Are you a designer or an artist?

Are you a designer or an artist?

Yesterday I talked about design as a service. The idea is that you are not designing to be creative, you're making something that helps other people to communicate more clearly. That's a good definition of design.

art-timeChances are, these can send you to places where you might not feel like you are doing your most creative work. If you're like me, you chose a path in design because you enjoy art in general. In your day to day work it isn't certain that you will find an intersection between design and art you want to make. You can end up in a creative field and are not creatively challenging yourself if you're not careful. This can lead to frustration, feeling less creative and ultimately delivering work that isn't your best. How do you handle this?

Punch out of your design job once in a while and make art.

That's really it. Here are some reasons:

Creativity in art can influence your design thinking. The exploratory process of making art is a good practice for when creative solutions are needed in design. Science supports this idea. I'm out of my element with the science behind this but thinking creatively in art will support creativity elsewhere.

Remind yourself of the difference between art and design. Art is expression and design is communication. If you're making art outside of design work you will be "scratching an itch" so to speak. This allows you to include art as needed in design, instead of needing to include art in design.

There is room to be creative in design and you need to be ready to deliver - it's part of why you're qualified to do this work. When we are being creative we grow more than when we feel that our work is repetitive. Challenge yourself. If the work you are doing isn't challenging to you then you might not be giving it what you are able.

If you are an art-friendly designer and want to start a practice, today is a good day to begin. Creative Sprint starts today, 30 days of ideas for being creative. I'll be doing it as well.

There are many more benefits to making art outside of your original profession. I encourage you to find them - for your sake and for the sake of your work.

A flexible outline for branding

A flexible outline for branding

If you're a new designer starting a logo, here's an outline you can use to begin the process. I kept this vague because the idea is for you to tailor your service to support your work but this outline will be a good beginning.

1) Explain yourself

One of the biggest fears I encounter from clients is the thought that hiring one person "locks" them into fewer choices and they might be stuck with something they don't want. It is your job to help assuage uncertainty by having a process that incorporates discussion and rationale for choices. By explaining this process you can show your capabilities and eliminate the thinking of design as a lottery or contest where the outcome *might* be positive. A process has the greatest chance of success. Design is a service, not a contest.

2) Ask questions, and be responsive

By now you have heard a fair amount about the business but it's is the time to learn more. You aren't just learning about the client's service but the industry in general: trends, competition, biggest concerns, their customers, concerns of their customer, shirt color of their customers, everything about their customers. You're trying to appeal to your client's customers - not just your client. Remember this and imagine you're working for two now (your clients and their customers). How would their customers view the work you've done?

3) Research

Research is separate from asking questions because it includes what you might not hear from your client. There are things they might not know or forget to consider but your fresh perspective will help to find those things out. If there's nothing new to learn from here that's great, but be careful that you haven't simply missed something. Stay open.

4) Start loose

Now you can take your research and fulfill the promise you talked about in your outline to the client. Start working loosely. You're in the idea stage if you haven't started there yet. Don't make one idea precious. Nothing perfect, please.

5) Refine over time

Refining is where the vague takes shape and a logo comes to be. Think of a tree trunk - wide at the bottom and narrow at the top. I limit revisions because we're working toward a goal and changing elements because of too much feedback can pull us out of designing with intent and into designing to be finished. All that research is meant to guide your choices. This part of the project looks different for everyone and is a good time for your client to learn about how you work.

6) Arrive at a final, prepare files and stay helpful.

Arriving at the final logo means you tested your work at different sizes, limited color situations, and in the most difficult instances you can imagine. This can be: crammed onto the back of a t-shirt next to a dozen other logos or printed on a small one color newspaper ad. Prepare for the worst and make sure the files you send can minimize problems. Label/organize your files clearly and imagine you won't be the designer working with the logo in the future. Imagine there won't be a designer - make them easy to understand for everyone.

7) Remember your purpose a.k.a. design is a service

This is the step that exists within the rest of the steps. It is important to remember that you are not making art here (save that for later) you are providing a service. Be accessible, helpful, and open. Don't design in secret, and if you do record the process to help explain your choices.
Houdini – colored

Houdini – colored

I colored this myself (download a page to color here) looking at posters from Houdini's era. Lots of art deco, airbrushed shapes and textures began showing up in what I found. One of the more interesting things I learned about Houdini is that he insisted on explaining to his audience that superstition and magic have no part in his performance. "My brain is the key that sets me free" - Harry Houdini.
Slainte part 3

Slainte part 3

Here's the final version of the poster. I pulled heavily from art nouveau to make this so complicated lines are ok here. It is easy to overwork a project sometimes and my original idea of working line art into the lettering took it to that point - so I left it out in the final. Sl-final