As I teach design to people around the world through Session College of Professional Design and in other situations, I find students very involved in making clever or pretty pieces.
Very seldom do I find students who listen (or in my case read) instructions, and the act on them. They seem to be carried away in creating “art,” regardless of its effectiveness.
The primary function of visual design is to communicate.
If you ask many design students what their primary function is, most will define their tasks with something like:
”Communicate a message” or “Applying an appropriate and aesthetic a visual look to an object or concept,” “Visually presenting and organizing information,” or “Presenting a loosely-defined visual language in which colors, shapes, textures, and/or type are combined to create a structure that communicates ideas in a recognizable, easily digestible way for the intended audience.” But their practice is often something very different. There is a tendency to loose touch with the communication aspect of design.
So I am asking my students to answer for themselves what they are actually doing to communicate their audience?
I think their answers should include one or more from the following list:
1. Passing on information.
2. Selling a product or service.
3. Displaying something beautiful or ugly.
4. Encouraging communities.
5. Disseminating ideas.
6. Inspiring people to do act or think in a certain way.
7. A call to action.
8. Inflame or anger people.
Design can be uplifting, shocking stimulating, provocative, plain or decorative, or witty.
There are many definitions and descriptions, but this list is a place to start being aware of the function of design. In reality we have many different clients with an infinite list of needs. But I think the eight points above will cover a large majority of our daily tasks.
After grabbing the viewer’s eye, design can said to convey information clearly and efficiently. On a practical level, if it doesn’t do this, we are unlikely to have satisfied customers.
So when we design a piece, be it a book, a poster, a business card, a CD label, a website, or a railway ticket, we should have a clear idea what it is we are trying to achieve, and being able to judge if our efforts are effective.
It is always good to take some time and look at work in progress, and especially finished pieces, to see through the eyes of the intended audience.
I encourage beginning designers to make a list of the audience, what the client wants to communicate, and strategies they are/have used to achieve this. Doing this before showing it to your client is a good method of ensuring repeat business. Getting negative feedback from a client is not the way to get this information.
What are you motivations as a designer?