I learned about design from that!

Difficult projects. Inspiring colleagues. Aimless wandering. Unexpected revelation. What was a moment — or a path — that shaped you into the designer you are today? Tell us a story.



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16 Responses to I learned about design from that!

  1. Suzanne James says:

    My client needed a simple little thank-you note recently, so I put the standard stuff on the page and moved it around — boring! A co-worker came by and asked, “What are you designing?” I wasn’t! I realized that I hadn’t even bothered analyzing any of the client’s potential involved in this little piece. I was just moving stuff around. The piece was actually an invitation for further business doings. John always says, “Design everything!” Okay. My inspiration meter jumped to high, finally, when I began exercising my artistic sensibilities and applied what I know. The client loved it and told me, “that’s why you’re worth it.”

  2. Joan Auclair says:

    Back in high school, 1,000 years ago, the yearbook consultant came and talked with us yearbook volunteers. The one piece of layout advice he gave was not to trap any white space — a concept I’d never considered before. I’ve picked up a lot of information since then, but I keep going back to that.

  3. Chris Woodman says:

    I remember driving home from college after one of my design classes. Later that day I was working on a project for that class. While working on my project I remember my dad walking in and handing me a magazine that he said I might be interested in. The cover of the magazine read “Before & After: How to design cool stuff.” About a week later, I bought all the print issues and subscribed to the magazine. Ever since that point my design skills have skyrocketed! Without Before & After, I don’t think I would be the graphic designer I am today.

  4. Sheila Nelson Nawaz says:

    I first got interested in design while working as a secretary in sales and marketing. I felt bored and unchallenged in the job, but one thing I thought I could help people with was designing better presentations and pages, working with what we had. I seemed to have an eye for it. I read a book by Robin Williams, “The Non-Designer’s Design Book.” Her best piece of advice was “Don’t be a wimp.” That served me well. I used that advice to up the contrast between text and display type in a marketing letter, (though I wouldn’t have used those terms at that time), and the staff adopted that design. I felt really proud. Now I’m a graphic design student getting close to the end of my education. :-)

  5. Eric says:

    Frankly, I got serious about learning design when I started reading Before & After 10+ years ago. Before that, I was just playing with Photoshop.

  6. Brett says:

    I had started a commercial ISP way back when WWW was the last entry in a gopher list, and you had to use this weird piece of software called Mosaic to look at it!

    Anyway, a designer visiting from the USA offered to brand the company for free access for a while. Great! I said.

    When he and I sat down with his designs, one was so much better to my eyes than the others, and he explained to me about white space and how elegance arose from it. The blinkers fell from my eyes, and I have been fascinated by design and typography ever since. Really!

    Three major influences:

    1. Before & After magazine — completely changed how I thought about design.
    2. Robin Williams’ books for non-designers
    3. Xara — the most wonderful vector drawing programme ever.

  7. Dan says:

    I came up with a couple of concepts for the home page of a client’s web site. She didn’t like either one. She made a suggestion that didn’t sound like my style, and I went back to the drawing board.

    So after I had my little, private snit, I asked myself the question that has changed my life as a designer. Here’s the question: “If I’m such a good designer, why can’t I come up with something that both my client and I will like?”

    So I took her suggestion seriously and asked myself, “How can I make this work?” About ten minutes later, I was thrilled with the possibilities that her suggestion unearthed. I became a better designer when I stopped seeing design as a battle of wills and more as a collaboration. (BTW, you can see that home page at http://www.porosity.ca.

  8. Judy Robertson says:

    I started my graphic design job in first grade when the nun pointed me to the bulletin board and asked me to decorate it. I did. Fell in love with the challenge and have been designing ever since . . . let’s see. How long ago was that?

    52 years! How can that be?

  9. Diane Wanek says:

    The phenomenal book designer Richard Eckersley and his equally talented wife Dika taught me design. When I first opened my studio in New Orleans in 1991, the budget was tight, so I called Richard and asked him to “loan” me a few fonts. “All I have is Helvetica, Garamond, Univers, Didot and Futura,” I cried. He said, “If you need more than that, you’re not a designer.” He was right, and I learned a lot. His lessons continue to resonate for me today.

  10. David Kunkel says:

    Two seminal moments in my design career: At age ten, our art assignment was to use torn newspaper to create a halloween collage. Mine was a spooky graveyard full of ghosts. When all the finished artwork was on display in the assembly hall, I was very upset that I couldn’t find mine! Then I was told that the reason it wasn’t in the case was that it had been selected for the easel announcing the show, the most prominent place in the hall. I’ve never lost that feeling of elation.

    The second was in the seventh grade, when I fell in love with computer-style typefaces, particularly the typeface used on the poster for the Beatles’ movie, “Yellow Submarine.” I lettered with it constantly, made up the missing letters, and then tracked it down (Amelia) and learned it by heart. I’ve been a type geek and calligrapher ever since.

  11. Melanie Davenport says:

    I was withdrawn from my eighth grade Lit class and placed in Yearbook when a parent at my private middle/high school complained about a lack of coverage for the junior high. My fellow yerds and I found our places in the world surrounded by text, type, photography and design. The years I spent in that classroom have shaped the entire trajectory of my life as a writer, teacher and designer. When I encounter truly good design, I’m always reminded of that joy.

  12. Steve Garson says:

    Early teens — my sister and I, being too young and not able to afford Holiday cards to our parents, created our own. We kinda competed with each other to see who would get the best reaction. I increasingly improved and got the better responses — which became a “Pavlov” motivation for me. Sometimes my parents would call my drawing “scribbling” — but boy, did I impress them when I got first art director job in my early 20’s!

  13. I’ve always had this ability for drawing, since kindergarten, but for design, a good eye is not enough.

    I was self-motivated into designing, even though I had bypassed a “professional” formation into it by graduating in what is another passion for me — software. (Administrative Informatics bachelor degree would be a rough translation).

    I have a ton of retrospective examples and anecdotes to fill several books on what not to do!

    With all this in mind, one of my most memorable design moments came when I was applying “textbook” solutions to several design problems I had with web pages. The client suggested to me that not all had to “be by the book.” Then and there, I got an out-of-the-box idea, explained it roughly to this client, and he smiled. He replied only with, “Damn, I hadn’t thought of that!”

    Several designs have taken that design path for me. I start with “the most obvious design ever,” get it out of my system, and then the design “juices” wash over me.

    Happy designing everybody!

  14. James Thompson says:

    I was never any good at art or drawing and, if honest, it never really appealed. After a lifetime of wandering, I went to University and studied Business Information Systems! I’ve always had a knack for getting software.

    On graduation, I took a part-time job at a Mail Boxes Etc. store, and as I was the only one who could use CorelDraw, I had to start doing the designing.

    Looking back, most of my work was horrid. I really believe that without Before & After, I would not be as good as I am now, although I’m still a little way off from calling myself a designer.

    My work now exhibits the elements of good practice learnt well here. Truly you were inspirational.

  15. Jeff Walker says:

    I think design is a way of seeing, a way of communicating, a way of life. I honestly think there is a group of people who can’t see or appreciate good design because they just don’t care. I see good design everywhere, and I am constantly impressed. I was a commercial photographer for 15 years and had the privilege of working and learning from some very talented designers. I learned design from everything around me and from the work of others. I have a huge file where I collect things that I think are well designed — shampoo bottles, magazine ads, books I will never read but I love their covers . . . and of course I love Before & After. Open your eyes — there are lessons and examples in good design everywhere.

  16. Debbie says:

    We at the Cancer Center needed brochures for a project we were doing for kids to stop smoking. I asked my assistant and my work-study students to take the time off and learn Photoshop, graphic design, etc. — expenses paid by our university. No one took the offer. Frustrated, I went. I already knew PS for my photography work. Loved doing this. Has turned out to be a lifesaver both physically and mentally. When I was unable to return to work after a major car accident, I’ve been able to fall back on photography and illustration.

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