Learning Design


I recently switched my major from Illustration to Interaction Design. It's was a tough decision for me to make, since I've been looking forward to studying Illustration for the longest time. But a part of me struggled over the desire of learning something new and completely foreign to me. I mean, what is Interaction Design? Whenever someone asked me what it was, I felt like a deer caught in the headlights. (Not anymore, folks. I'm catching up.)

As I continued to study in art school, I realized that my true interests lay in design. I wanted to create something functional and addressed solutions to problems in our society. A product that's embedded with human meaning. Yet again, I was compelled to enter the realm of the design industry, more so than merely illustrating to inspire and tell a story. I got into Illustration because it was my hobby, but after my freelance journey, it started to dawn on me that I wanted to take another route and diverge from my bubble of drawing and painting. (Although, nowadays I do miss my watercolors.)


What is it, really — art or design?

Art & Design are two completely different things — despite the fact that it's entirely meshed together in some way or the other.


In context, Art is more personal and self-driven (think, Fine Arts, Sculpture, Painting) whereas Design is more society and user driven (think Industrial Design, Interior Design). If you're an artist, it's sometime's difficult to make changes according to the needs and wants of your client. You tend to follow the direction of your own desires, trusting on the gut level rather than what your client specifically wants. Even though flexibility is a must, it's still tough to adjust your work based on client feedback and iterations, and I'm saying this from experience. But as a designer, feedback from client and user is essential and the baseline of where your work will thrive. It's important to know that what you're creating is meaningful, informative, and address solutions to the user's needs and problems. You don't create work for yourself instead, it's for the client or the user, sometimes both. You design based on society's needs, whereas you create art based on personal needs, creating a channel for personal feelings and thoughts. That being said, I'm not implying that one is better than the other. In fact I think the distinction and contrasting values are what make both fields remarkable and even more significant if you can find a way to build a bridge between both bubbles and wear both hats simultaneously. (Or switch between the two, that's fine too.)

Having diversity in the creative world, especially with regards to skills, is an enormous advantage. I know a lot of brilliant people who are both designers and artists and continue to inspire and create work that influence our society. They are one of the great contributors in our Universe.


Design is about function, not style.

Well, in most cases it is.


Coming from the Visual Art on the creative field spectrum, aesthetics and style have been on the forefront of my mind when it comes to my craft. Creating something that looked appealing was my forte. Now, learning more about design, and more importantly design thinking, my perspective has slowly been adapting based on the skills and mindset required from us on the given projects in class. Most of my professors would constantly mention how valuable user feedback is, how testing the concept over the visuals of your design is key to successful product. People won't buy into what you do if it doesn't hold true to what they need it for. In simpler terms, it was function over style. Not to say of course that Visual Design isn't important, it's just secondary in creating meaningful products. In this way, the key to design is summed up in three elements: Use, Usability, and Meaning.

I've had little to no experience in design projects. But as I start my journey on a different path, and as I learn more and more about what it means to be a designer (apart from the creative hat I wore these past few years as a visual artist) I have come to appreciate things in a different light. I still have a lot to discover about this field, but I'm looking forward to the excitement ahead of me.

To wrap it all up, these first few weeks have been nothing but an enlightening experience. From having close to zero knowledge about Interaction Design to suddenly building and adding new words to my vocabulary like Affordances and Signifiers, We're being mold to cultivate a way of design thinking. It's a new bubble that I'm exploring with complete enthusiasm and curiosity. As I move forward and learn more about this foreign field, I'll take you along the journey on the various insights and learnings that I absorb from the four walls of our studio to this (infinite) web space.

Above are scenarios I drew during the early stages of building a prototype for an app and sketch notes I created for an assignment reading: The Design of Everyday Things by Don Norman

ReflectJamie CattComment