Room557 is the recently launched blog of Academy of Art University instructors Hunter Wimmer and Anitra Nottingham. I’ve had the good luck of studying under Hunter numerous times at the Academy. His advisement has been instrumental in pushing me to improve my work at every step, and I wanted to share one of his teachings that has had an important impact on my design education.
Hunter was responsible for giving me my first (but sadly not my last) failing grade, and although it was hard to stomach at the time, it was a much needed wake up call. Up to that point my barometer for successful design was how “cool” something looked. I didn’t understand the importance of having a strong concept, choosing appropriate typefaces, or using relevant materials. I saw little value in learning how to comp, bind, or print on anything other than my Epson. I didn’t understand the importance of these things because I wanted to be a designer, not a salesman, typographer, printer, or bookbinder. Thankfully Hunter was there to explain Why “It” Matters:
Would you trust a civil engineer — who’s responsible for the stability of bridges and the like — if there was a math error on their cost-estimate? Would you trust a mechanic who drives a broken-down hatchback? Would you trust a personal trainer with love handles? Now, I don’t care if my engineer has love handles or if my personal trainer drives a smoking Hyundai, but there are minimum expectations in each profession. In order for a personal trainer to convey a sense of health and well-being (and that they’ve mastered it enough to pass it on to me), they should also be fit, right?
Where does that leave the graphic designer?
When you fail you can take it one of two ways: as a rejection of yourself, who you are and your talent as a designer, or as practice, an experiment that isn’t successful… yet. Once I was able see the latter I could ask myself what was expected of my work and where it was falling short. As designers we are called to be communicators, aesthetes, conceptual-thinkers, and craftsmen. Now that the dust has settled from another semester it’s nice to go back and be reminded of what we’re called to do, why it can be frustrating, but ultimately what makes it so fulfilling when countless hours of practice result in that brief moment of success, before we go back and repeat the whole process all over again. If you are a designer or have any interest in the profession, Hunter’s informative post is well worth the read.