Friday, March 28, 2014


There are probably as many kinds of designers as there are kinds of design, so how do you know whether a career in design might be right for you? First, you might take a look at the clusters of characteristics often shared by designers and see if you find yourself reflected there. Begin with the three most common traits designers share: interest in the visual world, curiosity about communication in all its forms and creativity.

Designers tend to be skilled “lookers.” They take in the world both visually and conceptually. They scrutinize color and texture, they look at relationships between things and they find the repetition and rhythm in what they see. Conceptually, designers look at an idea from all sides, searching for an approach with a twist-one that goes beyond the ordinary. These habits of the eye and mind feed their creativity. For designers, the world of objects and ideas becomes an immense playground from which they emerge with fresh ideas and images.

I am an information architect. Architect in my definition doesn't mean style but a kind of rigor in thinking. Information means understanding-and my only passion is to make things that interest me understandable. -Richard Saul Wurman

My early studio exposure to a design studio made me aware of the design profession as an opportunity to apply analytical abilities to an interest in the fine arts. Graduate design programs made it possible for me to delve more deeply into the aspects of design I found personally interesting. Since then, the nature of the design profession, which constantly draws the designer into a wide range of subjects and problems, has continued to interest me in each new project. It's been this opportunity to satisfy personal interests while earning a living that has made design my long-term career choice. -Won Chung

I need to make things that connect in a meaningful, useful, evocative way to others, and I like to indulge in the sensuousness of the material world. I learned that I could use design not only to reach into myself and express my own feelings, but also to reach out to others with images and words that are well researched and thought out, condensed and transformed into a communication that could involve everyday folks in our shared public environment. -Sheila Levrant de Bretteville

I like the way words look, the way ideas can become things. I like the social, activist, practical and aesthetic aspect of design. -Laurie Haycock Makela

When I was a child I was obsessed with drawing. At the age of six, when I was confined to a bed for a year as a result of a childhood illness, I found that the only things that kept me busy were building cities out of clay and drawing. Obviously, the urge toward form-making was an important part of my makeup. -Milton Glaser

As a reflection of their creativity, designers often have an abundance of curiosity. They ask questions, delight in playing the devil's advocate and are often reluctant to accept someone else's habits or customs. Some say they are “off-center”-more self-directed than they are controlled by society or others. Designers also have intellectual curiosity: they want to understand how communication works, and they are not timid about trying out their ideas on their family and friends. They are interested in the visual interpretation of abstract ideas. They draw, they read, they experiment, they make things. They explore culture by participating in it, not only by doing things but also by observing the creative work of others, including attending concerts, seeing films, or just paying attention to life as it goes by. They soak up sensory experience and ideas.

Making things is second nature for designers. Somehow thinking something or saying something just isn't enough. Designers sense intuitively that the process of making something real engages the mind in a different and powerful way: forms and colors change; new ideas emerge. They like projects with definite beginnings, middles and endings because these kinds of projects are tied to development and achievements. Generally, designers dislike routine or maintenance activities. Starting something new and unknown challenges them.

Designers are attracted to things that perform a definite function-things that are useful and beautiful. They are interested in improving everyday life rather than creating art for museums. To designers, the limitations of design and communication are seen as challenges rather than as straightjackets.

As you have seen, there really is no exact, ideal, universal designer type. General characteristics-including creativity, openness to new ideas and a desire to explore the visual world-are more important than specific traits or qualities. Coming from a variety of backgrounds, from all ethnic groups and from locations as diverse as New York City, Great Plains States, Kansas and Tokyo, Japan, designers are different and seek to refine that difference as they appreciate the differences of others.

I became a graphic designer because my best skill, drawing, did not exercise the rest of my mind. -Colin Forbes

When I was growing up, I wanted to be an artist and an actress. This desire lasted until my second year of college, when I became attracted to design. I took my junior year at design school with the ideas of returning to my former college-but I never went back. My destiny was design. -Deborah Sussman


Suppose you want to announce or sell something, amuse or persuade someone, explain a complicated system or demonstrate a process. In other words, you have a message you want to communicate. How do you “send” it? You could tell people one by one or broadcast by radio or loudspeaker. That's verbal communication. But if you use any visual medium at all-if you make a poster; type a letter; create a business logo, a magazine ad, or an album cover; even make a computer printout-you are using a form of visual communication called graphic design.

Graphic designers work with drawn, painted, photographed, or computer-generated images (pictures), but they also design the letterforms that make up various typefaces found in movie credits and TV ads; in books, magazines, and menus; and even on computer screens. Designers create, choose, and organize these elements-typography, images, and the so-called “white space” around them-to communicate a message. Graphic design is a part of your daily life. From humble things like gum wrappers to huge things like billboards to the T-shirt you’re wearing, graphic design informs, persuades, organizes, stimulates, locates, identifies, attracts attention and provides pleasure.

Graphic design is a creative process that combines art and technology to communicate ideas. The designer works with a variety of communication tools in order to convey a message from a client to a particular audience. The main tools are image and typography.

Image-based design

Designers develop images to represent the ideas their clients want to communicate. Images can be incredibly powerful and compelling tools of communication, conveying not only information but also moods and emotions. People respond to images instinctively based on their personalities, associations, and previous experience. For example, you know that a chili pepper is hot, and this knowledge in combination with the image creates a visual pun.

In the case of image-based design, the images must carry the entire message; there are few if any words to help. These images may be photographic, painted, drawn, or graphically rendered in many different ways. Image-based design is employed when the designer determines that, in a particular case, a picture is indeed worth a thousand words.

Type-based design

In some cases, designers rely on words to convey a message, but they use words differently from the ways writers do. To designers, what the words look like is as important as their meaning. The visual forms, whether typography (communication designed by means of the printed word) or handmade lettering, perform many communication functions. They can arrest your attention on a poster, identify the product name on a package or a truck, and present running text as the typography in a book does. Designers are experts at presenting information in a visual form in print or on film, packaging, or signs.

When you look at an “ordinary” printed page of running text, what is involved in designing such a seemingly simple page? Think about what you would do if you were asked to redesign the page. Would you change the typeface or type size? Would you divide the text into two narrower columns? What about the margins and the spacing between the paragraphs and lines? Would you indent the paragraphs or begin them with decorative lettering? What other kinds of treatment might you give the page number? Would you change the boldface terms, perhaps using italic or underlining? What other changes might you consider, and how would they affect the way the reader reacts to the content? Designers evaluate the message and the audience for type-based design in order to make these kinds of decisions.

Image and type

Designers often combine images and typography to communicate a client's message to an audience. They explore the creative possibilities presented by words (typography) and images (photography, illustration, and fine art). It is up to the designer not only to find or create appropriate letterforms and images but also to establish the best balance between them.

Designers are the link between the client and the audience. On the one hand, a client is often too close to the message to understand various ways in which it can be presented. The audience, on the other hand, is often too broad to have any direct impact on how a communication is presented. What's more, it is usually difficult to make the audience a part of the creative process. Unlike client and audience, graphic designers learn how to construct a message and how to present it successfully. They work with the client to understand the content and the purpose of the message. They often collaborate with market researchers and other specialists to understand the nature of the audience. Once a design concept is chosen, the designers work with illustrators and photographers as well as with typesetters and printers or other production specialists to create the final design product.

Symbols, logos and logotypes

Symbols and logos are special, highly condensed information forms or identifiers. Symbols are abstract representation of a particular idea or identity. The CBS “eye” and the active “television” are symbolic forms, which we learn to recognize as representing a particular concept or company. Logotypes are corporate identifications based on a special typographical word treatment. Some identifiers are hybrid, or combinations of symbol and logotype. In order to create these identifiers, the designer must have a clear vision of the corporation or idea to be represented and of the audience to which the message is directed.
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