Being a designer, you have to have core principles. Every designer has their own methodology, their own tricks and style of working. This manifesto is effectively a list comprising my personal methods of thinking and working on projects and designs. Ultimately, I imagine that most designers share similar basic elements in their workflow, but each one has their own way of adhering to them or enacting them – These are mine. They allow me to have a structured approach while retaining the flexibility and fluidity that is necessary for graphic design, which hopefully is evidently presented in my portfolio.
This is a highly important but often underused aspect of a project. Once a project brief has been set, I find it incredibly useful to sit down and think about possibilities. It is more than just concepts and spider diagrams – It involves thinking both creatively and logically at the same time. Creatively playing with the idea and any and all possibilities prior to any physicality, while logically assessing any time constraints, format/medium and cost. I believe it helps to have a grasp of a concept prior to any major leaps, as it retains it’s malleability without compromising the outcome.
What is it for? Why is it being created? Following on from thinking and conceptualising, it is vital to understand the end purpose for whatever the project is for. It is an integral part of the design process – Fully understanding what message or information is being conveyed, prior to creatively figuring out how to engage with it. Understanding the purpose and premise allows for a clearer concept, meaning any imaginative method after that avoids muddying the point, allowing myself or any other designer free reign over exploring the possibilities and pushing themselves creatively.
Absolutely one of the most important parts of a project. Research is necessary to figure out ideas; what works and what doesn’t, what looks good and what could look even better, what has already been done and what nobody else has thought of doing – There is practically no end to researching (more on that later). Even the tiniest details can spark an idea or prompt a change, even if it’s something as minor as a particular finish or tweak.
To me, exploration is the heart of design. It’s understanding why and how, and utilising it. Pulling things apart to see how they tick, and then experimenting with the results. It ties in with research and development, as I personally delve in to both existing works and my own to see how it works, and what it was for. This aids designers immensely – Being able to figure out what could work for any given project by amassing a mental (and physical) catalogue of how something works and why.
As a designer, it is obvious that creation is key. Throughout the entire process of a project, I find it hugely beneficial to throw together rough concepts at every turn. Create an element, see if it works as a whole, and refine it if it does. Regardless of what, or how realistic it is, it’s worth making to see what happens and to learn from the experience. Luck could strike and something interesting could come out of it. If not, it’s still a worthwhile endeavour just to see how it ends up.
When something does work out, I capitalise on it – I design variations and tweak bits to see what can be improved or changed for the better.
Experimentation is absolutely paramount in design. It is one thing to imagine the possibilities, and something else entirely to try it. Playing with a design has untold benefits, from serendipitous results to learning from mistakes. I personally try to experiment outside of the boundaries of projects, however interesting or open-ended briefs prompt exploration of ideas and experimenting with all manner of things. Every designer should always take time to remove all logical boundaries and simply play with the endless elements available in the design world.
I have always been a highly critical person in all areas of my life, including design. Criticism is not something to be feared – It should be welcomed. Designers should destroy their own work and the works of others to feed off the mistakes and mishaps to better themselves. If at all possible, get fresh eyes on a project, even if it’s in the concept stage, and pull it apart layer by layer to figure out what should stay and what is damaging either the project or the end product. Self-critique is essential, and one should always challenge oneself. Designers should also have open discussions about their work, opening up and allowing your work to be picked apart, based on both personal preference and unbiased analysis.
They say the Devil is in the details. Sometimes, they say God is in them. I don’t know about that, but what I do know is that the details, no matter how seemingly small and insignificant they are compared to the whole, they are extremely important. If nobody notices, then you’ve done the job well!
Following on, we as designers should collaborate and mix with each other. After all, the basic premise of graphic design is communication and spreading social information.
Networking in the 21st Century is both easier and far, far more pronounced than ever. The entire world is linked together instantaneously, therefore it is a case of “who you know” like never before. Websites, blogs, galleries, Flickr, Linkdin, Reddit, and Twitter are all immense social media methods which all organically feed off each other, allowing you to spread your work and ideas across a colossal platform consisting of not just designers, but other “creatives” and the general public as well.
Researching stuff related to a brief is one thing, but it is always limited. In this day and age, we are literally bombarded with information, ideas and visuals. It is impossible to keep track of everything, so it is important to genuinely observe and absorb everything you can, whether you like it or not. Get out and experience things, to really taste what the world has to offer, even if it’s a minute detail. You may not even remember where you got the inspiration from, but the point is you have it.