achieve the objectives that will most efficiently meet the clients needs.
Present the best solution
Develop the final solution as an exact dummy or model or renderings to present to the viewer/client (comp).
Present comp with rationale.
Make revisions if necessary.
Prepare the accepted comp for reproduction (mechanical or finished art).
Conduct further evaluation for future reference and growth.
This is the step of the process in which you produce a rough for presentation to another person: the client, the printer, the user, or just yourself.
Refine, if necessary, the rough you determined was most successful. Develop that solution as an exact dummy (comp or model) to present to the viewer or client. You may get feedback or input from that person. Listen intently, determine if their needs have been met, and make revisions if necessary. Once all parties are satisfied, prepare the accepted comp for reproduction. The last activity is to evaluate the solution and the response from the user for your future reference and growth.
Successful solutions are often very simple, with minimal clutter and a minimum of needless information. Simplicity allows the user or reader to more easily comprehend a clear message by being right on target.
You do not need to work through each step in the sequence stated above - that is just the most common and most efficient order. If your brain begins ideating, that's okay - start sketching. At some point, you will compete the assessment stage and the input info stage. Completing all 5 steps is necessary for a successful solution.
When a designer gets 'stuck' - concepts or solutions aren't coming - it is most often due to a lack of information. Go back to step 2 and conduct more research. Look at the problem in a new way. Learn new information. The more one understands the problem, the easier the solution becomes.
Different sources and design textbooks may list different steps. The above 5 are nice because there is some symmetry - info in, info out. The design community will probably never agree on the 'correct' process, they each reach the same goal - effective solutions to marketing communication problems.
Once you know to whom the piece should communicate, you understand the problem, and you have conducted massive amounts of research - you can begin to let your mind explore options. Thumbnails are quick sketches to encourage the fluency and fluidity of thoughts and ideas from your mind. Avoid judgment at this point, you are seeking numerous options and judging ideas inhibits and limits the free flow of thought. Thumbnails are sketched for two main reasons:
1. Get ideas on paper so your mind is free to explore other options.
2. See ideas objectively to prompt even more thumbnail options.
It may be frustrating, but if you show a teacher a bunch of thumbnails, he/she may not tell you which ones are working or which ones have merit. Some students respond with, "well, you're no help" (what they mean is - "I'm too stupid and/or lazy to decide and I want you to do it for me"). Teachers help you by not telling you which ones are the best. It helps you become a more intelligent, assertive, and confident decision-maker. Becoming a better designer is about becoming a better decision maker, and therefore, a better creative problem solver. If the teacher decides which ones are good, you will be deprived of the process of understanding, analyzing, debating, and concluding. You have probably been conditioned to 'please the teacher', but if you ever tell an interviewer or client, "This one works because my teacher said so," you may brand yourself somewhat of an idiot. Hopefully, becoming a successful idiot is not your career goal.
Decide if you wish to be fair, good, or great. "To be good is not enough if you dream of being great".
Remember it is at the rough stage of the process that all design decisions are made. Thumbnails are for non-judgmental exploration sketches and the comp is simply preparing the most successful rough sketch into presentable form. While you should avoid judgment at thumbnails, at the rough stage you must pass judgment and make decisions, based on the list of objectives. Review the target market(s), the list of objectives, and the results desired to help you determine which thumbnail ideas will be the most effective solution to the problem. The rough sketches serve to help you refine all elements - color, composition, font, point size, format, style, etc. It is helpful to work larger to better see detail and alignment.
Places to get ideas
By Daniel Wallen & Jim Watson
Libraries and bookstores
Words are a wonderful thing. You could rearrange the same 26 letters to create an endless array of words that will surely tickle somebody's fancy. Become so curious that you want to read everything you get your hands on. Observe how things like the weight or texture of a book could offer clues for what's hiding under the cover. A heavy book could symbolize a significant time investment for the writer (and you, the reader). A light book could be seen as a short-and-sweet escape perfect for a beach, cruise ship, or even your lunch hour.
Highway sights, c-store stops, sightseeing, highway food.
Hotels are kind of like the purgatory of living arrangements. It is an in-between place that is hard to feel comfortable in despite the fact that you do "home-like" activities such as sleeping, bathing, and brushing. The drastic change in living arrangements could shake you out of auto-pilot from your daily routine and increase your awareness and ability to live in the present.
Bars and coffee houses
If you're a writer looking to sharpen your ability to write conversational pieces that click with your audience, go bar-hopping (but not to one of the annoying ones with loud music). Alcohol has a way of breaking the barriers to authenticity, so have a drink and enjoy some plain and simple truth with fellow patrons. Caffeine can also help break barriers and push us to see differently.
Conversation with friends
Ideas happen when you stop talking about them and start making them happen. Have you ever had an idea in your brain or written in a notebook that just felt like it was missing something, but then you talked it over with a friend and the missing pieces weren't far behind? Your friends will have perspectives totally different from yours, so don't underestimate the power of a simple conversation.
Parks and hiking trails
It's easy to forget that we humans are a small part of the life bustling throughout this world. Explore a trail while keeping an eye out for animal life. Observe the unique quirks and behaviors of each animal friend you come across. Turn off your inner-chatter, crank up your listening ear, and enjoy the sounds of the whole other world you are now a part of.
A bench in a busy downtown area
Plop down on a park bench with a notebook and coffee, watch the busy city life unfold before you. You are but one person in this big, crazy world - check in with the rest for a fresh hit of human inspiration that will help you relate to the people around you.
Whether you're a movie buff or not, there is no denying that films are the preferred art form for most people, so catching some flicks could offer you a hint about what people react to (not to mention it will be fun).
Art, history, science. Learn, experience other cultures, transcend.
Live concerts and performances
There is something amazing about seeing a band or theater troupe that perform with complete harmony.
There are few places more neat and tidy than your area supermarket. Check out the nifty food packaging, the attractive (and efficient) shelf placement, the magazine section, the floral selection, and anything else that jumps out at you. If you're feeling sweet, buy a balloon or flower for someone special.
Early mornings or late nights
Being awake with no sound but birds chirping and an ever-so-slight morning glow overhead while the lazy sun opens its eyes for a brand new day. But maybe you'd be more inspired by a hooting owl, glowing moon, and the sound of crickets. Morning or night, the same fact holds true: there is something innately inspiring about getting work done while the rest of the world sleeps.
A few theorems of design
Banana split: sensory bombardment
We humanoid life forms love to bombard our senses. The more the better - the experience seems heightened the moire sensory receptors we can excite. Examples: An ice cream sundae with vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, salted pecans, whipped cream, and a cherry has sweet and salty, hot and cold, creamy and crunchy, and light and dark. Um, we love it. A hamburger with 'the works' has hot and cold, crunchy and soft, sweet and salty, tart and smooth, and more. And we like it when it has the variety to excite more of our senses.
However, all the ingredients need to be in balance, if there is too much mustard, it throws off the balance of the burger and we are not so enthralled. In design, keep in mind that the reader/viewer may like a more sensory experience, but elements need to be in balance.
Freeway passing: personal pace
Many of us, probly you included, will change lanes to get around someone who is impeding our progress. We realize its not to get to the light or the off-ramp first (it's not a competition), we just prefer to drive, or walk, at our own personal pace. We find comfort and confidence when we feel in control of the pace at which we operate in chaos. Freeways, especially rush-hour freeways are great equalizers - they take hundreds of individuals operating at different speeds and rhythm and require each of them to move at the exact same pace as everyone around them. As soon as we break free of the slow-down, we zip back to our preferred personal speed. Designers acknowledge that when they group all the readers/viewers into a group that reads the same words and sees the same images.
An ad or piece of graphic design is aimed at a specific group of people. But sometimes, people on the fringe edges of that target audience are also paying attention and processing the message. the message may not be written or aimed at them, but they are receiving and responding to it just the same. Example: men/women watch feminine/masculine hygiene ads on media. Sometimes this spill into other demographics can create a negative response that is carried over into the intended audience. Designers and copywriters need to be cautious of the unintended audience to their work and will it have a detrimental effect.
Too close for comfort
I suspect that you have been in a friend's house and noticed that a picture on the wall was a bit crooked (above left). It probly annoyed your sense of order. If an object is aligned with other elements (right) or at an angle that is clearly intentional (middle), we are more comfortable with it. But when it is off just a bit, well, that is too close for comfort. Many of us cause a diversion and go straighten the offending object.
Ease on down: smooth transition
Every day presents new challenges and barbs to our desired plan and flow for the day. Sometimes, these influences switch from abruptly from one to the next. The day goes better, the message can be clearer, and the design work can be more effective if the designer considers these jerky movements and seek to make the transitions as smooth as possible. Unless, the desired effect is one of jarring disjointedness. Frank Lloyd Wright was a genius at guiding the visitors to his structures from their street position to a destination within the structure. Often we have experienced the structure without even being aware of how we were manipulated through the space. For more effective persuasion, it is better to take the target reader/viewer by the hand and walk them to where you want them to be, rather than yelling at them from across the room to get over here.
All design decision are compromises - actually, all decisions are compromises. To gain something, you have to give up something. Sometimes, its an easy choice, because its 90 versus 10, other times its tough: 50 versus 50. In design decisions, we often are deciding between what is familiar - that which requires very little education to communicate to the reader - and what is innovative - what is likely new and needing some processing and understanding.
If a design decision is mostly or totally familiar, it will likely be ineffective because it is boring and mundane - there is no new stimulus to excite the mind of the viewer.
• If a decision is mostly or totally innovative, it runs the risk of not reaching the reader's mind because it may require too much work to accept.
Grand foyer: building confidence
I suspect you have walked into an unfamiliar space and paused to 'get your bearings'. We seem to have a need to survey new surroundings. It might be traced back to our tribal efforts to gain a defensive or offensive advantage when in a new place. This still holds true today - maybe not for strategic reasons, but for comfort. First impressions really do matter. Once our mind has established a judgment or attitude about something new, that becomes pretty solid in our memory. PR and Advertising people use this to their advantage to cement a notion in our minds.
Blinking stoplight: user education
When a city or town installs a stoplight at an intersection where there used to be a stop sign, or no sign at all, the new stoplight flashes yellow (or red) for a week or so. This gets the attention of the motorists and helps educate them to the new system in place. If the stoplight was installed and put into operation immediately, the traffic that used to have the right of way might run through the light out of habit. When introducing new info or a new system or a new procedure, there must be a period of educating the user. We get used to routines and form habits. The new format has to break us of our habit and introduce something new for us to process. The length of time for the education period will vary depending on the disruption of the norm and the complexity of the new info.
Order in the court: comfort of order
There is not much we can agree on as unique individual carbon life forms. But the vast majority of us agree that we do prefer a sense of order. Clear order or organization helps us navigate through the clutter of life, modern environments, and media. Once we accept a foundation of order, it allows us to move into new territory in the environment or in our minds. It seems important for the designer to establish a basis of order before moving the reader into new territory.
Figure out what's working; exploit that and minimize the rest. Strong messages can often be more effective if there is one major concept for the reader/viewer to grasp. Once the designer has determined that one strong message, then that should be the focus of the energy of clear communication. The word exploit works well here because it conveys grabbing, wrestling and pushing to the limits.
In the movies, when they show someone looking through a pair of binoculars, they show us 2 overlapping discs representing the 2 barrels of the binoculars. That is what we expect to see and it is what we have seen in almost every film that shows a binocular view. But, the reality is that when one looks through binoculars, the 2 images merge into a single circle of the view. But the truth would not communicate as clearly to the audience. They stretch (or lie) to the authentic to become artificial. And, for them, it works.
Another: smartphones include a digital click to help us accept the new camera - we became used to the shutter click and felt cheated when our new camera had no such satisfying click.
Seduction of technology
We become enamored by the 'coolness' of the latest new device, app, or system and sometimes forget what we had set out to do. The focus of our work can be overshadowed by how well the tech seduces us into playing and accommodating the object rather than the idea. Unfortunately, many of us push the function and benefit of the new tech to the back and concern ourselves with the flash and gimmick that has purposefully been integrated into the tech to entice us in.
Clarity, not simplicity
Effective Graphic Design is rarely about making something simple. Graphic Design is about making a message clearer. One way to achieve clarity is often to make it simpler. But simplicity is not the the objective, clarity is. Clarity can be achieved by improving many elements: contrast, color, placement, size, etc.
A few theorems from other sources
An entity can become so dedicated to solving a problem that it inadvertently perpetuates the problem.
Shirky Principle: Unions were a solution to the problem of management which exploited workers. But as capital increased in complexity, unions complexified as well, until unions needed management. Unions now perpetuate the problem (management) they are the solution to because as long as unions exist, companies feel they need management to offset them.
Disruptive technologies arise from the margins of an industry.
Honda's electric bicycles were no threat to the big four automobile companies, until electric bikes become motorcycles and motorcycles became small efficient cars. Cheap crummy dot matrix printers were no threat to big offset printing companies until dot matrix became inkjet printers and inkjets became big on-demand printers. The solutions were first marginal, barely working, and therefore ignored. Established industries like to focus on established problems.
Publish-then-filter is necessary due to the size and amount of material being created daily.
Social tools remove older obstacles to public expression, and thus remove the bottlenecks that characterized mass media. The result is the mass amateurization of efforts previously reserved for media professionals. Combined with the lowering of costs of creating content, mass amateurization of publishing changes the question from "Why publish this?" to "Why not?" The wiki concept that inspired Wikipedia is an example of this marriage of mass content creation and mass filtering.
The more ideas in circulation, the more ideas there are to disagree with.
Many advancements in communication throughout history, from the printing press to the television, were heralded as harbingers of world peace yet ended up creating greater dissent. However, with this increased arguing, comes an increased speed of information exchange. Audiences are built, communities grow, and participation matters more than quality.
A person in an organization will be promoted to the level of their incompetence.
Peter Principle: At that point their past achievements will prevent them from being fired, but their incompetence at this new level will prevent them from being promoted again, so they stagnate in their incompetence.
How to be a better creative problem solver
Copyright: 2013, James Robert Watson, PhD. Illustrations by Mitch Baker
Here's the most important thing you can do: You must want to do it. Your growth as a more creative problem solver comes from within, in response to your repeated and sincere desire to solve problems more creatively. That's first and foremost.
Understanding the process and practicing a few exercises can help open your mind to:
get great ideas easier
creatively solve problems
take more risks
be more courageous
be less fearful
have more fluid thinking
To succeed, you must have both of these - Passion and Courage. You need a deep-rooted desire to live, love, and breathe that which you feel strongly about.
But passion is useless without the courage to do something about it.
Getting the great idea
The 'Ah Ha! Eureka' moment is a great feeling. Getting a new thought that resolves something or solves a problem. Some itch or some connection. Its fun to get great ideas. Sometimes frustrating, sometimes elusive. But always part of the joy of human existence, the essence of life and living. It makes us feel alive when we solve problems, make connections, and see in new ways - experience the "I've got it" moment. Its what our minds exist to do. It makes us feel young and active. The mind is working and alive. The mind kicks into gear and goes to work sending messages to the conscious front.
Becoming a better problem solver and creative thinker is a lifelong process. Be patient, work at it sincerely. Some people will experience immediate responses to the exercises and changes in attitude. For some others, it may not feel like you're getting anywhere, until you get there. Unlike activities with immediate response and satisfaction.
Getting great ideas and solutions is easy. Understanding the process and practicing a few basic principles can allow anyone to be more innovative, open-minded, and a more creative problem solver.
Requirements for CPS
All healthy humans are capable of solving problems. Problem solving ability is inherent in the human mind. The brain loves to solve problems: just let it. It will solve any and every problem you give it provided it can meet these 4 conditions:
A clear definition of the problem to be solved.
The brain must know the target to shoot for, the goal, to stay on track, to assess efforts.
Adequate information and input for solution.
Understand the problem. The more you know, the easier it is to obtain a solution. Usually, if a barrier is met during the problem solving process it is due to a lack of information or not understanding the information. See the problem as others may see it. Do more research, talk to people, use the product or item. Problem solvers become authorities on the problem and its ramifications. Creative people are well read.
Strong personal motivation for completion.
The mind will find it tough to complete the process if it does not see a personal benefit,: personal growth, meeting a challenge, money, grade, respect, etc.
A valid reasonable deadline.
The mind knows what it must do but it needs to know by when. If a deadline is not set, the mind will prioritize and probably work on other more important projects.
Human thought (perception, acceptance, processing, and storage) is the specific interaction of chemicals and electricity inside the mysterious organ called the brain. These interactions occur between brain cell relay stations called neurons. Each neuron receives a chemical message through receivers (dendrites) and sends a signal through its tail (axon) and across a gap (synapse) to a neighboring dendrite receiver.
The brain contains 10-100 billion neurons (who could count?) Each forms bridges to so many other neurons that the brain is abuzz with as many as 1 quadrillion connections (about the number of stars in the known universe). Information processing is an active process. The mind is deciding what to focus on, what to ignore, what is information, what is junk, what to remember, etc. Information is gathered, sorted, interpreted, and remembered.
The human brain is divided into two hemispheres. Each side has specific capabilities and functions to perform although the other side could perform a function if necessary. Both sides are used, to varying degrees, in most thinking functions.
The left side is more logical, verbal, linear, sequential, temporal, serious, mathematical, orderly, and rational.
The right side is more artistic, nonverbal, here and now, spatial, positive, meditative, flexible, creative, spontaneous, and imaginative.
In many Americans, the left side of the brain is more dominant, often as a result of societal conditioning.
The optimal brain is one in which both sides are well developed: a balanced brain. If you are right brain dominant try to develop your left hemisphere and vice versa.
Connecting the two hemispheres is a bundle of 200 million nerve fibers called the corpus callosum. As you read this sentence your corpus callosum is carrying 4 billion impulses a second from one side of your active brain to the other.
The donut wall
All messages to your brain pass through your personal belief system. These values are influenced by your health, ethnicity, genetics, environment, parents, friends, expectations, goals, and desires. These mental perceptions affect the processing and outcome of your thoughts. We often hold our beliefs too close. Let them go. Avoid becoming a fanatic to your values. We get too hung up on right and wrong, with no grey area. We defend our beliefs and attack those who may question them. Remove the layers that inhibit, cover, and hide our free thoughts. Becoming a better creative problem solver requires courage, risks. The mind is infinitely creative, it knows no bounds. The boundaries are perceptions we use to establish comfort and security, to defend and attack. Let go.
We build barriers, like a ring wall around us.
Sometimes its tall and thick. It provides a comfortable secure guard against adversity, and protects us (so we think) from things we fear. We feel we need it to feel safe and secure when facing threatening frightening world. But world is not threatening, only our perceptions of it. If we change our perceptions of it, we can remove the cloak, walk free and open.
Work at lowering the wall, making it thinner. Step over it. Let other people in, over it. Be about the mind. Affect attitudes, not control them.
Experience life with open palms, not clenched fists.
Many people lose their ability to solve problems and think creatively because they've allowed or developed blocks and barriers in their minds which stifle creative thought. The greatest barriers to creative thought are usually built by some form of fear. To become a better creative problem solver, acknowledge your fears. Affirm that they can control you, then let them go. Replace them with positive affirmations.
Don't try to be more creative. Try to be less inhibited and more creative thoughts will happen. Creative thoughts cannot be forced, only fostered. You can, however, force a stimulus to creative thought. Do something to break the block: read, doodle, talk, sing, dance, blow bubbles, laugh, skip, take risks; just do something.
Have the courage to fail. It is better to fail while taking a risk than to succeed while playing it safe. Great problem solvers have the courage to fight for what they believe. They stand up for their beliefs and solutions.
Strive for an open mind. This is the most important goal a growing problem solvers can strive for. An open mind allows greater input of information; greater retrieval of information; and better tolerance of ideas, values, and people different from us.
Great problem solvers are well rounded and well read people. They are active in cultural enrichment activities. They constantly strive to experience new sources of enlightening input to stretch limits, broaden horizons, make new connections, and see in new ways. This allows them to better enhance their creative output and increase the wealth of resources from which to draw inspiration and influence.
When you stretch your mind, it never returns to its original shape.
Problem solvers are learners. They know that the responsibility of learning and growing is theirs alone. Because creative thought is a personal courage of the mind, creative people often stand apart from society and in conflict with it. But it is this courage to be yourself in the fullest sense that allows you to grow into the person you are capable of becoming.
10 tips for better ideas
Copyright 1993 and 2013, James Robert Watson, PhD. Illustrations by Mitch Baker.
To get better ideas you should make changes in your behavior. To change behavior you must change your attitude. These activity exercises can help you make those changes. The purpose of these exercises is to encourage you to:
Open your mind
Be more tolerant, more accepting
Change your life, attitude, mind
Help you get great ideas easier
Creatively solve problems
Have more fun and enjoy life for its wonderful adventure
Barriers to innovative thinking
If it ain't broke don't fix it.
That's not how we did it last year.
It was good enough for my parents, it's good enough for me.
Conduits to better thinking
Strive to make things better.
Never leave well enough alone.
Nothing is set in stone.
To become a better creative problem solver, it is necessary to build both roots and wings. Roots provide a secure stable foundation from which to operate with esteem, courage, and confidence. Wings encourage you to explore, experience, and enjoy - to soar.
The 10 activities and exercises are probably in order of importance, but maybe not. Skip around if you'd like (who will know?) Work on one or two areas, then come back and do others, or go straight through all of them, it's up to you. There is no single best way to enhance your problem solving skills. You know what is best for your growth.
Conduct periodic honest self-assessments
Great designers (and great people) are in touch with who they are and how they fit into a connected community. It is beneficial and healthy for you to constantly assess who you are and what you are about. As the saying goes, "A life unexamined is a life not worth living." Well, that may be a bit drastic, but you get the idea. An examined life will help you feel more centered with who you are, gain self respect and self confidence, and help you survive, compete, and tolerate a sometimes ruthless environment.
Setting goals can help you grow in the direction that is most efficient for your growth and happiness. Your self assessment goals should be:
Attainable (but just barely)
Doable on a time schedule.
Address the items below honestly and thoroughly (you can certainly add additional assessment criteria and evaluation). This is not really about right or wrong, its about your honest, thorough, and deeply probing assessment of some of your beliefs and values. Do whatever you do when you check your inner thoughts: take a walk, fantasize, reread your journal, meditate, etc. Consider skills at which you excel, how you enjoy spending your spare time, where you would like to be five years from now, etc. Jot notes and clarify your thoughts. Dig deep. Try to figure out what really makes you you: why you think, act, and believe the way you do.
Jump-starters and thought-provokers
My most cherished childhood memories.
How I enjoy spending my free time.
My role models.
When I knew for sure that I was talented.
Heroes who have had a major influence on me.
People I must impress in order to feel good about myself.
The attributes that make me unique and special.
The major goals I want to accomplish in my life.
Behind my back, people say that I am . . .
Some things that prevent me from focusing on a task or project.
What I want to say on my deathbed.
My three best assets.
Why I do or do not feel very confident about myself or my ideas.
I am happiest when I am . . .
My ultimate fantasy dream job.
Things I would change about myself.
Some of my pet peeves.
I want to break out of these ruts or habits.
The things that prevent me from thinking more open-mindedly.
What I am most afraid of.
Self-assessment is important as a foundation to further growth, to determine the starting point, and the direction to grow. These assessments are very private and should be very honest. Don't kid yourself. Conduct them often, take stock of where you are in your growth, the progress that you've made. Reward yourself when you achieve some positive changes.
Question yourself, what are your likes, dislikes. What excites you. Where do you feel inadequate, uncomfortable, uneasy. Who are your role models. What is it about them that you admire and respect.
Figure out whats working in your life, enhance that and minimize the rest.
Writing in a journal is an efficient way to clarify your thoughts. It allows you to see on paper your inner thinking. Write in each area of growth: spiritually, mentally, and physically. Assess where you are right now. List your strengths. Relish them. Enjoy them. Emphasize them. Also list your weaknesses. Minimize those. Also write your goals and objectives for your life. Write some long term goals. What is the big picture, where do you see yourself in a few years, 10 years, at death, etc.
We all want: survival, health, to be loved and appreciated, satisfied with our work, and, we want to laugh and have fun.
Watson's secret to the game of life: the game of life is developing and experiencing a balance between making a responsible contribution to society and having a good time. Give and take, in balance. As citizens of the earth and our society, you have an obligation to impact that society, to make it better, to improve it. Balance that with a childlike desire to have fun. Life is a hoot, after all. If out of balance, such as too serious pressure on making an impact, life's hardly much fun. If you're having too much fun, you miss the humanness of helping your peer earth citizen.
Review your journal periodically. This gap of time allows you to see your thoughts more objectively, with fresh eyes, and allow you to better evaluate where you are.
Write in your journal.
Take walks in the woods.
Talk to yourself.
Stare at yourself in the mirror.
Write some more in your journal.
Send yourself a birthday card.
Center the inner alpha spirit
Work at (if you're not already) seeking to grow spiritually: becoming more calm, at peace, and acknowledging the tremendous power within that can be tapped.
We think in wave cycles, from most awake to unconscious: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. Thoughts can fluctuate between the wavelengths several times a minute.
• In wide-awake beta, we are active, fully alert, and able to experience logical reasoning, fear, excitement, tension, anxiety, and pain.
• It is in alpha that we have the most flashes of inspiration, conceive brilliant ideas, are most innovative, remember long-forgotten facts or experiences, and have the best memory recall and most effective retrieval of information. Alpha occurs right before sleep and during routine activities that are performed out of habit (mowing the lawn, vacuuming, driving, brushing teeth). One can achieve this alpha state of mind: relaxation, meditation, deep prayer, jogging, listening to music, daydreaming, etc.
• Theta is a state of deep relaxation and sleep dreaming.
• Deep sleep occurs in delta, an unconscious state.
Practice achieving the Alpha state - it gets easier. You can actually feel the shift in your mind. Its a brief shudder, a sense of calm, peace.
Be wary of any belief system that espouses only one correct way to accomplish something (salvation, forgiveness, etc.) There may be other ways. The close-minded approach of intolerance of differing beliefs causes much strife, tension, hatred, and a lack of compassion and forgiveness. Avoid holding your beliefs so close that they become smothering and stifling. Becoming a fanatic about your beliefs is counterproductive. It closes your mind to new stimuli and new options. Give yourself permission to change your beliefs whenever you want. As you grow and change you will alter your personal values. Your value system is influenced by your parents, friends, health, childhood, and your environment. All these external factors change constantly, so should you. Be open to that growth.
Realize that your self-esteem should not be based on the approval of others or on what others think of you. Earning their approval is certainly nice, but dont live for that. Accept and approve of yourself. Other's approval of you does not determine who you are or what you can do.
Like yourself. That's worth repeating: like yourself. You are talented, capable, and a creative problem solver. That's your birth status. If you dont think you are, its because you have deluded yourself or listened to the negative thoughts once too often.
Acknowledge and appreciate your parent's guidance during your development. Forgive them for their restrictions and inhibitions. They did their best with the knowledge they had at that time. Let go of the past. Release any anger towards your parents and love them for their sacrifices. Forgiving is very liberating. It frees the mind for openness, innovation, and growth.
Do you feel you aren't capable of meeting adversity by yourself head on? Are you too weak? So weak you need a crutch? Shed your crutches. Keep them close by for a sense of security at first, but work towards walking on your own. You are certainly capable.
Go camping by yourself. Eat in a restaurant alone. These allow you to be your own company, your own companion, your best friend. Delve deep into your friend, see her or him as a confidant, trusted peer. At first it may be scary or awkward, but relax and get to know yourself. There is nothing to fear, no reason to feel uncomfortable or awkward. Seek the calm and peace that comes from feeling comfortable with just yourself.
Like happiness or friendship, becoming a better creative thinker is not something that you can force or actively pursue. Mental barriers will form. Focus on your oneness and let go of any pressure or desire to achieve a specific result. The growth comes most rapidly and most effectively when you achieve a balance in your life.
Be at peace, one with the world. This is being centered. Acknowledging you are part of a larger whole, a necessary part, a joyous part.
Personal growth is an ongoing journey, not a destination.
Verbally forgive your parents, they did their best.
Humming exercise: lay relaxed, hum freely, let things out.
Ease into your day. Affirm, talk to yourself, pump-up. Avoid jumping straight out of bed (a bit too abrupt).
Read enlightening books.
List all the things that make you really happy, dwell on them, cherish them.
Watch a star fade into the sunrise.
Stare at the moon, really stare.
Slow down, calm down.
Walk in the woods.
See a therapist.
Say 'I Love You' to someone new.
Play hard: exercise regularly
Our incredible creative minds are supported by a complex structure of bones, muscles, organs, nerves, and cells. The health of that structure affects the health of the mind. To grow most efficiently as a creative problem solver, it is necessary to grow physically. Personal empowerment, strength and courage from feeling fit and healthy.
A study in 2013 concluded that people generate more creative ideas while walking than while sitting. And the benefits of walking lingered, as participants came up with significantly more and subjectively better ideas when they took a creativity test post-walk than they did pre-walk. Study author Marily Oppezzo of Santa Clara University tells The New York Times, "I think it's possible that walking may allow the brain to break through" some of its hyperrational filters.
One thing I like about going to the gym to work out is the level of the energy there. The people at the gym are all trying to better their bodies, and their lives. They are pushing, excelling, and striving for growth. This attitude exudes an energy that can be infectious. I often get great ideas at the gym. The energy is very inspiring. I sometimes take pencil and paper to jot down ideas.
Working out encourages you to concentrate on the physical task of the moment. This concentration frees your mind from other disruptive thoughts. Allowing you to center and be more at peace.
I am baffled by the people who ride the elevator or escalator up just one flight of stairs. Are they really that tired or lazy. I understand some people may not be feeling well and ought to take the easier way, but most of us would benefit by the short walk. The exercise for our legs, lungs, and heart is great and the mental attitude that we are growing and improving is rewarding. Or how about the people who drive up and down the rows in the mall parking lot seeking that perfect place right by the door. Is it really so important? Is someone keeping score? Whats the big deal with walking a few feet from the first available parking place to the mall door. The ultimate is when those row circlers park by the door only to go inside for their mall walking exercise.
Regular exercise increases your feeling of well-being, adds more years to your life and more life to your years. The physical activity helps release endorphins creating a natural euphoria. Activity increases blood and oxygen flow to mind, allowing it to operate more efficiently.
A great way to increase your level of physical activity is to act more childlike. Watch children. They are very active, very energetic. Its a great way for adults to live: skip down the hall (takes a lot of courage), run in the grass, do jumping jacks.
Jog or walk, really do it.
Lift weights, any weights.
Juggle. Requires focus and concentration. The satisfaction of the physical accomplishment is rewarding.
Walk up the stairs, avoid the elevator.
Don't park right by the mall entrance.
Run, skip, jump, spin.
Go dancing, often.
Wake up early and do exercises.
Make time for an exercise program.
Just do it.
Eat like your life depended on it
The nutrients we put into our bodies affect the efficiency of the mind's operations. Your mind needs fuel to operate. The main food of the brain is glucose (a sugar). Your brain weighs less than about 5% of your total body weight but uses almost 50% of the nutrient glucose. So maybe if you're up against the idea block, eat something sweet, preferably with natural sugar - bananas, an apple, or other fruit.
Some food is over processed and killed, just dead. Fresh fruits and vegetables are live food. They are active. They contain water that is clean and pure. You've probably heard the new studies: complex carbohydrates are important, fiber, and some protein. Less important: fat, salt, refined sugar, and processed foods.
Nothing tastes as good as feeling lean and fit. Feeling embarrassed about your appearance, or endurance, or lack of energy feels worse than the taste of the best dessert or fried food.
Diets (any regimen of eating; therefore we're all on a diet at any time) have taken on a negative connotation. So don't go on one. Its that simple. Just do what you know you should. Eating wisely is all a matter of mind. Once you've made that mental commitment, the physical part is easy. Nothing tastes as good as feeling slim, fit, and healthy. Get a post-it note and write that out and stick it to your refrigerator.
Eat well. Live full.
Control your life and what you put into your body (your brain-support mechanism).
Don't deprive yourself of any foods. Revive, alive with good foods.
Try ethnic foods.
Cook something new.
Eat less sugar and white flour
Enjoy fresh fruit, really enjoy.
Eat foods that are alive.
Do what you know you should.
Practice solving mind games
Solving mind games is a fun way for creative people to develop and exercise problem solving abilities. Stay out of the rut of looking for just one solution to a problem or puzzle: turn the problem over, see it from all sides, restate it, experiment with a multitude of options, and keep your mind open. Avoid giving in to your perceptual, emotional, cultural, and intellectual blocks.
One example - a surprising place for playing mind games is while stuck in traffic or at a red light. Sure, youre probably frustrated at some moron driver in front of you. Use the time to turn to a more positive outlook. License plate games: make up words using the letters on the tag. For example, if the tag says GTR, try the words garter, grate, great, strange. Shoot for the shortest word with the tag letters in order as on the tag. Therefore, garter would be a better solution than great. Playing these games keeps your mind active and alert (this helps you grow and keeps you alert while driving) and it keeps you from getting angry or thinking negatively while stuck in traffic.
Solving mind games does great things:
Helps you pay close attention to detail.
Stretches mental flexibility.
Exercises problem solving neurons.
Increases fluency of options.
Improves your mental skills in:
Helps you develop your creative problem solving abilities by:
Avoiding limiting assumptions.
Breaking out of ruts.
Making new connections.
Overcoming blocks and barriers.
Seeing things in new ways.
Mind games suggestions
Fill in crossword puzzles.
Make up names of government agencies from the letters on license plates.
Make words out of the letters on license plates.
Play any type of board, card, or puzzle games with your friends.
Anagrams: rearrange letters to create new words.
Buy books of mind games and do a couple each night.
Why are manhole covers round?
Laugh like a child
Laughter makes us feel more alert, more active, excited, and alive. Laughter is liberating, freeing. It allows you to overcome and forget your inhibitions and fears. Try to surround yourself with people that build you up, people that make you laugh. Minimize your time with people who are negative, complain, gripe, and who don't laugh enough (or you could try to make them laugh).
Studies have shown that our creativity drops when we enter school. Creativity goes underground, it gets blocked over. Previously we delighted in fantasy, abstract reasoning, imaginative mental images, and fun.
Percentage of people who are evaluated to be highly creative:
Age 0-5 = 90%
Age 6-7 = 10%
Age 8 = 2%
Seek to regain childlike activities (not childish, but childlike). Don't worry if someone accuses you of not acting your age. What's so great about acting your age? Didn't you have more fun when you were a kid, carefree and skipping down the driveway? Acting childlike is certainly not normal, but then what's the fun in being normal? Act like the child that is still within you. He or she would probably love to come out and play. Just ask.
There is a fine line between acting in a creative manner and acting crazy. Acting crazy is probably okay since it implies youre simply different from those around you. Look around, thats probably good.
Experience the ecstasy of the glory of laughter - it is humanness at its best, at its most satisfying.
Go to a comedy club
Watch funny movies.
Trip on purpose.
Tell a joke to a stranger.
Address and embrace fears
To varying degrees we are each fearful. Although some fear is healthy and good, we often give in to other fears too easily. To become a better creative thinker, acknowledge your fears. Affirm that they can control you, then let them go. Your fears allow the greatest blocks to having creative thoughts: they build barriers. Strive to minimize and control those barriers. Try to clarify what frightens you, what caused or causes it, what it is doing to your life and well-being and how it impacts your personal and professional growth. Embrace and strive to overcome the controlling factor of your fears. Work at controlling your fears, rather than letting them control you.
Risk-taking is inherently failure prone. Otherwise it would be called sure-thing-taking. Tim McMahon
The number one fear for most people is public speaking, often caused by not being prepared. If one is prepared one feels more confident and prepared, less fearful.
Some other strong fears are the fear of disapproval, fear of ridicule, and the fear of not being accepted. Realize that your self-esteem should not be based on the approval nor acceptance of others or on what others think of you. Earning their approval or acceptance is certainly nice, but don't live for that. Accept and approve of yourself. Other's approval of you does not determine who you are or what you can do.
Fail forward, learn and grow from your failures. Some anonymous wit pointed out that the only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how you use them.
The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually fear that you will make one. (Hubbard Elbert)
The purpose of ancestral and hereditary fears was to give warning and protection against danger. The only fears we are born with are these two: fear of loud noises and fear of falling. The rest of our fears are learned behavior.
Embracing fears suggestions
Give yourself permission to fail.
Talk honestly to yourself.
Question your motives.
Question your direction.
Write your innermost revelations in a journal.
Sincerely say 'I love you' to someone you've not said it to before.
Seek fear assessment from others.
Act like the kid within.
Do that which you fear.
Neurobics: break the crust of habit
Creative growth happens outside one's comfort zone. Creative people are well-rounded participants in a variety of activities. They constantly strive to experience new sources of enlightening input to stretch limits, broaden horizons, make new connections, and see in new ways. This allows them to increase the wealth of resources from which to draw inspiration and influence. Since a creative idea is a combination of previously unrelated ideas, the greater the wealth of ideas, the greater the chance of making new combinations.
Neurobics: neurons (the thinking cell of the mind) + bios (life).
Whereas aerobics increases oxygen to the blood through activity, neurobics increases life to the mind through new activity. A neurobics event should be something you do not ordinarily do (stretch your mind) and appropriate for creative mental expansion. When the mind is stretched, it never returns to its previous shape. Experience life with open palms, not clenched fists. Rekindle your childlike curiosity, awe, and wonder. Strive to be courageous, open, and participatory. Steer out of your ruts.
We are most comfortable operating within our personal safety barrier. The barrier resembles a big donut around us. Sometimes when we feel secure and comfortable, we lower the donut wall or make the walls thinner. When we are threatened or afraid, we make the walls thick and tall. We establish rules to guide us within this barrier. These rules, if you allow them, can be stifling to your growth. It is natural in our culture to want this guidance safeguard. Knock it off. Lower the wall.
Or at least minimize it. Learn to see from new viewpoints, challenge assumptions, question authority, and take risks.
The trick is to develop the security and comfort in your environment so the wall can be lowered with little loss of security and comfort.
Don't let rules become inhibiting barriers, they are just guidelines. Decisions are often based on what works, not what rules are followed. Here are two valid rules: do not harm anyone else and do not harm anyone elses property or possessions. Pretty simple. Pretty effective.
We grow up with rituals: school, the pledge of allegiance, thanksgiving dinner, and the same route driving to work. Traditions provide comfort, security, and stagnation. Rituals grease the operational maintenance of our culture. Andreas Vollenweider performs differently in concert "you can hear my albums, this is live, I'll make it different". Still a ritual but expanded, bent, and altered. He saw the ritual for its value (familiarity, but enhanced our experience by enhancing the ritual).
We all have bent the rules. Sometimes just a little, but still bent. We bend them to justify our position or attitude or to get what we want while feeling, falsely, that we are upright moral and have obeyed the rules. Were good. We sense our value of good on how we have kept the rules. But you haven't kept the rules. Isnt a bent rule a broken rule? Sure. A rule is either/or, black and white. If you bend it, even a little, you have broken the absolute of the rule. Congratulations. Keep it up.
Routines may be valuable in that they provide comfort and security. If your routine is to do laundry every Sunday morning, stop and go out to breakfast instead. Do it at another time. So what.
Be spontaneous. Sometimes don't plan, just do what your mind is guiding you to do.
All great people are nonconformists. (All nonconformists are not great people.)
Become aware of your rules; write them down. Break some of your rules.
Use your other hand for routine activities.
Change your routine.
Avoid establishing routines.
Brush your teeth with your other hand.
Eat a meal with chopsticks or your fingers or your less dominant hand.
Keep the TV off for a full day and night.
Do absolutely nothing, especially on a hectic day.
The world and your life will be just fine. Sleep late,
eat a late breakfast, sit on the patio, read silly stuff.
Participate in some new activity.
Drive a new route to work, school, or the mall.
Travel to a new place.
Go to a seminar on an unfamiliar subject.
Learn a new skill.
Walk through Toys R Us and see it as a child does.
Explore the aisles of Lowe's Depot.
Learn a new dance.
Eat ethnic foods you've never tried.
Learn a foreign language.
Yes, I Can: affirm positively
We program our minds with negative thoughts: I can't do that, that won't work, etc. You convince yourself of these truths. You can just as easily program your mind with positive uplifting thoughts. Affirm that you are creative: I am a creative person. I am open and alert to new possibilities.
As a teacher in a Department of Design I too-often heard, "I can't draw". The main reason these people say that is they continually program their mind to believe it. Your mind will believe what it tells itself. The first step to learn how to draw or learn any new information or perform any new task is to affirm that you can do it. Let your mind tell itself it is capable.
Replace 'I have to' with 'I want to'. Usually that is true. When we say, 'I have to get back to work', its usually true that you want to, not have to. You do want to keep your job, your income. You do acknowledge that to keep that you want to keep your boss happy and your company productive. 'I have to do my laundry'. You probably really want the clean clothes. With sincere belief and repetition, your mind will accept and believe it. It may be tough but with practice these affirmations will become self-realizing habits.
To become a better creative thinker, acknowledge and affirm that your fears can control you, then let them go. Replace them with positive affirmations. Replace problems with challenges and opportunities.
Choose to be great in this day. Just because you say so. The day is here, its coming, make the best of it: you are in control: choose to be great. The day will be great or poor without you. It just is, but our attitude and response to the day can be affected. That is within you.
Affirm out loud. By yourself if you're embarrassed. Write a positive affirmation on a Post-It note and stick it around the house, office, or car. On the mirror stick one that says, "I'm attractive". In the office: "I am capable, talented, and creative." Determine the negative affirmations you are living by, write the positive version on the sticky note, and post it. Don't worry about how great the slogan is. You're not trying to win some writing award, youre not trying to win at all, just grow. Read it throughout the day. Memorize it. Writing it out helps you to learn it and live it. The posting is just a reminder for you to relearn and relive it.
Affirmation recited by the motivational speaker, Tony Robbins, before he goes on stage:
I command my subconscious mind to direct me in helping as many people as possible today, by giving me the strength, the emotional persuasion, the humor, the brevity; whatever it takes to get them to change their lives now!
My life has meaning.
I respect and like myself.
I am optimistic and hopeful about my future - I look beyond just what is - to what could be.
I am worthwhile.
I love my parents and appreciate their sacrifices for me, but I no longer need their approval to feel worthwhile.
I no longer need approval from others to feel worthwhile.
Each human is unique and deserves to be treated in an individual manner.
I am tolerant of those different from me.
I will not harm others or their property.
I solve problems with innovation.
I make decisions with intelligence.
I solve problems with greater attention to detail. I will not settle for adequate, mediocre, good enough, or average in my work, thoughts, or relationships.
I will strive to better control my mental attitude - my attitude will then influence my behavior, and my behavior will influence my environment.
I acknowledge that obstacles are perceived in my mind - I can deal with them in my mind.
I acknowledge the power of habits and conditioning - I will break the crust of habit and push myself to experiment, explore, and grow.
I am a participant and an activist to make things better; to contribute to the well-being of others.
Life can be unfair - I won't whine or bitch about it.
My life is a joyous adventure.
I learn from my mistakes.
I fail forward.
I see problems as challenges.
I am open to new attitudes.
I am creative, courageous, and capable.
I experience life with open palms, not clenched fists.
I will act more childlike but not childish.
I won't let my fears control me - I will take more chances, try new things, make new connections, see new patterns, and broaden my horizons.
I eat like my life depends on it.
I acknowledge that creative thinking is thinking without fear.
I will steer out of my ruts.
I strive to experience the glory of laughter.
I will scratch the itch.
I can step over or around any barriers.
Listen to yourself, really listen.
Write down your negative affirmations and throw them away.
Write down your positive affirmations and tape them to the refrigerator, mirror, dashboard, and telephone.
Have friends point out when you say "I can't".
No excuses: scratch the itch, do something
Creative people constantly seek better ways to do something; the new and improved version. They have this itch that moves them to make human existence better (more enjoyable, more profitable, easier, more convenient, safer, etc.) Robert Kennedy (among others) said something like: "Some people see things as they are and ask Why? Others see things as they could be and ask Why Not?" See things for what they could be, not just for what they are.
We all critique, pass judgment, and complain. Creative people go beyond, they do something about it. Have the courage to make things better. What have you got to lose? If your solution doesn't work, try something else or put it back the way you found it.
Do something suggestions
Invent a new product.
Take a chance to find a better way.
Start a garden, watch it grow.
Become aware of your itch to make things better.
Address your frustrations at products in your home.
Develop a way to shorten the lines at the bank.
Buy an Idea Journal. Use it to jot down your great ideas, revelations, quotes, and inventions.
Keeping an Idea Journal
Great ideas strike any time anywhere. Great designers keep paper handy so they can record and sketch whenever inspired. A journal or book of blank pages can help facilitate this process. The word journal is rooted in the French word for day jouras in a daily log (like soup-of-the-day: Soup dew hour). A work-in-progress collection of words and images, a journal can help remind, motivate, encourage, and archive your thoughts, ideas, feelings, and discoveries. The journal can be a collage of elements or organized into sections. This process should help you improve and clarify your thinking, ideating, and conceiting. It can also become a record for archiving sketches, notes, and thoughts for a particular project. It can allow you to sketch whenever you are inspired.
A journal can also help you clarify personal thoughts and help you resolve inner conflict. When faced with a dilemma, writing to yourself or just writing can help you see and think more objectively and clearly. Our personal values and beliefs, already established, affect our thoughts. We reject what we consider to not be consistent with what we believe to be real/true. This self-perception affects our creativity. Assessing, clarifying, and affirming your beliefs will help you feel more centered and confident and, therefore, make it easier to open up and innovate.
The journal can be a bound book, loose leaf notebook, or a spiral notebook. Whichever style you adopt, some pages should be blank so that lines won't affect or influence sketches. Some journals on the market have a half page that is lined for notes and the other half blank for sketches.
The journal should be large enough to sketch in and small enough to be convenient to carry around. There should be enough room to tape in postcards, pictures, letters, and any other found items of significance. Avoid getting one with too many pages - having 100 empty pages can be intimidating. It may be better to fill one up a shorter book and get a new one than to lug around a larger book. Experiment with different sizes until you are comfortable with one.
Cover and binding
Select or make a 'book' that will be convenient, appropriate to you and your lifestyle, and adaptable to a variety of uses (writing, sketching, taping, etc.) Design a cover and/or title page with a unique identifier.
Personal mission statement - what you want to be and do; what you're about
Definitions of design, art, creativity
Design philosophy (motivators, passion)
What inspires you
How you want to be remembered
In addition to creative idea sketches and notes, your journal can also serve as an organizer. Put in a calendar, your to-do list, and notes for other projects or thoughts. You can even write in it like a diary: expressing your private thoughts and clarifying them on paper. This may be one of the most valuable uses for your journal.
Making a Process Book
By Jim Watson; with input from Jeff Price and Riki Kumar
Great design solutions don't come easily - design is not magic. It takes hard work, research, deep thorough assessment, lots of sketching, and exploration.
To facilitate the process, it is helpful to create and maintain a collection of the influences, inspirations, and pieces used for assessment, research, ideation, and solution development. This collection, bound and somewhat organized is called a process book. It will help you work through the steps of the design process and serve you well in job interviews. Interviewers know that the Mac makes all projects look good - they want to know what went on in your mind while you developed a solution. Flipping through a project process book provides the interviewer with a peek inside the thoughts, notes, and sketches of the designer.
Note: the Process Book is a bit different form an Idea Journal. The journal is personal and includes a myriad of inspirations, influences, thoughts, and ideas. The Process Book is specific to the project being addressed. It can also include inspirations and influences, and ideas, but only specific to the project.
Name of designer
Project components (identity, sign, stationery, gift certificate, brochure, etc.)
A summary of the project, its specs, and unique needs.
Description of company/entity - brief yet complete explanation of the primary function of the client's company.
Statement of the design problem - what the marketing/design needs are, To overcome/introduce/help communicate . . .
Mission statement - Create and produce an identity, signage, and graphics package that conveys the warmth and personal service of a new hair salon, while helping to overcome a poor entrance & awkward location.
Target markets - consider primary, secondary, tertiary audiences. Be very, very specific.
List adjectives the solution should convey - qualities and attributes that are communicated.
Objectives the solution should achieve - list and clarify what should be accomplished. The new logo should be minimally offensive, easy to remember, easy to reproduce, . . .
Research & inspiration
Research conducted, from many different venues and sources, about the company, the audience, the marketing needs, etc.
Sources: ad tear-sheets, photos of similar ideas, objects, products, magazines, books, questionnaires, interviews, websites, drawings, photographs, catalogs, maybe even trash you find on the ground. Display these inspirations and influences so that it is easy for you to refer to them later. Avoid stuffing them into an envelope.
List what you did to get fluid ideas - the ‘silly' stuff you did to open your mind, get inspiration, explore, pursue options; the more off-the-wall, the better. This can be a stream-of-consciousness style of musings and thoughts.
The 'Eureka' epiphanies
Barriers and blocks
Brief descriptions of the ‘big idea' that will drive the solution. The creative strategy. The concept.
Include as many sketches, thumbnails and roughs, as possible. There should be numerous different idea concepts, not just a few ideas with numerous variations.
The solution concept, restated more clearly.
Thorough rationale for all design decisions. Refer to notes included earlier in the process book.
Samples of the final roughs and finished comp.
Determine if the piece effectively meets the objectives stated in the assessment. Be honest. A scientist looks at his/her work with discerning eyes, always looking for improvement. Often, the best designers are the hardest on themselves, which shows self-confidence, honesty, and a desire to become a better creative problem solver.
What you would do differently.
The designer's curse: Scratch the itch
Creative people see things in new ways, transfer information from one problem to another, and make connections where none existed. George Bernard Shaw (and later, Robert Kennedy) once said something like,
Some people see things as they are and ask: Why?
I see things as they could be and ask: Why not?
Designers (creative problem solvers) see connections that did not previously exist, transfer information from one problem to another, see possibilities that are not immediately obvious, and are constantly honing their analytical ability to solve problems. Though we are all bothered by the little annoyances caused by products or systems that we know could be done better, designers are the ones who respond with "there must be a better way". They then set out to find such a solution, sometimes just in their own minds and sometimes for actual production. Good designers are constantly redesigning their environment. They hone their problem solving skills by practicing, often subconsciously, the process of design wherever and whenever they seek problems.
Your more sophisticated sense of aesthetics, sequential order, and efficient communication of information sets you apart from non-designers. This project allows you to practice your problem solving skills by responding to the designer's curse: that innate desire to make things better, find a better answer, or produce a better solution. Sometime recently you were probably somewhere and felt a bit uncomfortable about the design solution to a product or process. That itch should be slightly annoying. As a problem solving designer, have the courage to do something about that itch: redesign the product, place, or procedure. Make it better.
Recognize the itches that bother your sense of design, practicality, and inconvenience. There should be plenty. If there are not, practice being more analytical and more aware of products and systems that could be done better. The new product or system must be original/novel and practical/useful. If it is not original then it is not a way to make something better. If it is not practical then it will be too hard to promote in the marketplace.
The Design Process
Recall where the itch last struck or now be aware of when the itch strikes. Visit the place: restaurant, store, office, school, etc. Analyze the current situation. Determine the specific design problem. What objectives were achieved (or should have been). What are the primary and secondary target markets.
Learn about the situation and the place: observe the users, take notes, and conduct research. Critique all aspects of the problem: materials used, arrangement of elements, information communication, use of space, architecture, interior, traffic flow, graphics, etc.
Allow your mind to explore, create, and solve.
Thumbnails, ideas, concepts, brainstorming, roughs, design decisions, compromises, fine tuning,and final decisions.
Make an oral presentation describing how you soothed the itch. Include a critique of the existing design solution (why does it not work?), and recommendations to make it work better. Be thorough and specific. You may use maps, charts, photos, renderings, models, or anything else that will help communicate clearly your improved solution.
Experience, appreciate, and enjoy the designer's curse.
Practice scratching the itch.
Become more aware of the surrounding environment.
Objectively critique design quality and execution.
Develop assertiveness and courage to feel comfortable reworking someone else's design solutions.
Work through the steps of creating a product: assessment, research, concept, sketches, comp, and presentation.
Practice communicating a concept and solution with clarity and ease of comprehension.
Grow as a problem seeking and problem solving designer.
El Admissibility's equation for design
Problem, Invention, Art
Tips for critiquing works of design
Graphic designers communicate a specific body of information to a specific group of people to achieve a specific result. The purpose of a design piece is to change an attitude in order to change the behavior of the target audience.
Assessing and critiquing any work of design should be made through the eyes, mind, and perceptions of the target audience. No one else really matters.
A critique is an analytical process of evaluating and understanding a solution to a graphic design problem. Designers hone their conceptual, communication, and execution skills by constantly analyzing their own work and the works of others. It is a valuable skill to be able to objectively analyze your own work to spot its strong and weak points. This evaluation helps you refine the areas that may need attention and reinforce those that are strong. It will help you grow as a creative problem solving designer.
The shredding process
By Jonah Letterer, author of How We Decide and Imagine.
One of the best things about a moment of insight is that no one needs to tell you you're having one. A decision just feels right. Sometimes these moments hit during a relaxing shower after a long period of agonizing, though, more often, insight takes hard work, collaboration, and lots of triple espresso shots.
Brainstorming, a nice idea that doesn't actually work, has become the most widely implemented creativity technique of all time. The first rule of brainstorming is 'Thou shall not criticize.' It feels good - we can all come into a room together and free-associate, fill up the white board. But people are much more productive when they work in groups following a very different set of instructions.
Research has shown that only truly constructive criticism of ideas and a culture that encourages dissent will result in great ideas that move a company forward. Companies that exemplified this culture of encouraged dissent: some Pixmap, Toyota, and Apple practices are good models, but it's best to look to art schools, since disciplines like art, music, and dance are techniques that are honed through constant critique and refinement: a process that leads to greater 'creativity.'
Steve Jobs, head of Pixmap during their formative years, advocated the practice of brutal honesty. At Pixmap the engineers and animators begin every day by watching the most recent footage of the previous day's animation. Then they engage in what they call the 'shredding process.' People rip apart the work to find the flaws - whether or not they had been involved in the creation. Feelings get hurt. It's harsh. And it is incredibly useful. Over the course of years of shredding, you end up with a really good animated movie. Criticism is built into their process at every step. You don't advance by avoiding failure and blindsiding yourself to your sore spots. There is something about criticism that makes us rise to the occasion. You suddenly feel something bigger is at stake, and you rebuild relative to that. Fail fast, then fix.
Improving your critiquing skills and practicing to objectively analyze your work and that of others will help you to:
Enhance your growth and progress as a creative problem solver.
See your own work objectively.
Isolate your ego from your work.
Not take criticism personally.
Improve observation skills.
Enhance your skills of communicating a concept.
See the benefits of keeping an objective open mind.
Be more willing to discuss the strengths and weaknesses in your work.
The basic criteria for evaluation of a piece is:
Does it work?
Does it solve the problem.
Does it meet the objectives.
Will it achieve the proper result.
Will the viewer understand what the client and designer intended.
Will it effectively change the attitude of the target market.
Areas to consider
The 'big idea', theme, copy line, and creative strategy.
Creative: clever, fresh, original, novel/useful and original/practical.
Thorough exploration of ideas and thorough attention to detail.
Primary dominant idea that 'drives' the entire piece.
Appropriate balance between innovative and familiar.
Solution valid and appropriate to the problem.
How well the idea concept is conveyed.
Strong visual impact: grab the viewer's attention. Is it inviting, stimulating, and compelling?
Composition and format of the page layout: balance: equal, heavy, lopsided, comfortable; shape: delicate, heavy, clumsy; movement: static, dynamic, directional, flowing, erratic.
Appropriate style of design and technique of illustration.
Easy to understand meaning of the message content.
Effective readability and legibility.
Viewer response appropriate to content or desired result.
Content and message conveyed efficiently and quickly.
Does it incite the appropriate action and response.
Execution or Craftsmanship
The quality of the final solution.
Clean: free of dirt, smudges, tears, and bends.
Proper materials used.
Accurate alignment of elements.
Solid neat inking.
Straight lines, smooth curves, and sharp corners.
Efficient model, dummy, comp.
Composition format of the page layout.
Dress appropriate to the content.
Rehearsed, thorough, brief.
Figure out what's working in the piece; exploit that and minimize the rest.
1. Analyze the piece.
2. Determine its main conceptual strength.
3. Exploit that and minimize the rest.
Are you eccentric?
If at least 10 of the characteristics below, ranked from most important
down to least important, describe you, you are probably an eccentric:
3. Extremely curious
4. Idealistic, altruistic
5. Happily hobby-obsessed
6. Aware of your differences as a child
8. Opinionated, outspoken
9. Noncompetitive, inner-directed
10. Unusual lifestyle and eating habits
11. Content to be alone
12. Mischievous sense of humor
14. Oldest or only child
15. Bad speller
Where the most USA eccentrics live
A few famous eccentrics
Don't give up. People just might be wrong.
Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try and find oil? You're crazy.
Drillers who Edwin Drake tried to enlist in 1859
This 'telephone' has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication.
Western Union internal memo, 1876
Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.
President, Royal Society, 1895
Everything that can be invented has been invented.
Commissioner, US Office of Patents, 1899
Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?
HM Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927
The problem with television is that the people must sit and keep their eyes glued to a screen: the average American family hasn't time for it.
New York Times, 1939
I think there is a world market for maybe five computers.
Thomas Watson, Chairman of IBM, 1943
You ain't goon' nowhere, son. You ought to go back to driving' a truck.
Manager of the Grand Ole Spry, firing Elvis Presley, 1954
We don't like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out.
Decca Records, rejecting the Beatles, 1962
The concept is interesting and well-formed, but in order to earn better than a 'C', the idea must be feasible.
Yale professor commenting on a paper by Fred Smith (founder of FedEx) proposing overnight delivery service
There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.
President, Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977
Wisdom from Steve Jobs
What made Steve Jobs unique? By Iain Mackenzie, Technology reporter, BBC News
• Knowing what you want before you want it
Steve Jobs was not a fan of market research. He famously said "You can't just ask customers what they want then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new." Instead, he relied on his own instinct for refining existing technologies, developing new products and packaging them in a way that people would want to use. Before the iPod appeared in 2001, there was relatively little interest in MP3 music players. Those products that did exist were chunky, often fiddly to use, and were largely bought by early adopter tech enthusiasts. So appealing were gadgets such as the iPod, iPhone and iPad that the public quickly engaged with them. That was due, in no small part, to Steve Jobs' ability as a salesman - explaining his products simply in a way that everyone could understand.
• Attention to detail
Apple is so secretive that little is known about its internal design processes, however stories do leak out, and most of those tell of Steve Jobs' fanatical attention to detail. Google executive Vic Gundotra tells of the time that his company was partnering with Apple to put Google Maps on the iPhone. Mr. Gundotra received a personal call from Steve Jobs on a weekend, expressing displeasure that the second letter "o" was the wrong shade of yellow. While British designer Jonathan Ive is responsible for the overall look and feel of products such as the iMac, iPod and iPhone, many of the company's patents bear both his and Steve Jobs' names.
Steve Jobs was undoubtedly a product of 1960s and 1970s counter-culture California. As a young man, he travelled to India to stay in an ashram. Eastern philosophy would continue to be a part of his life, and he remained a Buddhist for the rest of his life. Mr. Jobs also admitted taking LSD around the same time. He called the experience "one of the two or three most important things I have done in my life," according to John Markoff's book "What the dormouse said: How the sixties counterculture shaped the personal computer industry". Money appeared to matter little to Steve Jobs. He told the Wall Street Journal: "Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn't matter to me… Going to bed at night saying we've done something wonderful… that's what matters to me."
"Design is a funny word."
"Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it's really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn't what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it's all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don't take the time to do that.
"Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn't really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That's because they were able to connect experiences they've had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they've had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people.
"Unfortunately, that's too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven't had very diverse experiences. So they don't have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one's understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have." From Wired, February 1996
"For something this complicated, it's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."
"That's been one of my mantras - focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it's worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains."
Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it, no big deal, just three stories.
From the Commencement address at Stanford University on June 12, 2005
The first story is about connecting the dots.
I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out? My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates. My parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.
And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was expensive and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.
I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. One example: Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautiful hand calligraphy. I decided to take a calligraphy class. I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, and artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture; and I found it fascinating.
None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college.
But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later. Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down.
My second story is about love and loss.
I was lucky - I found what I loved to do early in life. Steve Wozniak and I started Apple Computer in my parents' garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4,000 employees. We had just released our finest creation - the Macintosh - a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. As Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.
I really didn't know what to do for a few months, but something slowly began to dawn on me - I still loved what I did. I had been rejected at Apple, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over. It turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life. During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT and another company named Pixar. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now a very successful animation studio. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance.
I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.
My third story is about death.
When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything - all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. There is no reason not to follow your heart.
About a year ago I was diagnosed with a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die - prepare to say your goodbyes. I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.
This was the closest I've been to facing death. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept: No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but its quite true. Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of other's opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.
There was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions. When The Whole Earth Catalog had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of that final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off - Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.
Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.