(Not) Stealing

I often encourage my students to look at the work of other designers. Not to “steal” ideas but to gather up some inspiration, and maybe some motivation. Interestingly, most think I am telling them to copy what they see. They don’t understand how to look at something, how to let it into your head, without committing it to memory for later reproduction.

I have to explain how I look at work, first as a whole. I take the whole piece in without breaking down the parts. Taking note of first impressions, emotions and overall like or dislike. Then, if warranted, I dig deeper. Looking at color, typography, use of space, etc. But the whole time I’m keeping my thoughts rather general. I might see the designer used a muted palette and a simple grid. I let that roll around in my head - muted colors and a simple grid rather than which muted colors and what grid was used. When I go back to the problem I’m working on, I might try muted colors and maybe I’ll clean up my grid. I also might try bright colors and a more complex grid. 

It isn’t a matter of copying or stealing. It is a matter of allowing various elements to spark thoughts based on what you are working on. I would guess that those of us that grew up with wooden blocks and LEGO (without an instruction book) can take raw parts and form them into something much easier than those that have always had a plan to work from. Not knowing where an idea will take you, rather than building to the picture on the box, is an acquired skill set.

Is the future of design going to rely on designers that need an instruction book? Will they know how to be curious? What exposure to “maybe” will they have and be comfortable with?

Doubt as an educator

I’m reading Mike Monteiro’s Ruined by Design and wonder if I’m doing a disservice to my students. (The book is really good - this is nothing against it or Mr. Monteiro.) I suppose it’s easy to have self-doubt in any profession unless you know deep down you are absolutely the bee’s knees in that field. 

I often wonder how good of a job I’m doing as an educator. Am I providing enough content? Am I providing the correct content? Are their questions being answered or should I be asking them more questions? Lately I feel like I’m failing on all fronts.

Is there a perfect curriculum? Probably not. Probably not even possible. That is something I need to keep reminding myself of when I read other’s opinions of the state of higher education and more specifically, the state of design education. Fields of study change. Keeping up with them can be an daunting task - especially constantly changing fields such as web design. Course curriculum doesn’t turn on a dime over night. It can take months to change the content of a course and by then it will change again.

Before we moved the program online, I could see faces. I could see confused faces, perplexed faces, and faces that glowed when they understood what was being discussed in class. Being online, there are no faces to measure my delivery with. And when the rare questions is posted, it usually has hours, if not days, of space between replies. And I can’t just use a whiteboard or project my computer on a screen to explain a concept or technique. I have to record a video, edit the video, upload the video and then post a link to the video. 

But I think the majority of my doubt is coming from within. I don’t feel like I’m doing a good job. I’m not 100% current on every topic my courses cover because I really don’t love web design. Which on one hand is my fault. And on the other, a byproduct of being spread thin most days of the week. (Yes, start the excuse engine so it has time to warm up properly.) But I am spending a lot of time on Skillshare - learning new things. Maybe that will help.

Here I go (again/still).

The title of this post hints at this not being my first time here. It isn’t. I had another site, somewhat like this one, that I let fade away from a lack of content and interest. So what am I doing here? Why am I putting myself out there, again? I think I have to - so I don’t fade away. Sounds melodramatic, I know. I don’t mean it that way. Let me explain.

My fingers seem to be into a lot of things. Design, photography, woodworking, lettering, learning how to dj, writing, sneakers, etc. I find myself reading about everything from architecture to philosophy. Some are mere hobbies, some are boxed up right now waiting for the “right time,” and some are honest pursuits. I’m not sure I’m very good at any of them. Needless to say, I have a few interests.

I once read that part of being creative is putting your work out there for others to see. That’s damn scary. Judgement comes from others seeing your work. But I agree, you cannot grow without showing your work. We can learn from critiques. So here I am. Putting my work out there for you to see.

To the fading away part…

By nature, I’m a shy, introverted, in-his-fifties guy fuled by anxiety and self-doubt. It would be very easy for me to disappear (creatively) without many noticing. I’m not known in any circles. My name carries no weight. And I’m ok with that. My goal here is not to change that aspect of my life. But I feel if I’m not creating or learning, I will fade away. Where you get up, go to work, come home, watch TV and go to bed. And then do it all again. A leads to B which leads to C. If that is what boils your pasta, fantastic. For me, it feels like suffocation. If I’m not moving forward in some fashion I think I will cease to exist. I become part of the scenery, or the couch. Maybe this is my attempt to feel like I’m a part of something larger.

So, here’s my new site. A place to show what I’m learning about photography. A place to show any design work. And a place to share my thoughts. Not sure how often I’ll post new work. I hope to rotate photos out somewhat regularly. I’ve got the usual social media accounts but pay the most attention to Instagram and Twitter (sorry Facebook, you kind of bore me these days).

Thanks for reading this far. Let me know what you think. If you have ideas on how I can be better, I’d love to hear them. Drop me a line. And of course, I’m available for hire. Just putting that out there.

Until next time. Thanks.