Design foolosophy – 401 Ways

It’s 3:03am and I am in bed. Doing the usual thing before I doze off at night. Read. And this simple, yet amazing book I recently purchased – “401 design meditations” published by Rockport reknowned publisher of design and art books, got me thinking. It’s a book on wisdom, insights and thoughts from 200 over leading designers. Little sound bites that matter.

Reading these insights and little messages suddenly made me realise one glaring thing about myself as a designer in present time, something quite different from 5 years ago. How lost I’ve become. I’ve realised my complete dependency on my Mac. The Mac, true to its form, is a creative tool. As a machine gun is to a soldier. As a racket is to a professional tennis player. A tool. All’s well, but what’s wrong with the picture?

“If you have a great idea, it will tell you how to execute it”. Jack H. Summerford, Designer + Writer

The problem is simply this. I find myself picking up pen and paper less and less. The scamps are far and few. Those little doodlings, sketches, scribbles. Scarce. Now, why is that? Will I one day forget how to write? Draw? It’s funny, I’ve always loved to draw. I drew comics and developed my own characters as young as age nine. I painted. I loved colour pencils. I sketched in my free time. And my marker skills in college was quite above average.

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Is it complacency? Laziness? Or am I just too stretched for time? Are deadlines so tight that I have forgotten to be creative? Am I too tight to experiment anymore? Because when you look at the big picture, design is a process. It’s about solving problems. It isn’t about pretty pictures and adding spice (and all things nice). It isn’t just about juxtaposing text, pictures, colours and textures. It’s beyond that. Unlike math where a problem may be solved with one distinct formula, there are multiple paths and solutions to a design problem. We develop scenarios and ‘what if’ situations. We attempt through trial and error to find the best workable option. And yet, as I say that, the traditional, fundamental methods are slowly but surely diminishing from the design process. Straight to the Mac. Direct to screen, without scamps, sketching, or brainstorming doodles.

“Stop looking at yourself as a designer, and start thinking of yourself as a deliverer of ideas. Stále Melvœr, Principal of Melvœr & Lien, from Inside the Business of Graphic Design

If I had wanted to type fast and click the mouse all day, I should have been a typist. It’s really weird, this realisation. I’ve always strived to learn, to be better and here I am, quite lost. The same drive and passion for art and design have been reduced to a web of commercial, bubble-gum crap. Doing what clients require. Doing what pleases the boss. Recycling the recycled. Time and space has changed me. I no longer practice the basic design process as I was thought and had always upheld through the early years. I now, sadly, concentrate on results. The delivery. The execution. Gone is the conceptualisation and true brainstorming processes, replaced instead by the emphasis on technical ability, cost and speed of delivery.

“Good enough is good enough if your standards are high enough” Steve Frykholm, Design Director for Herman Miller

Point to ponder. If I didn’t have my Mac, would I still be able to ‘think’? Will I be able to conjure ‘real’ ideas with pen and paper? Would I be able to survive by not depending on fancy filters and effects in software to disguise lame-ass ideas? So many questions left unanswered.

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With this realisation I commit to re-engineering myself as a designer. To adhere to the simple basics and practice the proper fundamentals. As a first step towards being better, the pen and paper shall be my sword. The notebook and sketch pad shall be my canvas of ideas. My Powerbook, will be my friend and the tool of execution.

  • Show Comments

  • <![CDATA[gary]]>

    totally agree with you man. i was also trained as a designer where skills with a marker and pen were very important. my initial professional experiences found myself depending more and more on a computer to meet deadlines. “thanks” to the computer, we began to spoil our clients with super fast work and changes. It came to the point where deadlines and demands became ridiculous, where you are constantly met with the line, “easy mah, using mac so slow meh?”.

  • Anonymous

    It’s a double-edged sword mate. It may be quicker to churn out visuals, but what about ‘real’ ideas?

    sad huh? sometimes clients think we can work magic, just because we have the fastest mac on the planet or something (which evidently we don’t!)

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