Design is one of the most important extensions of the human experience: it shapes our understanding of meaning, helps us conceptualize the world around us, and appeals to our inherent desire for artistic expression. During my graduate experience I found myself drawn to the work of Michael Rock, who in his book ‘Multiple Signatures’ argues that design is much more than the content it is bound to. He believes, much like me, that people often focus too much on content as a guiding principle for their design process, believing content solely facilitates the entirety of the design process.
In reality, content & design are intrinsically connected like a glass cup (the design) and the water filled within it (the content). One cannot quench their thirst without both elements at play, but the glass itself guides the experiences of the content within.
Though I may be echoing what’s already been said by Rock, my understanding of design seeks to look at the process itself rather than the finished product or intended content. Much like painters describe their work through the materials in which they create it, I too hope to highlight design as a crazy, sometimes overwhelming task that takes many trial and error runs through many different programs and techniques before a designer even get close to the semblance of a finished product.
MY DESIGN BACKGROUND AND INFLUENCES:
I’m more often than not going to label myself as a “writer” over “designer.” Writing is an extension of who I am, an individual longing to understand the power through which our shared language influences and sometimes even controls our reality. However, this isn’t to say that I also don’t view myself as a designer. My writing content is often influenced by the medium in which I work, making document design a crucial element of my rhetorical appeal. Often, I focus on the layout of my document and how it influences content more than a typical writer should, looking at the entirety of the composition process and its relationship to design as two co-existing facets of rhetoric.
I hope to use my abilities as both a writer and designer to find a niche in the freelance writing world, combining elements of standardized writing with my experience creating images and charts through the Adobe Creative Suite as a designer. It is the combination of these two skillsets that will allow me to standout in the world of freelance and continuously grow as a professional, preforming two generally separated skillsets simultaneously to conceptualize my work and its relationship to the larger picture.
TWO CORE BELIEFS
DESIGN INFLUENCES MEANING:
Much like language often controls our understanding of the world, so too does design control our understanding of meaning. Our cultural and individual experiences correlate directly with what we expect in design. It is our job as designers to understand the cultural context in which we practice our craft, bending our technique to match contemporary demands and expectations.
A good example of this would be our understood connection between color and temperature. When we see a nozzle on a sink or bathtub, we understand that red is “hot” and blue is “cold.” This is something we’ve accepted to be true for quite some time. As a designer, we must take that into consideration when using these two colors in a practical setting. If we were theoretically creating an advertising campaign for “Spiciest Tacos in Town!”, we probably would not want to fill our design space with blue coloration. This is a simplified example, but imagine the many interconnected culturally specific meanings we correlate with design, some more obvious than others.
DESIGN SHOULD BE ACCESIBLE, CONSISTENT, AND CLEARLY UNDERSTOOD:
If a piece of design is badly delivered, it becomes immediately noticeable by the invoked audience. When design becomes immediately noticeable by the invoked audience, it overshadows the content it was supposed to highlight. In order to prevent bad design, designers should try to make sure three criteria are satisfied before finishing a product: (a) it is accessible, (b) the design is consistent throughout, and (c) it is clearly highlights an intended message or meaning.
A. The idea of design being accessible is universal despite varying contexts and cultures. Accesibility is something the designer should already be familiar with, or intend to become familiar with, noticing how certain colors, textures, or typographies can alienate entire demographics. It should be “easy” to observe with as many senses as possible, drawing the audience in from a distance and making them want to know more about the content being delivered.
B. Consistency is a huge tenant of design. If a design is consistent throughout, it becomes confusing and hard to see through. Consistency simply means following the same coloration, themes, and medium throughout. C. Design should clearly highlight an intended message. Michael Rock provides a great an analogy of design as a “cup that holds a glass of wine.” If the wine is the message, then the cup should clearly showcase the wine. If the cup becomes over saturated with embezzlement’s and colors, you might forget what was in it to begin with. Again, design should follow this principle, acting as the “vessel” that transports the content to our sensory receptors.