Posts tagged design students
Advice to Design Students I

Make a more interesting chicken.

Make a more interesting chicken.

I’ve been working with students as an adjunct professor at DAAP, and I consistently find them stuck in the middle of a design block. They’re usually playing it safe. There’s not a whole lot distinguishing their iterations or, there’s not a whole lot of iterations to look at. More often than not, there’s an attachment to a solution (usually a first or second iteration). Their unwillingness to release these early solutions prevents them from doing better work. I’m all too familiar with this situation in my own practice. Here are some ways I’ve gotten out of a design block.

On getting past a design block:

  • Try typefaces you haven’t used before (Fontstand, Adobe Fonts, Klim Test Fonts, Future Fonts). Typography is your secret weapon.

  • Swap projects and have a peer to design a version to get their perspective. It’s not cheating. It’s collaboration.  

  • Print out your screens and take a sharpie marker or Exacto knife to them. They're not precious.

  • Turn off your wi-fi and design without checking the internet or Instagram for inspiration (give your self three hours and see what you come up with). You’ll make more than you ever have before.

  • Limit your self to three or four elements (shapes, colors, type, line). See how far you can push those simple elements. It might be helpful to start an empty Illustrator artboard and play. Be bold. Try different variations. Pull out what you love.

  • Design the wrongest solution. That may help you know what’s right.

Additionally, critique is a fantastic way to get new perspectives and do better work, but you have to go in prepared.

On getting your work critiqued:

  • Bring specific questions that you’re struggling to resolve.

  • Don’t spend the whole time talking about your process and research. Talk about the work you want to be critiqued.  

  • It’s hard to critique a design that’s 10% finished. Try to get it to 60% - 80% and let the critique help you to 90% - 100%.

  • Don’t defend your work. If it’s good, it will protect itself. If it’s weak, it will get stronger the more it’s beaten up.

This is the most frustrating phase of design. You think everything is terrible. But, you’re not alone. It happens to students and professionals alike. Don't give up! It will evolve into something better.

What Is Your Quest?
Thursday morning woods walk turned  wet walk.

Thursday morning woods walk turned wet walk.


I continue to linger on the contrast between learning and problem-solving (see last weeks post and Hurry Slowly Ep. 17). There’s less fear and anxiety when equipped with a lens of learning. A kind of childlike naivety opens the mind to different ideas. Problem-solving, on the other hand, implies stress, which can close the door to original pathways.

Good questions are an excellent vehicle for learning. Richard Saul Wurman speaks to that with an interview with Debbie Millman (see link below). He elevates the word “quest," which I appreciate. A quest is a long, arduous search for something (Google's definition). I'm starting to understand that we're all on our journey or quest. What is your quest? There's no better place to look than at the questions we ask others and ourselves every day.

How do I dodge complacency and recognize and reframe my deep-seated biases? That appears to be a quest of mine. At least that's the theme I draw from the links below. That, and initial preparations for my fall UCD course at DAAP. Eek! August will be here in no time. 



Richard Saul Wurman Interview With Debbie Millman 
Debbie Millman does a good job interviewing Richard. The most compelling segment is toward the end when Debbie goes off script and asks Richard what he wants to talk about. Richard doesn't want to answer Debbie's initial round of questions regarding his past. Richard prefers to talk about the future. What leads me to question the tendency to ask older or successful people to recount their experiences as if they’ve completed their journey? What if instead of asking about the past, we talked about what’s now or what’s next? I tested my new theory on a friend who’s thirty-years older than me. Like Debbie, I dwelled on his past. I caught myself and asked him what’s next? It led to one of the most intimate conversations I’ve had all week.

Everything Easy is Hard Again by Frank Chimero 
Every so often I feel the pressure to learn how to code. While there’s been plenty of false starts, I’ve never made a genuine commitment to the cause. Frank’s perspective, from someone who does code, is encouraging. It’s impossible to keep up with the web, and perhaps the old, slow solutions are enough. I doubt I will leap into code. However, I do hope to find a reliable dev. partner in Cincinnati or beyond. I’m continually receiving requests for web design projects, and I don’t think that trend will fade anytime soon. Reach out if you’re interested or have any tips.

Design Discourse Is In A State Of Arrested Development 
Are we (designers) adding value? What happens when we start to ask that question of our work and others’?: “Our tendency is to focus on techniques and tools and to ignore the deeper questions. And it’s not just that we’re unwilling to examine our failures; we’re just as likely to focus only on the superficial aspects of our successes, too.”

As a design student, how do I deal with my professors teaching outdated tools and methods?
“Use this opportunity to ‘learn how to learn,’ and use resources outside of school to teach yourself the latest tools and techniques. That curiosity and drive to learn on your own will serve you well in a design career.” I found this advice likewise helpful for the professor when it seems impossible to keep up with ever constant change. A focus on the foundations and teaching the students how to learn gives them timeless gifts that they will use beyond the classroom and throughout their careers. 

A Helpful Diagram (for design students)
"Venn and The Art of Being a Design Student."

The Silent Rise of The Female-Driven Economy
“Put very simply, most of the structures, design, technology, and products we interact with are designed with male as the default.” How myopic. It’s time to start asking who will be alienated by what we design?

The Side Effects of the Decline of Men
Instead of learning to code (see Chimero notes above), perhaps it’s more important than ever to build an emotional IQ?: “The researchers suggest the scientific evidence shows that women have on average stronger skills in empathy, communication, emotion recognition and verbal expression, and corporate America is valuing those qualities all the more.”

Kudos to ChrisKathryn, and Meg for link suggestions.