Monday, 26 December 2016

A quick christmas monlogue on loss

2016—the year we seemingly lost everyone. Though we needn't loose sight of what's ahead.

Let's be fair, we haven't lost everyone but we have lost a few faces, this lovely face being one of them—even if he does hate baked goods. I use the terms 'loss' and 'lost' because it's the most common way I can describe their situation; for something is lost when it is forgotten and I disbelieve any past person is lost, any past knowledge is truly lost – unless clearly sabotaged of course – lost is an end point, and we're yet to truly reach that.

My life thus far has had few large milestones, though I myself have achieved these by hard work and perseverance they have almost always been achievable by a quick turnaround of rubbish misfortune. The misfortune being that of loss of sight, loss of life and loss of independence.

Aged 16, the cusp of 17, I lost my great aunty. A christmas table favourite, a woman without malice and eventually life. As she past, she left a cheque brandishing my name and just enough digits to buy 40-hours of driving lessons. A pass of the highest privilege, of freedom and of misfortune. Betty's misfortune was her loss of life, her loss of Christmases to come—though to me it was my automotive advantage, with a gain as great as life-long knowledge of the roads. With this the term loss is insignificant, for she will be missed but prominently remembered through the advantages held in my life.

Though this year has seen the passing of many idols, myself included very moved on January 10th when we lost all contact with Major Tom; nothing quite took me back further than the passing of my Grandfather. It's common knowledge he was quite important to me and I've certainly used this platform to express my feeling on said topic; aside from all the heartache, empty chairs and missing hugs—I don't see this as a loss.

Geoff was his name. As Geoff lost his sight, he gave me his car, so I could put my driving license to use. As he lost his independence, he supported my parents to help me exist in university, as he lost his knowledge he was lifting me up with mine; financially giving me the headspace the focus on making the most of my education. Now as his will becomes legally relevant and he lives an existence of peace and rest, he's buying the foundations for my future, my mortgage, my life.

He isn't lost and I do not feel loss. He is no longer with us, but as it stood before the doors he opens and the future he creates makes his loss irrelevant. David Bowie isn't lost because he's brought us the the audio space we live in today and Geoff isn't lost, because he lives in the walls of my home and he's the paper to which my accomplishments are printed upon.

I stand to disbelieve loss exists in the sense we believe it to, these is no loss when you make it a gain, an advantage. As I see is, the world isn't your friend or you're enemy—everything happens as a result of a decision which you did or did-not make. That said, you don't get to choose where you start, but your choices dictate where you go from there.

If this is full of spelling mistakes, I apologise but it's Christmas so grammar checking can bugger off.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

A beginners guide to a design beginning

So perhaps you are just thinking about getting into design, or perhaps you've been learning for a while—it's never too late to reinforce the foundations.

Whether you never seen the toolbars of Adobe glory, or you've spent the past two years groveling your tutors inbox; it's always a good time to check where you are standing and what you are standing upon. If below you resembles a brutalist concrete lake of knowledge then maybe you're alright, but if it's loose sand, slipping as you slowly assess you feet—perhaps rebuilding would be the best idea.

Now looking down at your feet, what are you wearing on them? Shoes share a surprising amount with design—trendy ones look great for about a week but can't take you any further than the bus stop without excruciating pain or humiliation. Traditional boots will get you to the bus stop, over the hill and back again but they're not exactly up-keeping with modernity; with their rivets and cowhide structure. Flip Flops get you nowhere but to the shop for a loaf of bread and a reinforced stereotype of the student demeanor. If you are wanting to follow design, you'll need a range of shoes or some crazy interchanging modern shoe that likely only exists in the annals of Nike HQ.

At the start, you'll need those sturdy traditional shoes to keep your balance on the sand, learning the principles of structure through being immersed in the 'shoes' that existed before you. Once you've worn these shoes through, and they have holes large enough for your design toes to poke through, staring at the modern world around them. You can patch these holes with the spliced fabric from those nice trendy new shoes, but make sure you leave one or two open—a gentle design toe breeze from the modern world is always a pleasant luxury.

The next most important thing after shoes, is books. Now that you aren't going to make toe shaped dog mess truffles as you walk, it's probably best you put them to use in which to carry yourself to books, many many books. Though you are still possibly standing on the unstable sands of innocence, you can just about support yourself with the propping up of books against said sand.
The Walden Rules on Books™ is this; read everything, everyday and use what you've learnt to discount or devour the information you have been presented. If you aren't sure how do this, you can start by using a simple formula.

  • Respected author + respected publisher = trust
  • Unknown author + respected publisher = slightly trust
  • Respected author + respected review = trust
  • Unknown author + unknown publisher = no trust (this also includes me)
  • Respected review + unknown publisher = slightly trust
  • Any guide on Pinterest = no trust
note: anything that has been published to paper has gone through much more screening and trail than anything digital, thus can be trusted more easily. THIS DOES NOT APPLY TO NEWSPAPERS.

Now, you might be slightly more sturdy standing on your tower of sand and papyrus with your mildly hilarious patchwork shoes, but you know what kid? You've got knowledge under them knees!

There is a lot more to both learning and practicing design aside from pretending that it has anything to do with legs, feet or shoes. What's important is stand alongside all this, you've either got a strong man-made foundation or the knowledge, papers and materials in which to do so.

Go build that foundation, a cornucopia of knowledge—like a birds nest in Phaidon's waiting lobby.
Gud luk sweet child.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

Design isn't done at the computer

I was once told "Design is everything you do when you're not at the computer" – I feel I may have quoted this before, but I'm far too lazy to check.

tippety tap tap
The quote "Design is everything you do when you're not at the computer" seems both counter-intuitive and fully intuitive. If you are reading this at the start of a design education, it may seem bizarre to hear that design isn't the physical production, it isn't the posters, logos and websites you see if you search 'Design' in a particular search engine that could be misspelt as Goggle.

It's a lie if I tell you that those posters and logos are not design, but they are not the whole existence of design. It's also a lie if I told you that no part of design is done at the computer, as these logos and websites were most definitely created at the computer.

Though these items are part of design, they are the final part, they are the production—whereas the term design is almost completely encompassed by the process. From the public eye, Design, or more specifically Graphic Design is a logo on a leaflet, a box on a shelf and a website on the internets, though in reality it's everything it took to reach that logo, leaflet, box and website.

If we were to break it down as simply as possible, we'd have three particular principles that existed in all good design, emphasis on the good. Disclaimer—Good design does not describe pretty design. Good design, is design that serves it's purpose with maximum efficiency. Pretty design is just pretty.

  1. Research and Knowledge: (45%) The design that anyone creates is built upon the foundation of research or knowledge. The process, structure or influence can be conjured either from the existing knowledge of a senior, well practiced designer—just as a more junior designer can create work from research in the same manner. Note that knowledge in this sense does not directly reference knowledge in design, general knowledge and intelligence of the world they exist in, is a significant tool in a designers toolbox.
  2. Development and failure: (45%) As design works in the most part as a supply and demand industry, orbiting around clients, failure is both inevitable and necessary. In it's simplest form, you only ever finish a project by developing away all the wrong choices. How do you carve an elephant? Chip away every bit of stone that doesn't look like an elephant.
  3. Production: (10%) Production encompasses the final part of design, from choice of paper stock, to printing methods, size and shape. This is the part you'll see and feel, but realistically the part you have the least actually control over. You'll chose how it should all look, but often you may be in total mercy to your printer. This differs for things like web design and furniture where the production may take the longest of these three sections, though it's percentage does not.

Looking at the title of this post, the claim that design is not done at the computer still seems outlandish, but if you assess how much of the above would actually done at the computer, I can safely say you may be now starting to be indoctrinated into the Walden Way of Thought™ – Free 1-Month trail if you sign up now and pledge an eternity of allegiance.

There is a story about Picasso that might help me convince you to join my radical blog based design cult, the story goes a little like this.
Picasso was sat on a bench in Paris when suddenly a wealthy woman recognises him, runs up to him and demands she have her portrait drawn by him, to which he politely agrees and begins sketching. After 5 minutes of the woman siting as still as her small back, weighed down by copious amounts of jewelry would let her, Picasso exclaims that he is finished, hands over his artwork to her and vocally invoices her for £50,000. She at once stands up in horror and expresses to him that she would not pay this price as he took barely five minutes to produce her portrait. To this Picasso addresses the woman and tell her "But my dear, it's taken my whole life in which to make this portrait in five minutes".

If my story telling is anywhere near worth it's salt, hopefully I'll have explained how design is not created at the computer, just as Picasso's art was not just purely created on that single sheet of paper to which the lady's portrait was held. The finesse and quality of Picasso's art was fifty plus years in the making and the drawing was merely it's production, just as design is finalised at a computer but built upon hours of history, strain and failure.

Side note: The point that design isn't done at the computer seems ever more poignant when you assess that until twenty years a go design on a computer was either a non-existing phrase or complete science fiction. So if there are any readers from the early 20th Century, please read the instead as Design isn't done at the Drafting Table.  

Copyright © Vincent Walden Sucks