Craig Oldham is a UK designer who, I'm pretty sure, is currently working for Music. On some blog this summer I found a newspaper he had made independently, for no reason, that was full of advice for young graphic designers. It was cheap, so I ordered it.
Here it is, by the way: http://www.craigoldham.co.uk/projects/12-in-12/
I loved that he mailed it to me from his house and I loved that I had to email him personally to ask for the newspaper, but as much as I loved it all (and as cool as it looked) I never actually got around to reading it (cause I suck) so tonight I finally read it! I found that with each of the 12 pieces of advice, I had an answer or further justification. 12 is a lot of lessons to cover in one post, so I'll throw the first one out there for now:
UNDERSTAND WHAT GRAPHIC DESIGN MEANS TO YOU, DEFINE CREATIVITY, AND WHAT YOU VALUE AS GOOD DESIGN, THEN YOU'LL KNOW WHAT IT TAKES TO ACHIEVE IT.
Oldham divided designers into two "Bunches." Bunch A, he says, are Logical --they use clarity, function, they rationalize the communicative elements. They dig Swiss Typographics and would consider getting "Form Follows Function" tattooed on their arm. Bunch B is Emotional --they use any form of communication available to connect the audience to the design. They wise-crack. They design first, then communicate. They're the big idea bunch. Oldham then suggests two important activities:
Establish which bunch you value as creative.
Establish which bunch you enjoy doing the most.
Then, he says, choose which one you start with, and which one you end up with. Well, shit. I know exactly what I am. I am Bunch A to the bone. When I receive a project I immediately absorb the functional qualities of the communication, then hone in on how to communicate that information through design. Never vice versa. The thing is --I kind of hate that about myself.
Establish which bunch you enjoy doing the most. Bunch A, without a doubt. I hate receiving projects that I instantly know would be better approached from an artistic and big-visual-idea standpoint. I love layout and information design because it explicitly demands that you make the communicative element a priority.
Establish which bunch you value as creative. Sadly (and probably a little melodramatically, which Oldham also inadvertently taught me), I value Bunch B's creative talents much more. I feel that I have a handicap when approaching design projects, and I've often attested that to my lack of formal art education. But let's be real, that's bullshit. It's just much more comfortable for me approach a project in a clear, uniform way. I look at design as a way to organize information --in my mind, form does follow function. It always should, and always will.
But I'm embracing Bunch A, and it feels good!