Explaining Design – the mindset

In talking with my roommate last night, we brought up some interesting topics about design and what it involves. While I haven’t fully wrapped my head around the meaning of it – I’ll try to flesh our discussion out a bit here.

In four years of college I’ve struggled with what exactly my major is and what I want to do with it. Not so much in a “I want to change my major” kind of way, more so just figuring out where it fits into a bigger picture. Figuring out what it actually means to be a designer – which in case you didn’t realize is more than slapping together a $42 logo in Microsoft Paint and selling it online (story for another day).

Graphic designers are responsible for the visual communication of information and ideas [okay, I’m still developing this definition but work with me here!]. Designers also seem to wear many hats. This is becoming quite evident in my Editorial Design and Packaging Design classes. Often designers are expected to whip out their other hats – whether this is in branding coming up with color choices (psychology – red makes people hungry), getting thing ready for press (basic knowledge of printing and color spaces), working with photographers (not so much the technical parts but definitely have a hand in the layout & overall concept of the photos) and even coding websites.

This is, in part, what makes design so interesting. Being a “designer” can mean a multitude of things which means you’ll never get bored! However, at times it does feel like I have spread myself so thin that I haven’t fully “mastered” any one part of design. I have a decent grasp of how HTML/CSS work but I’m well aware that it takes me way longer than an experienced developer. I could set up a photo but figuring out the white balance is another whole story. And Flash and I are far from friends.

Except then I realized design can be about a mindset. I have the knowledge of using the Adobe Suite nearly everyday for the past 6 years, I’m familiar with printing techniques so my work doesn’t come out all wonky, and experience with layout design can help with anything from editorial layouts to choosing photographs or framing shots for a video.

There are online tutorials, there are people to ask, there is google – it’s the mindset of wanting to learn more and having the background in design that makes it possible to pick these up more quickly. The desire to say “Nope, I don’t know how to do that but I’ll figure it out!”

A background in sketching and concept ideation helps in many situations! Having the knowledge of storyboards from Flash can help layout everything from a presentation flow to being able to step back and see the bigger picture in a project. Understanding at least one Adobe program in depth (Illustrator) helps TONS when it comes to learning the rest.

So, while I haven’t fully determined what I’m going to do with my life – I’m starting to feel more confident that I have the background to learn and understand more. Just maybe.

[Please note, this is not to degrade the work of any other fields, simply a reflection of my own.]

[Weeks until graduation: 16 (AHHH!)]

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