@studiocatherine Not in the slightest! Our printers just require a little extra time.
“So you make people want to buy stuff?” is begrudgingly, perhaps the most succinct response to my “what I do for crust” spiel. As graphic designers we love to separate ourselves from the commercial realm of advertising and all of its Porsche-driving stereotypes, but from a consumer’s standpoint the line is fuzzy. Through all the black magic and intellectual rationalisation of our process, we must always consider that the person we design for is usually not a designer.
Defining graphic design, or the even more diaphanous term ‘visual communication’, to a ‘non-believer’ is challenging. Defining a designer is even harder. Obsessive, perfectionist, dork, hipster, whatever the description, we are unified by a hyper-awareness of type, colour, shape and texture. We value the beautiful, embrace the individual and are excited by the functional. Our appreciation and analysis of the visual minutiae in every day life drives others mental. We are not normal people.
“I just like it.” Critique doesn’t come any more vague, but we’ve all heard it when a non-designer refers to a piece of visual communication. They’re simply not equipped with the language we learn to describe the subtleties of our craft. To a normal person, you just like it, or you don’t. It’s a great response for a designer because the individual is attracted and the design somehow speaks to them, however, the hours you’ve spent obsessing over subtleties in colour, potential ligatures, sneaky glyph opportunities and kerning to micro-millimeter perfection, mean little.
So are the hours spent flagellating ourselves in front of a mac futile? Hell no. Individually these choices may seem meaningless, but as a whole they mean everything. Let me explain; the hierarchy for coherence of visual information can be roughly broken up into colour, shape and legibility. These simple cues are what trigger the emotions, memories and associations we are trying conjure up with a design. That’s why, the less ‘designed’ something appears, the more honestly it seems to communicate. The pursuit of this simplicity and purity should be a designer’s goal because ultimately, for the consumer of your design, this is all that matters. It takes a skilled designer to decide what elements to include to communicate effectively, but it takes a very well developed visual palette to know what elements to take away.
Considering a non-designer’s perspective can help make some difficult decisions in your process easier and save you time. Thinking about the consumer’s perceptions of your design and its context as being unique and different to your own, will help you produce great work. Work that is further removed from the influence of trends and the fear of peer scrutiny. Thankfully, non-designers pay us for this ability to think in a designer’s way, to see things from different perspectives, materialise their brief, and create unique and powerful pieces of visual communication. Hopefully they will “just like it.”
Thumbnail image: Anna Weiss, from The Noun Project.