Estimated Time to Read: 4 minutes, 27 seconds [what’s this?]
I had the great pleasure of seeing/hearing Ian Coyle speak for the Dallas Society of Visual Communications' (DSVC) September Meeting. I was not familiar with Ian prior to the meeting, and was absolutely blown away with him afterwards! He is so down-to-earth, insightful, creative and inspiring.
I'm a print designer, or so I thought. I mean, I say I'm a print designer and that I "design for web." I have to say "web designer" with a big, huge asterisk at the end because I don't know the first thing about code. I suppose that's why the term "developer" exists. As a print designer, it's hard for me to deal with things when usability becomes more important than design. Yeah, you want your project (website, etc.) to look good, but you are not just designing a visual site, you are designing a user experience. It's pretty safe to say that all too often, there is an enormous disconnect between print and web designers. We want it this way—they want it that way, yada yada yada. I mean really, we have a handful of web-safe fonts we can choose from? When will it end?! Ian is the first person I've met that is involved in the fine arts (including print design) and interactive design and bridges the two. I think I saw a halo around his head.
Ian is an interactive designer. And Ian has a letterpress. I think this is the point in the meeting where I began drooling. Ian says, "Create moments that are representative of you. Create user experiences, moments (regarding interactive design). And use your hands (regarding fine arts, even pencil and paper). You get lazy otherwise. Working with your hands forces you to make decisions that you have thought through. There's no "undo", it keeps you honest. Forcing yourself to make a decision before you do it on screen translates into making faster and better decisions in the digital world." I am a fine artist as well as a print designer, and when I go too long without painting, or using my hands to create art, I can tell how spoiled and lazy I've become. I am easily frustrated—if I paint something I don't like, I assume there is an "undo" command somewhere, and have honestly looked for a "command z" button in my head immediately following my mistake. For a while it made me resentful towards the fine arts, I didn't like not having the option to go back if I did something I didn't like, which is a bad place to be, mentally. Luckily, I've been able to continually create fine art and keep myself "in check."
Ian also heavily stressed the importance of doing personal projects that are indicative of that next level you want to be at. "Do what you are passionate about. Constantly refine your tastes. You might start out designing, and you're really not that good, but you still have good taste and you can tell you fell short. Lots of people quit at this point, but everyone goes through it. Instead of quitting, do more work. Get better. And good work will get you better work." You also have to be careful though, as you don't want to overload yourself (who would do that?!) Ian sums that up terrible chain of reactions right here, "Passion. Excitement. Love. More. Money. Overload. Dissatisfaction." Enough said.
This last point is easier said than done sometimes, but is extremely important. "Get the clients you want. Be yourself. Have them come to you." Ian has some copy on his website, some might consider it to be too much copy. But that's what Ian wanted to do. He wants the reader/client to care. If you don't care to read his copy, he feels that the client and him are probably not a good fit. Outstanding point, Ian. He refers to the Milton Glaser test and says, "You can only work for people you like, with a mutual respect. Work for people that give you energy. I most enjoy working with clients that appreciate what I do," (don't we all, Ian, don't we all...) "I'm proud, I enjoy making good work and feeling that I have something to offer the client and can deliver that as well."
The most important things I took away from Ian's presentation:
1. Sometimes the best looking answer is the easiest one.
2. If you can't distill in one sentence what you want to achieve, the viewer can't either.
3. The average user outside of the industry visits 8-10 websites/month outside of google.
4. Simplicity is not simple. (I wish more people understood that one!)
5. Think less of tactical stuff and more of the goal, the outcome, what you want to achieve. Don't just use a facebook link because you can. Only use it if it makes sense.
6. Respect your decisions. Even if they were wrong. Learn from those, improve on them and move on.
I was going to apologize for this post being lengthy but why would I? If you care to read this, you'll read it, and if you don't, then we're probably not a good fit. :)
Peace, love and art—