Trends and graphic design, or any art form, truly do go hand in hand. When you’re creating or crafting, it’s natural to look for a shortcut. That doesn’t mean you’re cheating, lazy, or a shifty person. It just means you’re human, and that is a fine thing to be.
Some shortcuts are even more natural than others, and those are the ones we should take. If you’re comfortable doing something you love in a certain way, then there is no reason to change. Is it working? Do you do it really well? Is it logical to you? Does it support you? Do you trust it? Do you believe in it?
Then don’t change it. Do what you do.
The natural shortcut is to do what we know. Not because we don’t want to do anything else—but because we don’t need to do anything else. Years ago when I was only a bit less foolish than I am now, I fought the idea of having a style. At least, I fought it in my head. I don’t think I was publicly assaulting the idea of having or executing a personal style.
If I was, I was sure wrong. Having a style is not bad or lazy, and it does not make you one-dimensional. It just shows that you’re confident in what you’re doing. It shows that you know what you’re doing.
I’m not telling you to not try new foods, go to new places, or to not meet new people. I’m telling you to not worry that your lines are always straight, or that your type is always narrow, or that your colors are always muted. I’m telling you that it’s okay to have people expect something specific from you, because what they could be expecting is something that works and that is right.
It’s okay to have a style or an obvious approach, as long as you let it grown within itself as you do the same.
Over the last few years there have been a number of concepts, people, and ideas that I’ve realized I never want to be associated with in the field of graphic design. In general, it all comes down to avoiding bullshit, and those who spew spew it.
As of now, I’m slowly compiling a list of words I never want to be associated with. They’re in no particular order, as each is special in their own way.
The word branding has long disgusted me. It’s far too damn vague. I don’t want to consult, be a consultant, or do consulting. I want to create things, and work with people. Not get paid to nod my head and tell someone what they’ve thought of is worth moving forward with. That is what coworkers and friends are for.
As for strategy, it’s bullshit. Not actually strategizing things, but using the term in a sense to sell myself, no thank you. I know it works for many, and I’m sure they can back it up. However, for me, it sounds once again like I’m trying too hard to sell what I can do by talking about it instead of actually doing it.
As for synergy, that has corporate nonsense oozing out of every crack.
I know the list will grow. It has to, because as an INTJ, I know what I dislike just as much as what I like.
When I was a student, I was in the field of visual communications. Well, that is how I liked to put it. I still am, but I’ve often changed how I phrased it.
In recent years, I always went with the title of designer. However, to me, that is now incorrect. Or, it’s just silly.
Perhaps inspired by the dude who becomes my hero more and more each day, Aaron Draplin, or perhaps inspired by going back to a term I once used, I’d now like to just refer to myself as a graphic designer.
Sure, it doesn’t sound as elitist, or important as designer, but it sure sounds cooler. It makes me think of colors, posters, vectors, kerning, and communicating visually.
Those who know me would not be surprised to know that these things to matter to me. Terms, that is. Titles? No. Official job titles are for the weak, and for those who need a prefix or suffix to speak louder than their work. Graphic designer feels the right amount of dirty. By dirty, I mean ink on the hands, and dirty as in taking money for something you’re not proud of like those advertising fellas.
My name is Nicholas Burroughs, and I’m a graphic designer.
See? That felt nice. As a whole, this is a continuation of my recent epiphany of realizing I want to solve design problems, as a graphic designer. You know, as opposed to pretending I’m solving other problems in which graphic design does nothing for. But more on that later. If you’re a graphic designer, keep on designing. If you’re not sure what to call yourself, don’t worry, as you’ll figure it out inevitably. It’s taken me almost seven years to decide on something that I feel comfortable with.
I’ve been considering just what it is that I do over the last few weeks in terms of design. As each day has passed by, I’ve thought less and less about design. By less, I don’t mean amount of time spent thinking, but actually thinking less about what it can actually accomplish and what it’s useful for. Which is huge for me, as I love design.
For a few years now, I’ve always told myself, and others that I want to solve problems with design. I wanted to be that guy. Well, I’m not that guy. Can design solve problems? It can certainly help create the solution, and the same kind of thinking that we apply to design can be used to problems in order to solve them. Wait, does it solve problems? Yes, it can. However, I won’t want to do that.
Instead, I recently had an epiphany in which I realized what I specifically want to do.
I want to solve design problems.
These are much smaller on the whole scale that can be applied to life and everything involved in it, and I’m fine with that. It’s what makes me happy. Kerning matters to me. Communication at the tiniest level matters to me. Do other things matter to me? They do, however, I’m accepting that I do not have the ability, and at this point not even the interest to jump into them. I want to work on visual communications, and worry about aesthetics, and all the little things that some people may not like. You see, I like them. In this recent epiphany is when I realized it was okay to like them more than other things. I want to see bigger problems solved, but at this point I don’t want to kid myself into thinking that right now I can do such things.
Do I know people who can? I can think of not one, but two people who can, and who will. That is why they’re so great. They know what they want to do, to a much more specific level than most people.
I’ve known what I’ve wanted to do for years, and it’s finally getting more and more specific.
I’m going to go kern some type, and worry about some small details. This works, because I know there are others who are working on the bigger details.
Something looking “safe” varies massively from person to person, based on what they’re used to seeing. The past is safe, because we now know how to react to it and how to prevent certain things from occurring that we did not enjoy.
The unknown is not safe. In a way, neither is the future.
In terms of design, this could mean that someone who only designs gig posters finds that style incredibly safe. Even if they’re then designing something for someone who does not want a gig poster, their instinct is to play it safe, which means you get that style that some people would consider not safe, or extreme.
Safe has nothing to do with minimalism, legibility, or white space. It’s completely tied to past experience, comfort level, and expectations.
To someone who has only ever asked for work in the style of David Carson, getting work from Massimo Vignelli would not be safe for them, as it’s a foreign concept.
Lesson: Fuck safety. Don’t be afraid to make yourself uncomfortable.