Open Letter: To New Graphic Designers

Apparatus has always been open about getting summer interns from design schools and training creative teams in organizations ‘the boutique way’. This letter is to all of you who are learning to spell mnemonic and understand pair kerning (If you are not better do it now).

Dear Friend:
You probably thought, like I did, that you will become a graphic designer and create those pretty logos, websites or magazines that we are inundated with. You joined a design school to learn all elements that cumulatively will make you a worthwhile professional. You have been at it for a few years and yet if you feel there are a few shortfalls read on.

Graphic design never was and never will be solely about making things pretty. It is about presenting information appropriately – persuasive, useful and usable. Like how the lay of a piece of land dictates the design of a building on it, the underlying structure of content and concept defines the look and feel. So typography, color palette and imagery are elements or tools to achieve the desired result. They are not the end by themselves. Though it is still valid to debate Spiekermann versus Hoefler Frere-Jones you should know how to use their products intelligently to tell a story. And if you do not know of these guys go back two steps and start over.

There are few things that you need to do to make hardworking pieces of design. Design schools do not teach you to:

  • Structure it: Look around, research to understand domain and objective. Prioritize information to visualize your own content structure (a photograph or a video is also content). Create an information architecture that is intuitive, compelling and clever. Now your job is to gently walk the audience/user through this architecture by crafting (with type, color and imagery) well resolved visual assets that work.
  • Articulate your viewpoint: Graphic designers need to write and talk. Not like a poet or a playwright. But well enough to clarify thought processes, communicate to team members or at times add to effectiveness of the deliverable. They need to use and teach tools like mind maps, or thinking hats. These tools help you organize your monkey mind to walk a tightrope and reach goals faster. Will help you define your scope and list a set of tasks towards the solution.
  • Emote: Persuasive communication is all about emoting right and creating emotional work is all about being humanist. You need to understand the audience/user to twang at their heartstrings. Close hands on research techniques that involves personal presence among the target group is the foundation for concepts that affect sentiments. An empathic approach towards audience/user automatically triggers emotive concepts that work. And emotion buys you unwavering attention and recall.
  • Design like a craft: Now that you have distilled stuff down to the product, you are ready to apply your skills in typography, imagery, color and other such elements of design. Choose visual and verbal style deliberately by trial and elimination. Assemble content on a grid with pride that comes with precision. Learn how to depart from the grid to make your work interesting. Importantly, do not ever fall in love with your work that it devastates you when others refrain from appreciating it. Be distant.

I also extend invitation to share your work with me through this blog and we can get collective feedback through social media. Apparatus will start three week certification courses in information design and user experience design for recent design graduates and professionals soon. If you are interested contact us. Watch this space!

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