I pursued design rather than art to avoid living in my parents’ basement after graduation. I never expected to fall in love with the process and never expected it to be something I would want to be doing for the rest of my life.
What I loved about art is self-expression — of some intangible sinewy thing behind frosted windowpanes detangling, growing, becoming something with a life of its own. No inspiration ever came with its limbs and tendrils fully fleshed out. The process is like a river with its own current and momentum. Yet somehow, the end product always unraveled granules of wisdom not privy to the conscious mind. For me, art became a source of discovery, not of hidden rooms tucked in an attic, but a tangible grasping of floating wisps in the fog of life. I start with “me,” and if I’m lucky, end somewhere beyond my understanding of “I.”
To design is quite different, to say the least. If art is a process of looking within then without, then to design is the process of vanishing. To design, we first remove the “self.” The majority of our time spent in design is devoted to exploring questions and all of their limbs and tendrils: What’s the problem? Who is it’s user? What’s their mindset? What’s in the background?…
“I” has no place. What “I” love, the color or lines that tickle “my” spine, become irrelevant or at least secondary. As “I” vanish, the ecosystem of the product comes into focus.
The most fun and successful projects are always the ones that unveil more to the client about who they are, what they do, and who their audience is. If half of the design process is asking the right questions, the other half is how we visually answer them. Questions pull on answers, like positive and negative space. Visual solutions emerge with questions — not all at once, and often not all obvious at first glance, but in a steady stream.
Every design project stands as an independent whole. To design is to find, grow, and groom a plant that was, in its seed form, already fully its own. To design well is to find and nurture to life something outside ourselves.