I've been reading this very interesting book that has helped me to rethink the way I approach my studies as a Graphic Designer. The book is titled How to be a Graphic Designer without losing your Soul by Adrian Shaughnessy, and its an extremely excellent source for keeping everything in check as a designer.
This chapter that I am in now is working around the subject of what it takes to be a Graphic Designer in the modern world and how to keep afloat and be successful. It may sound extremely obvious, but as a designer we are not only expected to know how to use photoshop, make grid layouts, and print fabulous color calibrated publications; we are also expected to know a great deal of the past, current, and future culture that our society is influenced by. Being a graphic designer takes knowledge of politics, entertainment, business, technology, literature, and many more diverse categories.
When it all comes down to it, this is so true. This past semester I felt like I had the hardest time doing some of my projects for my studio design courses, and I tried so may things to break down the wall that was holding me back. But looking at it again, I realize that all I did was look up artist upon artist, websites of beautiful colors and layouts, imagery that almost overloaded my mind to the point where the only thing I could think about was other peoples design work. In doing this I isolated myself from the aspects in my life that, I now realize, I took for granted; looking at the world around me and being interested in other things other than typography and digital painting. There was a world of inspiration that I wasn't taking advantage of and in the end it was tough to make it past that.
Another thing is that its so hard to find inspiration in something that I don't understand the meaning to. Such as how a painting is done so beautifully with perfect, living brushstrokes and seamlessly flawless color. But if I can't find an artist statement for that piece or there is not enough of an emotions trigger for me to be able to create my own story behind the painting then it becomes less tangible in my eyes. The painting becomes nothing more than something to look at on the wall, which in turn becomes much less of an influence on me as an artist and designer.
There is also looking at the this cultural knowledge as being ammunition for conversation among clients and fellow designers. People in these positions want to know that they aren't talking with someone completely ignorant of the world around them; they want to talk with someone who knows how to observe and pay attention to detail.
This brings me to the final thing in this chapter of the book that struck me hard: Life for a designer is not about doing research, life and all the experiences that a designer goes through IS research, which means we are constantly learning new things. Every news article read, every new band discovered and enjoyed, and every conversation had with a friend; its all ammunition for a designers library of sparking inspiration. Saving an endless stock pile of scraps until the perfect time comes along when a creative can throw together a collage that has meaning behind each piece used.
Like I said, this is all basic knowledge to anyone in the design field but at times, like what happened to me, we can forget that and get lost in the sea of visual eye candy, completely loosing track of finding something meaningful. Keep an interest in the world, design is not the center of everything we know (no matter how much we wish it was).