practice isn’t perfect

the topic of practice came up in the new media thread, and Mr. Brock asked me to expand upon it.

what do we hope to find in practice, once we leave the slippery marble steps of the c.o.d., diploma in hand? what have been your experiences in practice? what are your fears and hopes about starting or continuing it? and, as past and future practitioners, how can we shape the culture of graphic design practice more to those ends?

as a jumping-off place, the jens gehlhaar visit and lecture certainly gives us a salient example of an educated designer who has shaped his practice into a channel for his own creativity. jens works in an unabashedly commercial way. i have personally tried to work with non-commercial clients, hoping for greater creative freedom. however, sometimes these clients favor ‘content’ over formal investigation, and i have never had the degree of freedom jens has in his kooky world. yet advertising can be no less shackled to another kind of ‘content’ in its formal limitations (think about the model eating the popsicle).

jens is obviously extremely talented, and has cultivated enough respect to call his own shots. what did you think of his work, and practice? is he a ‘commercial artist’, a ‘visual communicator’, or something in-between? which have you been, and/or which do you hope to be?

posted by Jay Harlow on January 22, 2005 | comments: 2 | post a comment

my experience in the professional world, working with both small and large clients--from sprint to friend's bands--tells me that creative freedom hinges largely on two issues. issue one is the designer's own ability to make the most of what is given them. some designers will tell you they do their best work when the biggest, tightest shackles seem to be cuffed on them. there is also great satisfaction in coming up with really creative stuff in a tightly constrained situation. it's all in your attitude about the job. i've been in situations where i'm just like "this project sucks", but another designer in the studio will offer a totally different perspective that amazes me, and then the project takes off. so that freedom is partly what we make it during the creative process--stretching the limits of what we're given.

issue two is the client's understanding of what visual communication is, and what its potentials are. sometimes clients have a very narrow conception of what we can offer, or already have a preconcieved notion of what they want. just because they work for mtv doesn't mean they understand what we can bring to the table, creatively speaking. i've had the most fun personally with people who really trust me as a person, and admit that they don't have a clue about design. they just let me "do my thing" and trust my decisions. i still definitely listen to their opinions and concerns with my work when they do have them. it's people who think they know a little bit about design that are dangerous. educatng the client over time can play a big part in helping improve the creative relationship. sometimes things can start out sketchy but if you take the time and opportunities to explain what you are doing / can do for them, that is certainly helpful. educating people about design's potential takes a long time though, and patience is required.

ultimately, visual communication, graphic design, commercial art, or whatever you call it, is a collaboration. that's what separates it from fine art. even if it's self-promotion, you're trying to communicate (collaborate, in a sense) with an audience. designers have to be selective in the types of relationships they get into, learning to recognize potential problem clients, and then do what they can to establish their credibility and area of expertise in those relationships.

Posted by tyler on January 26, 2005 03:10 PM

i've been working for almost two years now off and on as a full-time designer and i've learned a lot about what i want/don't want out of my future jobs. one thing is for certain, the environment that you're in can completely make or break your experience at a firm. you may absolutely hate—and be embarassed by—some of the work you're putting out, but if you really enjoy the kids you work with, then that could somehow save the day. but, in the long run... i think you have to be happy with the things your creating. otherwise, you might end up in a rut (like me, maybe?). you have to feel challenged. even if that challenge is spending the least amount of money on one of the hottest identity systems you've created. using cheap paper, but hot inks or vice versa. anything to get you going.

secondly, i've realized that i want more collaboration. as designers (and we've talked about this a little on the gd 400 thread), we are faced with a plethora of skills that are being demanded upon us—typographers, illustrators, writers, directors, editors, animators, choreographers, etc. however, the reality about this demand is that we must outreach to those who do SPECIALIZE in the area. And for those of us who want to do it all, then so be it—but learn it from those that know their stuff. and for those who respect the talented specialists, let them do their job, but work with them to create something hot. Because we have our own talents that they most likely can’t live up to. Its that collaboration that allows each individual to be confident in themselves, knowing that what they bring to the whole is surely darn good work. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be on that team.

Thirdly, I want something that keeps me happy. Each of us have our own things—transformers, soda constructor-like websites, movies, whatever. But the environment that you’re in most provides the opportunity for you to be happy in your individuality. And that doesn’t mean being the only girl in the office. It means creating things with your own style (when the opportunity arises), or not being disregarded for having “too elegant of a style.” Anyways, I digress. The point of this rambling is to prove that we all need the space to endulge ourselves in things that really make us happy (maybe that’s a whole new thread… what makes YOU happy?)

But the point is, we can’t do everything anywhere. Or something like that.

Posted by m. blume on February 1, 2005 07:15 PM