So Hungry About Design

I recently tweeted: I am so hungry these days to learn more about good design…

Then a friend tweeted back: What kind of good design?

This post is sort of a free-flow answer to that question. I could try to organize it, but I don’t have time for that… er… I mean… this is really well thought out art!

Recently I’ve undergone a bit of a re-evaluation of my stuff, my stuff I do for a living, my direction, my center/core, my reason to be, my way to be reasoning.

The past 3-4 years have been all hunting and pecking for the moneys with my current toolset. It’s looked like starting some businesses, making online sales/promo videos, working at an interactive agency, designing and developing websites, working for others, working on my own, having day jobs, having night jobs, having pet projects I obsess about all hours of the day. All and sundry… but everything at least required some kind of potential monetization.

My design thinking through through this time was about being good looking and structuring a process by which I can make a buck. Making things look good to me was always what I did, but I’ve never been trained in this stuff, self taught, so I don’t have much in the way of hand-holds, steps to take, questions to ask when things aren’t looking right… in other words, design wasn’t the focus, making a website or video that looked good was the focus.

But then I started geeking out about some more serious designers; guys and gals who do this for a living, who think about it, but who also do it in exciting ways. These are the folks online. … and I should mention here that my focal lens, my primary focus, is online design – where interaction, layout, text, info architecture, etc., are all in the toolkit. Folks like Frank Chimero, Jason Santa Maria, and other designers I’ve listed elsewhere. Through these folks – their work and their writing – I started thinking about design itself, design as it’s own thing, as an environment of looks, beauty, function, communication, problem solving, execution, etc.

And with the online stuff there’s the code part as well. There’s guys like Andy Clarke with his Hard Boiled Web Design where this HTML5 and code in general is such an integrated part of the design. This was always on my radar – making code pretty, concise, efficient… it’s easy to geek out about this – but I had been thinking about it as some off-shoot, some peripheral element that I’ve got to make sure is at least considered.

Recap: So, for the past 3-4 years I was basically trying to be a business man who designed because that’s what I could cobble together and do. But that’s shifted now. Now I feel like some 12 year old looking around at design and designers in amazement… maybe a better metaphor is the 39 year old transfer student freshman: he knows what he wants and what he’s made of, but his grasp of the tools and the talk is vague and trembly and his hair is dumb. That’s me.

What kind of design am I interested in? I’m not really sure! My grasp of the language is a bit shaky. But I love things like this:

  • Dave Rupert’s Website – Click through some of the articles… it’s interesting to me the decisions he’s made. It’s built out of some knowledge and experience I’d like to steal from him and own 🙂
  • Trent Walton’s Articles – Click one… try not to be interested.
  • Those Coudal Layer Tennis things? Those were awesome!
  • And there’s stuff I see and recognize as a trend and can appreciate and yet I don’t think it’s fully baked yet. Like Think Vitamin – this is an interesting layout with the big images, etc… colors are great… but I’m not diggin’ on this wider images thing yet… That along with the other elements (circle denoting the type of post it is) make it a bumpy ride down the page.
  • The Fast Company Design site is interesting and as well… though it feels a bit heartless.

That’s just a couple. And that last point, maybe that’s the biggie here: I think I’ve become infatuated with heart in design and business. I think that’s the good design I’m looking for, that’s my whole center right now… communicating visually with heart.

This whole re-evaluating, restructuring, resettling of what’s been my main direction over the past few years – from businessman with a pirated version of photoshop to freshman designer – it’s about this infatuation with heart in building things. Can I build a business, create a product or service, and solve communication and sales problems with heart, with a balanced sort of movement and focus that lives well and breathes? That’s the kind of thing I want to learn.

And some side notes

You should probably just stop reading there; it ends better than this section will… I’ll just grab-bag some thoughts here to get em’ out.

I don’t often draw a line between the design and the business… I haven’t thought it through all the way, but here’s my stab at what I mean:

Design has come to mean a hell of a lot more to me than the pixels, layout, color, etc. I kind of travel with design all the way back to the core of the idea behind the business/venture/organization/etc. That’s the thing I want to be designing. If that’s not something I’d like to say, if it’s not an idea or problem that I think is worth developing or solving, then it’s probably not something I’d like to help communicate… and I wouldn’t be very magic on it either.

I look at this from a few different perspectives… I’m an entrepreneur, which means I can be a bit douchey, but I don’t wear those goddam toe-finger-foot shoes! (that’s gotta be worth something). All I mean by douchey is that I’ve been guilty of using words like ‘monetization’ a bit too much and adding things like “Share this!” buttons to my sites. I’m not ashamed of that. I’ve been on the side of the business-starter/owner. I love that side, that’s where I live most nights, that’s where I’ll live more often, and maybe you have to be a bit douchey to make that work… doesn’t mean I can’t do it with heart. And that journey from pure douche to good company is what I’m interested in.

Anyways, i’m tired now. What do you think? Where am I wrong? How can you help me learn the language of design? Got any links for me??

Photo credit: One Trick Pony

The Matterful Monthly

A monthly for modern meaning makers from Chase Reeves about building lifestyles of significance.

Get the next issue in your inbox:

“I love getting these emails because Chase writes like he talks.” ~ Heath