After working for some time as a ‘traditional’ graphic designer (as in making logos, posters and stuff) it eventually became clear that design meant a lot more to him than typefaces, icons and pictures. Drawing influence from Massimo & Lella Vignelli, Stefan Sagmeister and Charles & Ray Eames, Jacob likes to think that design skills can benefit practically anything.
Some like to use the term ‘design thinking’ but to Jacob this comes down to ‘common sense’. We’re surrounded by design everywhere we turn in the modern day. The tenets that make good graphic design are the very same constituent parts of good furniture design, illustration, architecture or film. Each is considered a ‘success’ by achieving spontaneous human appreciation. The very best examples of design elicit a visceral, emotive reaction and change the way people think and act. To do this requires an intricate understanding of where that ‘thing’ fits within it’s social and physical environment.
The art of design
Design utilises ancient and unspoken techniques of visual trickery. Everyone possesses such skills, but they’re undervalued in modern society. Only a few designers have kept the craft alive. Proficiency in these methods, procedures and approaches elicit chosen emotions and ultimately influence behaviour.
Graphic Design in its most basic form concerns the use of images, icons and layout to communicate desired values. Each of the arranged elements within a composition: photography, illustration, iconography and copy, play an equal part in the message conveyed and should be carefully considered.
Illustration reaches places words and photography cannot. The earliest cave paintings were created between 30 and 40,000 years ago and represent a form of communication older than all spoken languages. It is this primal nature of the medium that still speaks to people today. An illustration is able to communicate complex ideas and values in direct conversation with the observer’s primitive inner-self.
Animation utilises the same communicative tools as design and illustration: Form, colour, composition, shape, tone and texture. It then adds a dimension of time. This additional aspect enables the medium to more clearly articulate the relationship of these elements. Doing so can be more engaging, insightful, inspirational and impressive.
Let’s not get into the ‘what is art?’ debate. You know what’s definitely not art? That clichéd discussion. Artisans create artefacts and that is art – it has a dictionary definition and everything – here it is: ‘The expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.”
When a person observes a designed ‘object’ (which may be anything from a spoon to a city) it is perceived through a series of filters.
Firstly, the object is filtered through biasses passed down to us through generations of evolution. Sharp, pointed forms, for example, represent danger, whereas vast, empty spaces communicate creativity.
Culture plays a role in how an object is interpreted. For example: Red, in the west, might represent passion or danger, but in China, luck. People are less self-aware of these cultural perspectives than their personal opinions, but more so than their evolutionary biasses.
Once an object has made it through evolutionary and cultural filters it must pass through a final personal filter. One might describe this personal filter as ‘taste’ or ‘style’. Designers use visual interpretations of psychology in order to navigate these vast, unpredictable biases.
Success in design is measured in terms of ‘inspiration’. The closer ‘purpose’ is to ‘utility’ the more likely ‘inspiration’ occurs. The ‘purpose’ of a design is its intention. Its ‘utility’ is how useful that intention becomes.
In its most basic form the design achieves a seemingly inexplicable sense of ‘spontaneous satisfaction’ in its audience. The explanation for this however is that it satisfies their ‘evolutionary biases’.