A classmate asked me to have my iphone interface featured along with some other classmates’ work for a final project. She asked me some questions and here are my responses.
What does being a good designer mean to you?
A good designer empathizes with the person using what’s being designed. I designed a clock that is white during the day (for readability) and shifts along the greyscale in sync (relatively) with the amount of daylight outside until at night, it’s face is black. This was a conscious choice, not simply because it looks cool or is a cool bit of functionality, but because a very dark background means when I’m in bed at night and need to see the time, the screen won’t be brightly lit and strain my eyes. White hands and hour markers on a black background stand out more than vice versa; a nice convenience when light might be low.
Even though the aesthetic took shape organically, as it was happening, I recognized my target audience would likely be young, would be looking for something fresh, new. That’s part of the reason I pushed the boundaries of the use of the glossy texture. By recognizing my target audience and thinking about the individual who would ultimately use my product, I naturally empathize with them.
Form should follow function. Anyone can create something beautiful, but if it’s practical, I’m going to reach for it time and again. The more I reach for it, the more of a role it plays in my life, the more I appreciate it, the more I feel I need it. As designers, we want to create something that’s relevant. If I don’t create something relevant, something needed, then I’ve failed as a designer. Designers have to walk this line, it needs to first be practical, then beautiful. I’m first going to reach for the thing that gets the job done and if two products get the job done equally well, I’m then going to reach for the better looking object.
In this project I thought a lot about functionality, maybe more so than design (at least in the initial stages). I’m really proud of my iKnow feature, especially the ‘Friends’ component – a user can be verbally updated after an alarm about participating friends’ high priority calendar events. I had this relatively complex component. It was more important than the aesthetic, so that’s what I had to design for – this functionality. Above all else the functionality had to work and make sense, and then I could focus on making it look good.
Where do you draw inspiration for your projects?
I draw inspiration from the project itself. I figure out what makes sense for a specific project, what a project demands. What do I want to feature? Sometimes figuring out the aesthetic is necessary to fully express the practicality. I worked on the PSA assignment urging viewers to eat healthy. I fully understood the need for perfectly lit and shot sequences to tell the story of the food. Some projects demand a certain aesthetic. Sometimes recognizing that is the hard part.
And sometimes you can bring a totally random aesthetic to a project and make it fit. When I can incorporate a random aesthetic, for inspiration I draw from what I’ve seen that has worked. I tweak it and make it how I want it. I look around me, at others’ work, everyday life for shapes and colors, feels, spirits, ideas (all that hippie stuff). I look to nature a lot for inspiration; I think it binds all of us together. Nature is something we all can recognize and identify with. I try to stay away from anything that feels synthetic or manufactured – which is ironic when you look at my iphone interface.
What have you learned about design as a process?
In design, process is everything. For the designer, the finished product is what’s fleeting and temporary. The process is what’s permanent and lasting. Designers don’t seek to create one thing and that be their life’s work. Designers constantly create. The process is how they get better. Process is practice.
Good design is a series of attempts. You work with something, you throw it out. You keep certain elements, build on them, work on them. Then maybe you throw the whole thing out, you keep part of it, maybe you keep all of it. You build, you edit, you disassemble, you tweak, you analyze. Good design is not self contained. It occurs over multiple sessions. It’s seen by multiple sets of eyes. It’s criticized by many. Only after this, after a project has been vetted, can you even start to think it’s complete.
And good designers do this over and over and over. Process is everything.
What’s a trick of the trade (technical or inspirational/advice) that has served you well in this class?
Critique. Ask. Seek advice. Be willing to accept something you create might suck. Be modest. Be confident. Be human. Be persistent. Be honest.
What has been your biggest take away as you’ve developed your skills in this class?
Plan. Form ideas and develop them. Work through them, throw them out if necessary. Sketch. Wireframe. List. Practice.
If my intention is to become a designer, my workflow will quickly break if I try to work out of my head. My projects will take on a similar aesthetic and my work will suffer. This semester we’ve had one project, then another, then another. I don’t know what it’s like to have multiple projects going on concurrently. I don’t know what it’s like to have ideas from one project creep into another. And that might not be bad, but it’s a slippery slope. I want to make a living out of thinking about colors and shapes and fonts and spirits and feels. There’s no way I’ll be successful if I don’t plan, if I don’t lock my ideas up into sketches and notes and art and lists of inspiration ideas. I have to practice my craft.