Tagged: advice

Design survival: Finding design inspiration outside the digital world

Mona LisaWith just a few years under your belt as a graphic designer, you’ve no doubt come across a time or two when you experienced a complete and total lack of creativity; a sort of designer’s block, if you will. If it hasn’t happened to you, you either haven’t pushed bounds of creativity yet, or you’ve been darn lucky. Either way, it WILL happen.

The best way to fight it is to seek-out and find creativity in places and things that you wouldn’t normally look for it. The key is getting your butt out from in front of the computer screen and into the real world. For some, it’s easy to do – for others, it’s not as simple. Where to go to look for inspiration? And where to find it once you get there?

12 times when you should say no to a client and run for the door!

Yesterday’s video post titled When is it time to dump a client brought some thoughts from (TGM reader) RhymingDesigner on when to just say no to a client. Saying no to a potential client is difficult to do, especially when you’re first starting out, or the economy has brought the stream of new business to a halt. But saying no can actually improve your situation in some cases, by freeing up time, creativity and not putting yourself in a difficult situation later. Here is his list of 12 times you should say no to a client:

  1. They expect you to drop what you’re doing and meet with them today
  2. They ask for a discount right away
  3. They balk at paying a deposit to get the work started
  4. They balk at signing a contract
  5. They want to change several terms of your tried-and-true contract
  6. They can’t give you a clear idea of what they want (“Just start!”)
  7. They want to pay next to nothing, with the promise of some big jobs in the future (the oldest trick in the book?)
  8. There is no point person (so they will be reviewing the work by committee)
  9. They have no offices or at least appearance of stability
  10. They have a track record of going through designers like crazy (and the old designers were always at fault)
  11. There doesn’t seem to be much respect for your expertise
  12. Your gut reaction is that something’s just not right (trust your instinct and bolt for the door)

In my experience, #6 is the most deadly. You accept a job and everything appears on the up-and-up. The client is looking for something completely fresh, so has no restrictions or thoughts on what the piece of work should look like. You end up spending countless hours coming up with multiple concepts only to find out that they had something very specific in mind, and quite frankly, it sucks!

Don’t design a dead-end Web site – it’s all about the content

When I look at a lot of Web sites these days, two things jumps out at me. First, many sites look absolutely stunning. Beautiful mastheads, delicious AJAX everywhere, blinky, swooshing Flash and Web 2.0-style graphics adorn tons of Web sites. Competing with these gorgeous Web sites requires not only great graphic design skills, but you’ve got to be a coding genius as well. The second thing that I notice right away is that many of these sites contain little if any useful, informative content. Opinion blogs are everywhere, virtually anyone who can type has a blog, but finding great content is just getting harder and harder. It almost appears that many of these sites’ purpose is simply to show off the fact that they know how to code. Now I’m not trying to stand on my high-horse and look down on anyone’s efforts… (more…)

Good designers copy, great designers steal

Pablo Picasso, the first living artist to be featured in the Louvre, influenced the artistic world in a uniquely original way. So why is he known for saying “Good artists copy, great artists steal?”

The key? Steal from discreet sources.

Cameron Moll, a freelance new media and print designer, wrote an article a few years back on the topic, but I find it still relevant today. Stop by SitePoint and take a look at Good designers copy, great designers steal.

Design choices can cripple a Web site

AListApart has an old article by Nick Usborne titled Design Choices Can Cripple a Web site. While the article is quite old, it still argues a point that I feel (almost) exactly the opposite about. I believe that the content of a Web site provides the site its worth – the design has to be at least acceptable and pleasant to the eye, but it is not the major reason for me to visit. Nick appears to favor the design of a site over the content (at least, that’s the conclusion I’ve drawn after reading). As designers we tend to focus on the design, the bells & whistles and the functionality of a site. But we must not forget the content. You can’t make a promise with design that you can’t deliver with content.

Learning the language of typography

If you would like to know more about typography, the meaning of terms used with regards to type (such as tracking, kerning, leading, x-height and more) and a little type history lesson thrown in for good measure, then check out Thinking With Type. For more in-depth discussion about type and some general “rules-of-thumb” you can check out Learn Typography and Page Layout. They have a great page that discusses some dos and don’ts of setting type.

Seven habits of highly effective junior designers

Talent alone simply isn’t enough anymore. You have to be a well rounded person to be successful creative in today’s market. There are a lot of things you can do to help yourself on the way, and LifeClever: Tips for design and life has some tips to get you started in the article titled Talent isn’t everything: 7 habits of highly effective junior designers. The seven habits covered are:

  1. Work quickly, produce a lot
  2. Attend to details
  3. Be versatile
  4. Make an effort to learn
  5. Anticipate problems
  6. Set goals
  7. Display a positive attitude

Designers must write to be successful

Design is not solely visual. Those who believe it is, make an unconscious decision to confine themselves solely to craft. This limits these individuals from growing and taking on more complex and broad challenges.

No more true words have been spoken about what a designer really is in the advertising business. Production artists exist to be craftsman. People who know and understand the tools (software) like the back of their hand. Designers on the other hand must learn to be more than someone who can simply draw pretty pictures, they must learn to be communicators! Ideasonideas.com has a great article titled Designers must write. It’s a great read for the novice or pro designer.

Moving from Web design to print

It used to be that all things design started out in print. TV commercials, radio spots, outdoor boards and even Web sites started out with a print ad and were modified to fit other mediums. That time has long-since passed. Many Web site designers nowadays are finding that the market for Web work is rough going and extremely competitive. Factor in ever-changing technology, and you have thousands of Web and multimedia designers scrambling to supplement their income—or slide over to print design completely. So, if you’re a Web designer looking to add print to your stable of talents, you may want to take a look at this article I recently wrote for MacWorld.com, titled Moving from Web design to print. I also encourage you to register at the MacWorld site so you can post comments on the articles. The more interaction, the better the resource becomes.