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Stop What You’re Doing and Read This

I recently read an article titled, “4 Skills Every Artist Should Try To Perfect,” which to my surprise, was something that I needed to read that I didn’t know I needed until after I read it. Many artists are faced with difficulties throughout their career, and three of the greatest ones were covered in the article I read.

  1. The first skill every artist should know how to do is be able to “see.” The difference between perceiving something and actually seeing it is that when we perceive something, we only take a quick glance at it but when we really see it, we look at every visual aspect, taking it all in. Seeing an object is taking in all of the visual differences that set it apart from the rest of the world.
  2. The second skill every artist needs to know how to do is to be able to draw what is right in front of them. I have the habit of drawing what I think I’m seeing, because I know ways to make what I’m seeing better or more interesting to the viewer, however being able to draw what is in front of you is important because mastering the detail of a still life will help an artist perfect replicating what is real which will help with creating something that isn’t real.
  3. The ability to promote your artwork is vital. Ways to achieve this are simple; share your inspiration for the piece. Tell the viewer why it was important for you to create what you did and why it means so much to you. You might inspire them to create something that will inspire someone else one day. Another way to promote your work is to discuss the process of creating a piece, not only will this help the viewer understand what steps you took to create it, this will also attract a broader audience.

These three skills seem like common sense, but many artists forget how important they are when trying to be the best artist they can be. Follow through with these and you will see yourself grow in ways you never have.

To Be

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As a kid who liked animals, I wanted to be a vet. Then I wanted to be a baker. Then a gardener, a psychologist, and even an image consultant.

With so many options, it was so hard to choose one.

Now I know that I want to pursue a career in graphic design but not before going through all of my other options. It’s crazy to think that there are so many options even within the art world as the boundaries of what we define as “art” constantly expands. Performing arts, visual arts, conceptual arts, and more styles work in tandem to give us the flourishing art world we see today. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I had committed to becoming a psychologist at the tender age of 11 years in 4th grade when everyone was starting to shy away from “kid” topics and looking forward to the future. I don’t think I even knew what a graphic designer was until middle school. I wonder if I would have the same amount of appreciation for the creative process or if I’d have dropped art altogether to focus on other subjects.

With all the “what if” questions there can be, I think that it’s great to pause and think about the direction the world of art will be going towards in 20, 30 years and where we can and will be. Will we even need graphic designers with the crazy amount of programming that AI is and could possibly be capable of?

What do you think?

Art Students Do Not “Color” All Day

Have you ever tried to convince your friends and acquaintances that being an art student is a lot more difficult than it looks? It’s almost like talking to a brick wall, because no matter what you say to prove your point, non-art students refuse to believe that we do anything other than paint rainbows and butterflies day after day and get praised for coloring in the lines. When I talk about being an art major, I am instantly treated like a five year old who can’t possibly comprehend any sort of intellectual conversation because I “color” all day.

I can honestly say that since I became a member of George Mason’s School of Art prograSubjective Artm, I have learned more about myself, different cultures, politics, history, the world, and design than I ever have in my entire 23 years of living. I find that I am able to hold conversations about these topics because of the different works I have studied as an art student. Not everyone needs to open a textbook to
learn, some people learns through representations of these topics and the process used to create them.

Art truly is subjective. Anyone can study for an exam and get a perfect score on it because if you memorize the facts, then you know you received a good grade on it. Art students don’t have that advantage, they can spend 50 hours creating and perfecting a piece, but the professor may not like it because everyone has their own taste for what works and what doesn’t. receiving grades and feedback on art work is a surprise to the artist every time because they have no idea what other people will think of it. I now consider myself lucky when I am able to take a class I can actually study for because I know if I do, I’ll pass with flying colors.

Two Words Why IKEA Furniture Works: UX Design

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Whenever I bring up the topic of UX design with friend’s who are not designers or technology enthusiasts, their responses are quizzical. They believe that it involves making apps or games look pretty, and I don’t blame them for thinking that; I figured it meant graphics and visual imagery for applications. The way I help them understand what UX design is with IKEA Furniture. Rather than focusing on visuals, UX focuses on how the user experience should be when interacting with directions and menus like furniture. Not only are IKEA instructions simple to understand, but they are designed for the user to have a straightforward and quick building process.  UX is developing a map for a process on how the user should interact and interpret a product that a designer placed in front of them. The reason I bring up UX design is that I believe it’s useful for graphic designers to know and use. Graphic Designers are problem solvers and finders; we make sure that a user can visually understand a solution to their problems.

UX design is an opportunity for designers to critically think a solution rather than creatively think. It involves deeper research and understanding on how we create simple steps for a user to follow. An excellent way to practice UX Design is creating directions for a self-made product, like making furniture! It sounds dumb but understanding how to guide your user through the process is the foundation for UX. Make very specific directions and a list of tools for your guinea pig (user) to need and see how it goes. Watch them build it and see what mistakes and bumps they run into. In order succeed in design, you must define how your user will use your product and how they should approach it.

Why Video Game Box Art Sucks

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On November 7, 2016, RPG developer Bioware revealed the box art for their next blockbuster game, Mass Effect Andromeda, coming out next year. As a gamer, I am ecstatic that they released it because it shows that the game is making progress in its development. As a graphic designer, I’m disappointed in it. Though its clean and minimalistic, it’s boring and lazy; all it displays is the game’s artwork with text on top of it. If you haven’t followed the game’s development, it doesn’t tell you much about the game besides the protagonist that you play (who doesn’t reveal his or her face) and a ship that is just crashing in the background. It’s generic, and it isn’t something that I would want to display in my growing game collection. It isn’t the only modern game box art that sucks, box arts for games like Doom (2016), Destiny, and Fallout 4 just show a reversed logo on top of generic looking soldiers. I think the reason why they’re so generic looking is that they don’t have a purpose anymore.

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In the late 20th century, game art was stylistic and served a function: to grab a consumer’s attention even if they knew nothing about the game. Right now, we can use the internet to learn more about a product and what purpose it gives to the user, but back then, package design and ads were the only source of information you could give you more information about a product. In the 80s and 90s, game cover art needed to be colorful and illustrative because of graphic limitations. They would market with cover art alone rather than rely on videos and graphics, and the only form of gameplay you would find of the games were through screenshots.

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Games have evolved rapidly in the past 20 years and the role of a graphic designer has shifted within the video game industry. Rather than focus on a games cover, graphic designers have shifted working on a game’s UI or marketing. I imagine game covers used to be like album covers where artistic values are found within package, but games are more dynamic than music. They rely on visuals, sound, and interaction with the player and box cover art isn’t going to sell a game. It’s the content within it is where you will find where the design has been implemented. I just wish more attention could be put into the box art for these games as I think it adds to a game’s longevity.

Freelance or Not To Freelance?

This is my question.

As a business owner and entrepreneur, my automatic answer is YES, freelance. However, now that I am transitioning into the graphic design world from the wedding world (I own a bridal hair business), I am struggling to decide what to do. Freelancing can be exhausting, unstable, and downright difficult. I own my own business and know how much work and time it takes. I am not just a hair stylist, I take care of all of my own admin responsibilities, I’m booking my own clients, hiring assistants, and filling out contracts. This is a lot of work, but I set my own hours, charge what I want, and I get paid for something I love to do and I’m great at. Another perk is that I’m only around people on the weekends. As a creative introvert, this schedule is ideal. With design, I am in sort of the same mindset. There are pros and cons to both freelance and full time work. Do I want to be stuck in an office or cubicle updating brochures the rest of my life? (I know this is extreme, but this is how I think about it.) There are so many different directions you can go as a designer, that sometimes I just want someone to tell me what to do. Like when I was 7 years old. Several designers I know and respect have been in the corporate world, and now own their own design business. Most of them say it’s great to get some experience in the corporate world, but ultimately working for yourself is a happier way of life. (If you can swing it.) What are you thoughts, experiences, and or advice to this question? As aspiring designers, what direction are you considering?

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Michael Bierut: Designers are Weird and Unique

We’re not ordinary people. We find and care about things that no one else without a trained eye can find. I’ve been watching a lot of videos by graphic designer Michael Bierut, the designer who created the current Verizon and Hillary Clinton 2016 Logo, and it fascinates me on how he can break down images and find typefaces within them. He indirectly describes designers as weirdos, in a positive way. He states that designers are born with a skill they have or have trained a skill that can identify things like typefaces that normal people can’t see. As we develop that skill, we become less normal. And he’s right, were not normal, and that’s what makes us awesome. We see art and designs that we appreciate more every year we train ourselves as professionals in our line of work.

Before I started to take graphic design courses, I never appreciated typography. I always thought that the default typeface to Microsoft Word was pretty much the only thing type could offer. I also thought the chunky word art fonts were cool to put on top of my papers. But after taking Intro to Typography, I never knew how beautiful and practical each typeface can be. By just learning typography alone, we can identify and see fonts within iconography and pictures. We can look for connections with type and imagery and create functional and aesthetically pleasing designs that enhance a viewer’s experience. With these skills, we able to create reactions that is social and creates an interaction with a product and a consumer.

Hi, I’m A Designer and I am NOT A Perfectionist

Through out my education as a graphic design student, I have heard professors and colleagues tell me that “graphic designers need to be perfectionists.” I am the complete opposite of a perfectionist and have no desire to become one. I like messy designs as much as I like looking at clean ones. I consistently fail to create working, clean designs which has made me realize more and more that maybe the graphic design field isn’t for me.

But hold on, who’s to say my “messy” design style won’t work for anyone? I consider it as art, so surely someone else will too. Some of my professors ask me to create cleaner designs, yet when I do try to conform to what they want to see, it doesn’t portray my design style. How will that help my style grow?

I don’t believe graphic designers need to be perfectionists to create working designs, but they are expected to be. If the world was only fully of clean designs, don’t you think we would become bored? I believe I have talent as a designer, but I feel that throughout my education as a graphic design undergraduate, I have felt belittled if my work is “different” from today’s expectations of what is considered “good design work.” Hopefully, my design style will be more accepted in the graphic design field after I graduate. As for now, I suppose I have to continue to tweak my personal style to pass my classes.

Examples of unconventional design:

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Examples of perfect design:

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Fighting Game Character Design: More Than Just Combos

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I consider myself gaming enthusiast, and I love intelligent and fun game design. One genre that has elements of graphic, UI and brand design are fighting games. One thing that fighting games do so well, that reflects good design is franchising. Games like Street Fighter and Super Smash Brothers are famous because of their effective branding techniques and replayability that motivates new players to participate in them. Their characters that they design become more than just an avatar.

Regarding branding/franchising, games like Street Fighter are so popular because they contain excellent character and game design. Each character is designed in their unique way that anyone who has never played a fighting game can pick up a character and start mashing buttons. Each has their set of values, costumes, and style that can relate to a player. Each character has their fighting style that is designed to help new players get into a game, or intended for advanced players who know a game’s mechanics and combos. A fighting game character can feel like your avatar which can influence you as a person. Because of Street Fighter’s excellent character design, Iconic character such Ryu and Chun-li have become staples to the franchise and further add to the brand name Street Fighter and its publisher Capcom.

If you ever can help develop or design a game’s branding and advertisement, design or add characters from the game to create an extension to the game and the company that produces it. Creating a connection between a character and a player creates a touch point for your brand, and can further extend the game and a company’s reputation.

The DIY Life

diy-your-homeDo you DIY?

I do.

With the rise of the internet came a convenience when it comes to gathering information and consequently, learning new things. There are so many online classes and DIY tutorials to choose from whenever we feel like learning something new. In a sense DIY is a way to excursive the brain. Many times DIY allows the person to produce something of quality while reducing the cost. It allows people to use their hands and get acquainted with the materials around them. To solve problems creatively. Isn’t that what we do as artists and designers?

DIY can also allow you to understand your own craft better. In a photo class I had to learn about printing and the process of book making. Instead of using a website to print and ship my photo book; I looked at DIY tutorials and decided to bound my own book. I did my research, I talked to the people at the arts and craft store, I did a test run before using my own photo prints. And in the end, my book turned just as good if not better then the mass produced books made by online websites. The process allowed me to learn things about book binding, printing, and layout that I wouldn’t have had the chance to learn if I took the easy way out. Plus, I saved $30.

That is not to say that there isn’t a down side to DIYs. For one thing, they take time and the project might turn out looking nothing like what you wanted it to be. My class was in the summer, giving me ample amounts of time to work things out. But even with that in mind, I don’t think I will order a book ever again if similar assignments come up.

So, do you DIY?