After I graduated from college, I felt a lack of fulfillment. I graduated with a B.A. in English and a minor in Film, Television and Digital Media from UCLA. I had completed 4 years of sleepless nights pouring over books, writing hundreds of essays ands studying for exam material that would still remain in my memory long after the class ended. But it wasn’t enough. The lack of fulfillment stemmed from a strong desire to learn more and gain from this world. I did not want to be complacent after graduation. I wanted to continue improving myself as a creator, an artist and a human.
I never had the opportunity to learn about design in college even though it was something I was interested in, so when I realized that I could take a FREE UCLA Extension course as a new UCLA alumnus, I took the chance and enrolled. I was hungry to learn more and to hone what little design skills I had.
Little did I know that this small beginner’s class on design fundamentals would teach me major lessons for not only the world of design, but for the future of design and for a creative lifestyle.
1. Every design tells a story.
In every design, there is a grid, a hierarchy and a focal point. The hierarchy establishes a clear structure from beginning to end while the focal point is the part of the design that is most important. Sounds like storytelling to me. Each design has its own unique story. For example, this simple typographic design below has all of the basic story elements and tells a simple and straightforward story of a runner through photographic and typographic design elements.
The story of a design can even be as abstract such as this next example, which tells a story through a mixture of photographic and geometric elements. The combination of the bird looking up, the building sky-rise, the mountainous object and the face all create an abstract story of these seemingly random elements coming together in unity and harmony. It’s not a typical story, but it is there, ready for you to take it as it is.
2. Formstorming forces you outside of your comfort zone and into a greater creative space.
Formstorming is an act of visual thinking. It is an unrestricted flow of ideas that are developed from one idea to the next. Before taking this design course, I never knew there was even a term that described this act — I usually just call it “brainstorm vomiting”. But the act of formstorming forces you out of your usual ideas and into more original thinking. My required design reading for the class sums it up well: “This level of immersion yields an unexpected and profound return on the creative investment.” (Lupton and Phillips 13). One of my first assignments for my design class was to create 100 iterations through the process of formstorming. This allowed me to create objects that I didn’t know I could create.
3. Color is an emotion.
Designs have the ability to evoke feelings and emotion, and part of the reason is due to color, or even the absence of it. The use of color is a way to affect perception and impression. It breathes life to the design and contributes to the storytelling process. The best of thing about color is that there are millions of color schemes and color models to help you create the emotions in your design. My favorite use of color is this example below. It creatively uses color that evokes a dream-like state.
4. There is intention in design.
In design, nothing is ever there on accident. The grid, the color scheme, the hierarchy — it is all intentional and is meant to be there to create the story that the designer wants to tell. The lines going down this design is purely intentional.
5. Once you are a master of the rules, learn how to break them.
The fundamental rules of design are all key to understanding what design is and how to use it. However, once you have learned everything you need to know about design, you have the choice to break the rules. The fundamentals of design are merely a mold for budding designers to grow into. Once they have learned everything they need to know, they have the choice to break the rules and the mold. Once they’re broken, that is when creativity and innovation can manifest. That is the future of design.
I am eternally grateful to UCLA for the past four years of my undergraduate education. Without it, I would not have been able to take this design class and learn everything I needed to know about design and that it’s okay to break the rules. The future of design lies in the students who are willing to learn for life. It is only then that we can take the chance and be innovative and creative designers.