Hello! I stopped teaching at GMU after Fall 2010, but I’ve decided to leave this blog up indefinitely in case anyone might find value in the posts. (Some links may be dead due to the fluid nature of the web.) Cheers!


Fight the Flatline

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin A. Abbott

You may be wondering what Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions has to do with design, and why the heck I posted it here (two posts back).

I read it for an intro Philosophy course when I was in college. Although it was written over a hundred years ago, the themes remain timely. The main concept that has stayed with me all these years is that there are many perspectives in the world and possibilities for other dimensions. (Part II of the story.) It will do you well to keep an open mind — in life and in design. The metaphorical characters of Point, Line, Shape are incidental. Ha! I just saw there’s even an animated movie of it!

If you’ve never seen it, check out Powers of Ten, a nine-minute film made by The Office of Charles and Ray Eames. Another interesting take on perspectives.

I had a professor who said as a designer, we need to know about many different things. You may be designing for varied organizations, on a multitude of different subject matter. So, learn to learn. Learn to uncover the essence of a thing/business/service so that you can communicate that essence in a compelling way. I think it was Bob Gill who said (during a lecture for the ADCMW in DC) that if you have only one hour to design for a laundromat, spend 45 minutes in the laundromat and 15 minutes designing.

So, shake up your routine; get out of your comfort zone; be interested in… everything!

Getting There

On September 8, we discussed process in some detail. For this class, since you are responsible for creating the content as well as the design, you will have two sets of concurrent and overlapping processes that should work together to communicate your concept and your message.

The writing and content creation process consists of:

  • topic ideas; decision
  • research
  • creative brief
  • more research
  • outline
  • manuscript
  • concept-based copywriting
  • proofread and edit
  • copy edit
  • layout edit, since you can

The design process may go something like this:

  • brainstorm concept; decision/s
  • visual thinking
  • sketch options
  • select; make choices
  • design look and feel
  • analyze
  • plan and map the whole piece
  • full design and layout comps
  • analyze, revise, repeat as necessary
  • prototype, produce
  • disseminate (turn it in!)

Hone your process. It can help you out when you don’t know what to do. If you keep drawing a blank, feed your brain some more. More research = more ideas.

Back to the Basics

From a practical standpoint, revisiting the elements and principles of design can also offer inspiration when faced with an empty piece of paper.

Refresh your understanding of point, line, plane, shape, form. In fact, you might even enjoy a story created around these characters. Flatland by Edwin Abbott is available as a free download because it is in the public domain.

Taking the element discussion further, consider color, value, texture, and of course, image and type.

The principles of design describe the effects and relationships that are created by the elements interacting with each other. You should be able to evaluate and discuss your designs using these terms.

  • balance
  • contrast
  • tension
  • harmony
  • variety
  • proportion
  • direction
  • movement
  • rhythm
  • emphasis
  • unity
  • repetition

If you need a more formal refresher, take a look at Ellen Lupton’s book and companion website, Graphic Design: The New Basics.

And read about the Gestalt Principles of Perception starting here. A very good writeup by Andy Rutledge.

Creativity On Demand

In class on Wednesday, September 1, we talked about creativity. All professional fields can benefit from creativity. And especially in the design disciplines, you will need to be able to create on demand. Bosses and clients don’t want to hear that you’re not inspired today. You’ll be getting paid to create stuff, so as a designer it’s up to you to find your own inspiration, constantly.

Knowing which brain hemisphere is your dominant side can help encourage you to exercise the weaker one. We all have full brains but we’re wired a bit differently. If you missed it, take the brain test here.

General inspiration and creativity-enhancing exercises can be found in books. Check out, especially Creative Sparks and Caffeine for the Creative Mind.

Creativity Books

Creativity Books

We also watched a TED talk on creativity by Elizabeth Gilbert. TED offers many inspiring and educational talks in 20 minute presentations. Check out their full offering.

It’s All Good

Thanks for a good first day of class today, everyone. The PDF of the syllabus and schedule are in the BOX, as well as the PDF of the brochure project.

Want to be inspired by design for good? Check these out:

Have more examples? List them in the comments.

Wednesday, bring in your 3 narrowed down topic choices, with potential approaches or solutions. You will present your ideas to the class, and come away with a firm decision for your brochure topic.

And don’t forget the Flickr exercise!

It’s That Time Again

Well, look at that. I never did give that wrap-up post from last spring’s classes, and here it is time for fall classes already. (Apologies to the graduates.)

Well, it’s that time again. The first day of classes is Monday, August 30, and seeing as it’s after midnight, that would be today. The “Box” will be emptied of all things out of date and will be added to as we get to them. Starting with the syllabus, which I will post sometime in the next day or so when I’m sure I’ve got the schedule worked out.

The biggest thing you should know right away is that there is a new book. The bookstore confirmed with me the order, but I’m not sure when they’ll be in. That’s okay, we’ve got enough to keep us busy in the meantime. Starting with the first class… Expect to stay the whole class period. And bring something to take notes with.

Textbook for AVT 498, Fall 2010 at GMU

Textbook for AVT 498, Fall 2010 at GMU

Book Design, by Andrew Haslam is required. subscription, or classroom-in-a-book or the like, is recommended for software training and tutorials.

Okay, then, see you soon!