Wednesday, June 22, 2016

#radandy on “Design: de·sign” /dəˈzīn/

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Save the Signmaking for the Department of Transportation


I find myself noticing a lot of designs these days, particularly relative to marketing. Design is everywhere, from the cereal box at breakfast to all the #rad pins on Pinterest. Think of frosted blended hues around the Lays logotype on the side of a chip delivery truck, or the homemade sandwich board on the sidewalk luring interest and audience to  question.

I was not formally trained in design, but, I can tell you one thing, industrial arts and art classes in high school saved my ass. In these classes, I was able to work with my hands while I learned that I could inherently critically analyze form and function. I discovered a strong interest in how I wanted to express my ideas through the design or look of a piece. More important to me was, and continues to be, how to present my ideas in a way people would want to utilize them.

Within design there are many ways we can think about utility, form and function. How design appears and appeals to its audience is crucial, specifically in marketing and this brings in the artist's expression as well.

Some formally trained designers may consider me a ‘rock head’, since I hold a degree in hydrology, and have a background in geology as well as technology. Still, I am conscious of how things are presented, and thus, have an interest and tendency toward design. “Form follows function.” For me, all of these parts bounce around in my brain together, and, this is the observation gnawing at me lately...

Sign Makers Are Not Always Designers!

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Recently, I was working with a client on digital presence, expression and message delivery across a variety of social media platforms. I was struck by a few examples where the client had posted, for marketing purposes, actual snapshots of the business signs indicating the business. It was like looking at a picture of a picture, or a page in a book, but you could not turn it to read onward to know more. It is my strong opinion that there is no sense in this approach. I would even say it is an actual waste of good creative processing time in taking pictures of signs.

Sign makers are master craftspeople, using technical tools and equipment to craft a tangible object that indicates or represents a place, person or thing. Designers use concept and skill to pull it all together, always with the message for an intended audience in mind.

In a digital space this is more and more of an artistic factor, an emulation of the message in color, or graphical layout. Here we leave the interpretation of imagery up to the audience to make reference to his or her own interpretation. These are thought out based on the time, place or business being represented. Anyone interested has the ability to put that all together in his or her own mind and make connections or take away a message.   

Shout Out!

John Dewey an American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer;

Paul Rand, a prominent American Art Director and Graphic Designer.

Both of these men embodied expression and interpretation of thought by reading text and graphics. It is really up to the ‘end user’ to interpret. Both Dewey and Rand guided and conveyed ideas through text and icon/graphical symbols that hold true and live on today and Rand especially embodied the idea.

Dewey's Art as Experience, Rand elaborates on Dewey's appeal: “ [. . . Art as Experience] deals with everything — there is no subject he does not deal with. That is why it will take you one hundred years to read this book. Even today's philosophers talk about it[.] [E]very time you open this book you find good things. I mean, the philosophers say this, not just me. You read this, then when you open this up next year, you read something new.

The Digital Message Hack and the Sign Arrow Indicator

I sit on couches, use tables and chairs, countless hand held objects and tools. These things have all been designed ergonomically. The design fits well with form, function and utility. Not all art and design is utility but is plain beautiful. However, for industry and functional uses, considerations of form and function are critical, as I mentioned. It is certainly not text saying this is a drill; hold here and squeeze trigger. If it works well, and is appealing, there is a balance of artistic expression and function. Some are more balanced to one side than the other depending on function. Nonetheless, if you can't get your hand around a drill handle even though it says drill, it may fail to appeal to the audiences in many ways. So, as we peruse the vast network on images that come across our digital screens, I say the signs we come across traversing real life are better in the context intended: hung out in the open air with an arrow of indication, location, or where, or who…

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The message we get when we see a depiction of a brand or the mission of an organization, place or person is the true sign created and intended as Dewey would support for the reader or audience.   


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