Monday, June 25, 2012

John Barton


I first saw John Barton's work in the student showcase on Behance, and I liked the style that he had, which I saw as minimalist with a techno feel, which you see a lot of in the album cover he designed for the Soundtrack to a Catastrophic World

What first made you interested in graphic design?
I've always been a creative-minded person from an early age so it was almost a natural progression for me to go into the creative industry. At that time I was already creating my own CD covers and posters so Graphic Design seemed like the right choice, and as kid who wouldn't like having their work potentially being seen by millions of people?!

How would you describe your work? What has been your favourite project to work on?
I'd describe my work as having a contemporary style with a modernistic approach to thinking. Behind all my work is a concept – idea driven design that usually manifests itself in an aesthetically clean way. My favourite project, and the one that highlights this style most is probably the vinyl cover for Soundtrack to a Catastrophic World. Its content is a selection of different transmissions and noise patterns and I wanted to show this through design somehow. The moire effect represents the tuning of a radio and the custom typeface is loosely based on Morse code. It took a lot of experimentation to get right but I'm really happy with the end result.

How do you find a concept for a project to be based on? Is that something that a client can articulate, or do you have to work with them to find it?
This usually comes from research and development after meeting with a client. Views and thoughts are shared throughout the process so that they aren't kept in the dark. So far the clients I've had have been great in allowing time for experimenting with ideas - something that projects like Catastrophic World are a key aspect in order to find the right solution.

What does your workspace look like?
Nothing out of the ordinary - just a mac and desk at home. At this moment in time it's all I really need. In the future I'll hopefully look to rent studio space.

What is the biggest influence on your work?
I wouldn't say there was one particular influence on my work, but Dieter Rams' 10 principles to good design are like a check list for each project. Even though he's a product designer, his ideals can work throughout the creative arts.

Is there anything that you would like to say to student designers?
Apart from the usual work hard stuff, I'd say that joining Twitter and following designers/studios that you like is a great way of getting an insight into how the industry works and helps keep you in the loop while studying.
John describes this project as a celebration of collaboration.  I find it entertaining to say these words very fast, and I like the way it functions, with pieces coming apart and reveling different parts of the message that he's conveying.  You can see more pictures of it here.
I was really interested when John said that he uses Dieter Rams' Ten Principles for Good Design as a checklist for his design products. I sometimes hear about designers crossing over in disciplines when they look for inspiration, but I would think of the Ten Principles as guidance, more than inspiration.  I had never actually seen a list of the principles either, just heard them referenced once or twice.  

Because you were curious, good design..

Is innovative
Makes a product useful
Is aesthetic
Makes a product understandable
Is unobtrusive
Is honest
Is long-lasting
Is thorough down to the last detail
Is environmentally friendly
Is as little design as possible

I can get behind all of these ideas, and even though they're written by and industrial designer, they can apply to all kinds of design.
What do you think?  Do you take inspiration or guidance from other disciplines?  Do you think that learning from other types of designers and artists can improve your work?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sex in the Woods

Tae Kim is the owner of Alite designs, and he's one of the few outdoor equipment designers in the world, and he's designing for camping noobs.  He's aiming his designs at the people who are interested in camping, but don't have a great deal of knowledge about the outdoors.  The big idea that most outdoor equipment companies are marketing is one of hardcore outdoorsyness, but there are a lot of people who aren't interested in climbing Everest, they just want to go out into the woods for a weekend once a year.  Personally, I'm past that point.  I work at a summer camp in northern Michigan where we go on trips to somewhat remote locations, so I have experiance doing a little more than going out in the woods for a night or two.  Out of Tae Kim's talk, the idea that struck me the most was that of a lending library for camping equipment.  I had the chance to go backpacking last year, with camp.  It was a great time and I'd like to do it again, but it requires a lot of special equipment that I don't own.  If I'm only going to go backpacking once or twice, it doesn't make sense for me to buy the equipment, so if I could rent it from a company like Alite, that would be really useful.
 Out of the designs that Alite has, I like the Squirrel Mini Pack a whole lot.  I'm not sure what I would use it for, but it's cool.  Maybe it would work for a walking around camp backpack?
I've seen other chairs like this, with only two feet, but most of them don't have backs and don't look as comfortable as the Monarch chair does.
All of this makes me really interested in designing camping gear, as an industrial designer.  Do you know of any camping gear that's pretty good looking?

Monday, June 11, 2012

What Makes the Designer?

There was an episode of the podcast, "Let's Make Mistakes", where they discussed the idea of being a designer, and what makes someone a designer.  You can listen to it right here, if you're interested.  The general opinion seems to be that the root of being a designer is solving problems.  The vast majority of working designers are fluent in graphics programs, but being fluent in a graphics program doesn't make you a designer, in the same way that having a nice camera doesn't make you a photographer, and owning paints and brushes doesn't make you a painter.  Even if you know how to use the camera and know how to use the paint and brushes, there's something more.  There's some sort of gap between having the tools and having a knowledge of how to use the tools and actually being a designer.  But that's not quite it, is it?  Isn't there something more?

In list form, because it makes more sense:
1. Obtain tools.
2. Learn how to use tools.
3. Magical unknown step.
4. Be a designer.

Step three, of course, is the problem.  Is it just practice that goes there?  Is it learning to think about solving complex problems?  Is it going to school?  Is talent necessary?
Of course, because design is a creative pursuit, there are going to be people who say things like "I wish I had your talent." as though every designer was born with the skills they have and didn't do any work to gain them.  I don't place much value in talent, but I believe in inclinations.  If you're seven years old, and you are slightly better than average at drawing, and you really like to draw, then you're inclined towards that.  You're likely to continue drawing, and you'll practice far more than peers who aren't inclined towards it, and by the time you're 14, you'll be much better at drawing than other kids your age.  If you're disciplined and have someone pushing you, that adds to the practice.  Then, hopefully, you can find a good art teacher, who will add to that skill, and a few years later, you're probably fantastic at drawing.  People will say that you're so talented, because you found something that you latched on to and spent years honing your craft.
What about designers who haven't gone to school for design?  If there are two designers who have the same abilities and portfolio, one of them having gone to school for design, and one not having gone to school for design, does it matter?  Do you think of them differently?
I probably think of designers who haven't gone to school differently than I think of designers who've been educated in design.  However, I feel really conflicted about that.  I like writing.  I like writing a lot, writing this blog and fiction too.  I hope, one day, that people will pay me to write stuff.  I'm not going to school for writing.  What makes me wanting to write any different from people who haven't studied design wanting to be designers?
What do you think about all of this?

Monday, June 4, 2012

Chris Guillebeau on Creative Mornings

I've been keeping an eye on Creative Mornings for a while. It was started by Swiss Miss, who I really admire, and the videos are generally full of interesting ideas. I need to move to a city where they have a Creative Mornings, for sure. When I saw that Chris Guillebeau did a talk, I was interested.
I found Chris' blog a few years ago, and I was captivated by his idea of world domination. For Chris, world domination doesn't mean that you're controlling armies and building bombs, it means that you do exactly what you want, and not listening to what anyone else says about it.
I like that.
His steps for success in creative pursuits are simple and versatile enough that they work for anything that people do that requires motivation, which is everything worth doing.
I like his ideas of finding a legacy, and the fact that a legacy is either about helping people or building something.  Watching this kind of video puts me in that mood of cool motivation, which is really helpful for, like, life.  And making great things.
However, when I compare this video to the books that Chris has written, like 279 Days to Overnight Success, I can't help but notice that Chris is far more inspiring in writing.  I find it funny, sometimes, how different people seem when you see them in videos versus what you imagined from their internet personas.