Verandah update

Thought you might be interested in seeing what finally ended up on our front verandah! It’s an odd mixture of items. The bench is new, but the tables are a ‘side of the road’ effort.

We have done a bit more painting since then and I’ve become more confident about deciding what I like and don’t like. I think that maybe when you start to renovate (or in our case, freshen up) you probably should start in a small and inconspicuous place, rather like when you iron a new garment for the first time and you’re not sure if it can actually be ironed. We started at the front of the house and my husband left the colour choices up to me because he said that no matter what colour I chose, I wouldn’t like it when it was done. He was right!

In my case, I wanted nice dove grey paintwork and it ended up being quite purple. It’s not what I intended at all, but I’m getting used to it. I didn’t check what was going into the tint (largely red) and if I had it would have been obvious that it was going to come out purple or blue. But hey, you live and learn.

One of the things I found out in the course of this little experiment is that it’s a largely a matter of trial and error before you get the result you really want. It doesn’t just magically come together without any effort and there will always be some mistakes along the way. I know this sounds really obvious, but I had expected that if I thought about it long enough, I would make perfect choices.

In retrospect I should have realised that when I’m designing a presentation or a brochure I make thousands of changes and tweaks before I’m happy with the result, so choosing colours for the house is no different, it’s just a bigger canvas.

I’m thinking of re-painting my study now. It’s a smaller space and I think it’s going to be fun.

 

 

What is information design?

I’ve recently discovered that nearly everything I’m interested in can be captured under the title of ‘INFORMATION DESIGN’. Apparently this is now recognised as a field of knowledge in its own right.

Why is this exciting?

It’s a bit hard to explain. It’s the same feeling you get when you have a mystery ailment – an odd collection of symptoms that seem to have no connection – and you discover that this is actually has a name, for example, arachibutyrophobia (the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth). It’s oddly comforting to find that something has a name. It makes it more legitimate somehow.

Three reasons to celebrate

I like the fact that information design is a recognised field for three reasons:

  1. I am interested in a lot of different areas and it pleases me that these are all connected and that I am not just finding it hard to concentrate.
  2. It means that there are a number of good books on the topic that I can read and learn from.
  3. It means that there are conferences and websites where people exchange ideas about this very interesting topic.

What do information designers do?

Information designers turn complicated concepts into things that are less confusing and easier to comprehend. They help people get things done. They design forms that people find easy to complete, they write clear instructions for new products, they help people find their way around shopping centres and universities.

They also design:

  • Websites
  • Maps
  • Reports
  • Slides
  • Signs
  • Packaging
  • Menus
  • Infographics

 Why does it matter?

If you are trying to find out how your new coffee machine works and the instructions aren’t very clear, it’s hardly a life threatening situation, but it can be annoying. If you are trying to find the entrance to the emergency centre at your local hospital and the signs aren’t clear, it could actually be a matter of life and death. What both scenarios have in common is that they leave us feeling confused and anxious and we often blame ourselves for our failure to understand. We shouldn’t do this because more often than not, the problem is that the information itself is poorly designed.

People come first

Information design matters because it puts the focus on the people who are going to use the information, not on the information itself.

I think it’s a fascinating field and over the next few months I’m planning to learn as much as I can and extend my skills.

I hope you will share my journey.

 

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Learning by doing

I received an email from a chap who wanted to let me know that I had made quite a few typographic errors on this site, especially in my post on being creative . He said that the text ran awkwardly into the photo caption and he was right, it did look ugly. I’ve fixed it now, but in future I’ll be a lot more careful to check how the blog entries look on different browsers.

He made it pretty clear that I should not be giving people advice about graphic design when my blog contains so many obvious errors. As you can imagine I was a bit flattened by this and it took me a couple of days and some kind words from my husband before I cheered up again.

It did make me have a long hard look at what I am trying to do on this blog, so I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you…

As I have mentioned before, I started this blog primarily to practise my writing. It can be hard to find something to write about, so I decided to write about things that I’m interested in, these being design, visual communication and writing. I come from a family of grammar pedants and general nitpickers, so I really can’t help being interested in these things. Travel along a highway with any member of my family and you will hear a running commentary on why the roadside signs are unclear or confusing and how they could be improved.

So although I was criticised for being a student giving graphic design advice, I actually write about a whole range of topics and don’t consider myself an expert in the area of graphic design.

Graphic design is only one aspect of clear communication and is no more or less important than knowing what it is that you want to say, and being able to express that as clearly as possible. 

It’s true that I am enrolled in a graphic design course, but this is merely out of interest and not because I have any aspirations to become a graphic designer. I simply don’t have the talent. This doesn’t bother me.

Learning about graphic design helps me do my job better, as does reading about how we absorb information and make sense of the world.

I am very much a learner sharing my learning journey with the world. I’m a staunch advocate of learning by doing, so this naturally means that I’ll be making plenty of mistakes along the way.

I also love to teach and this means that I want to share ideas, insights and information with people like you. My hope is that you will find the content useful and interesting (at least some of the time).

I appreciate that publishing my ideas and opinions leaves me open to criticism and that’s okay. Receiving feedback is just part of the learning process and I really do welcome any comments or questions you have, good or bad.

 

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Learning from your mistakes

Yesterday I reblogged an article from a content strategist about how setting your goals too high can lead you to feeling a bit like an under achiever. I think that we all put ourselves under a lot of pressure to be really on our game all the time, to be successful and wonderful and pretty much perfect most of the time. I thought this was an interesting article and that it would be a good thing to share with you all, but I hadn’t looked at the video clip that was embedded in the item. To be honest, I had tried to, but the clip wouldn’t play on my iPad. (What’s that all about???)
Anyway, I had a look at the clip today and was horrified to find it contained the most appalling language. I’m truly sorry if anyone was offended and I’ve removed the post now.
A good lesson learnt on my part though. It won’t happen again.

Moving on

Lots of people say that learning from your mistakes is the best way to learn and I guess this is true, but it’s painful. I wondered if you had any advice about how to recover from those embarassing moments? You know the ones I’m talking about… You’re up on the podium and you completely forget what you are talking about. You’re in a meeting and you’ve been daydreaming and someone asks you a question and you don’t know what on earth they are talking about. You’re due to give a presentation at another location and you go to the wrong place. Need I go on? I’m sure you have your own examples. Any tips for making a fast recovery and moving on?

Not really that creative

 

HB graphite pencils Deutsch: Bleistifte der St...

HB graphite pencils Deutsch: Bleistifte der Stärke HB (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

When I am delivering my presentation design course a lot of people tell me that they would love to develop their design skills but that they are ‘not really that creative’. As I have mentioned before, I find this quite amusing as I am not really that creative myself. Some people are born with flair, but most of us have to work at developing their design skills. It certainly doesn’t come naturally to me.

 

About eighteen months ago I enrolled in a Bachelor of Graphic Design course so that I could develop my design skills. Since then I have struggled through the course, one subject at a time, and I must say it’s not talent or good results that makes me continue, just dogged perseverance and an unwillingness to give up or give in. I’m not sure if I am improving or becoming more creative, but I am learning a lot and I think that putting the principles into practice must surely pay off in the long run. At the rate I’m going, I’ll be studying for the next ten years or until I think I have a good enough grasp on the subject matter to forge ahead under my own steam.

 

What I have noticed since I started the course is that I’m a lot more tuned in to design. I notice colours and patterns. I appreciate beautiful packaging, I admire wine labels and linger over well designed websites. I see a lot more beauty around me and I think that’s a good thing.

 

I think one of the tricks to being creative is to develop an appreciation of what works and to be able to articulate why something works, rather than just liking it. My design course has helped me do that by introducing me to the rules and principles of the craft. Writing this blog has also provided me with the opportunity to share some of the things I’m learning about.

 

I would be very interested to know what you think about creativity. Do you have any thoughts on this topic or are there any topics that you think I should be writing about? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Basic Principles PROXIMITY

Proximity is about how near or far objects are from one another.

Our brains make a lot of assumptions for us based on where things are located in relation to one another. People assume that there is a relationship between things that are together, even if there isn’t.  We just assume that things that are close together, belong together. Think of salt and pepper shakers, or two friends meeting in the park. When we see a couple with their heads close together, deep in conversation, we know that they are  ‘a couple’ and not just friends. When you are designing documents or slides, always put related information together so that people can easily see that it’s related. It’s equally important to use lots of white space to separate information that’s not related.

This seems really obvious, but its a design principle that is often neglected.

Welcome to my blog

This blog has been designed to introduce you to some basic ideas about design. You can use these ideas if you are developing presentations, documents or any other kind of work where you need to make your ideas clear.

Improving your skills involves thinking and practicing. Your skills will not improve by just reading through the material, you need to apply the ideas.

Feel free to comment on any of the information, or ask any questions.

Happy learning!