so what goes into a graphic designer? is it a learned skill you can learn, is it innate and a genetically acquired skill or is it magic?
I’d like to put forward the theory as a completely self taught graphic designer who has earned a living delivering many different types of commercial design work since 1986 that it’s an interesting mix of all of the above. even the magic!
There’s no arguing that 10,000 hours of hard graft applied to one discipline will deliver something interesting. visual skills will be learned, software knowledge acquired and best practices observed… but the really interesting question is how much of this time was genuinely fruitful or productive?
I would reason that, as with every life of massive commitment, the end product, the end person is only as good as the levels of concentration and process and overall general thoughtful and considered approach he makes, spending his 10,000 hours. The expressions ‘busy fool’ and ‘mindless drudge’ would be unecessarily harsh for most of those hours, but I certainly hold my hand up to a fair degree of ‘brainlessness’ on some of the many thousands of projects I have delivered over the years.
There is a strong argument that I inherited certain skills of a design related nature. I was a precocious child, academically, at school and was rather humiliatingly sat alone on the stage in front of the whole school to sit my technical drawing O -Level examination two years early and got the top grade. This probably accounts for a small degree of subsequent personality issues since… but then it was the 1970’s! There is a family history of success in design and even BAFTAs have been won, but I digress from the main point of my bloggy ramblings… the magic.
The last few years I have been completely lost for the most part to one single project, a work that has unearthed a great deal of new experiences, processes and revitalised a grand passion for my chosen profession.
The project is all about Life, it is a graphic design driven work that breaks down everything we do and how we do it. it looks at the everyday and the special moments… in short it looks at the emotion and the feel of our lives and as it is design, and graphic design in particular, it seeks to iconise everything, distill down and find the lowest common denominators of some of the most interesting feelings in life.
This is and has been a tough ask. I have looked at and questioned every aspect of my working process to find the truth of the work I am delivering. The real honest, absolute hard core of what these basic human emotions are all about is quite tricky to put into simple graphics. The challenges have forced me to repeatedly have a good look at the practices of the more ‘in touch’ intuitive feel of the fine artists and in particular the rather magnificently cross dressed and down to earth pragmatism of a certain Mr Grayson Perry, my unknowingly adopted art tutor.
There is so much media out there, so much YouTube and on demand material you can teach yourself a great deal, and they never know, however famous they are. If by any strange and curious coincidence of fate you ever read this or are privvy to these notes – thank you Grayson!
So where does magic come into this mix of skills? What do you mean by magic?
Magic, dictionarily speaking, is usually detailed as incorporating mysterious or supernatural forces, a quality remote from daily life or an exceptional skill or talent…
The magic for me is the special place you go when you have done everything else in preparation for a project, your research, your history, your detailed thoroughness and the whole diligence of making sure you are trying to produce something that is above and beyond the mundane, the comfortable or expected…
The magic happens when you are in the zone.
It is a place, a zone you go to when all the basics of producing what you do can just happen leaving you to concentrate on the nuance and the emotional feel of the work…
It is addictive and you don’t always go there when your’e working. It is a special place so I think there is a strong argument that it is a kind of magic. When you’re zipping along and clicking and drawing and mousing around in the zone, hopefully producing some of your best work, time seems to stand still or at least goes faster than you realise. When you finally wake up, have a good stretch and look back at the work piece with more rested eyes sometime later, you know that if you were in the zone, feeling rather more than any great conscious deliberated questioning, you will generally be happier with this work than the unfeeling, by the numbers stuff.
Is it Magic? Or is all this, as Grayson might say, just gobbledy bollocks… I’ll leave you to decide.
Thanks for reading.