Likewise, there are two kinds of people: Those who care about results and those who care about process. While in essence the best design is a careful balance of each, the facts are that for the most part, our clients are not designers, so fall in one camp or the other.
For those who fall in the Proof Lies in the Pudding School, then kindly refer back to our ACTIONS page. For those who fall in the I Have To See It To Believe It School [if you can come up with a better name, please forward it to us, ed.], then the straight and narrow definitions of scope and process have their rightful place.
Personally, we prefer to do what we do best. Which means, get out of our way and let us do our job. Which is to do right by the client. But that's another story, for another day.
The design process is usually a variation on a simple theme as old as humanity, which is taught in any good design school: research, iteration, testing, and final iteration. It is fairly straightforward, though many firms suggest they offer patent-pending, copyright-obtained, unique processes.
The truth is, for the most part, its bullshit: smoke, mirrors, complicated flow charts and jargon-laden mumbo-jumbo. If you want mumbo-jumbo, then you have come to the right place on this site, because nobody knows mumbo-jumbo like we know mumbo-jumbo. We follow the Way of the Design Shaman. And last time we looked, no one else was making that claim. Read on and see how we not only know the mumbage, but also tie it into those very earliest processes that mankind developed to make their way in the world as it grew more and more complicated.
The basic principles of memory, understanding your tools, intimidation of enemies, spatial understanding, sensory awareness, out of body experiences, understanding the relationship between spirit and inspiration, understanding experience, the isolation and extreme privation of working alone: these are a few of the ways of the design shaman. For a full discourse on The Way, check out RANTS.
The Mother of all Muses - literally. Her name is Mnemosyne, Memory. Trace a line between your earliest influences whether they be art, music, literature, film, food, travel, sports, theology, science, nature . . .. The list is as long as you'd like. Understand these influences on what make your point of view unique. These early passions will drive you to where you should be going. Do not be influenced by anything less. If you do not love whatever it is you are doing, stop doing it. Life is too short. Use is wisely. Share these memories in ways that are appropriate to perpetuate the stories that need to be told. Your experience is your memory. That is what lies at the heart of every creative endeavour - memory, for memory can only come from one source: Experience.
The first tool was the hand. Learn to use what is at hand - like a pencil. If you lack ink, use blood. Makes for a sense of seriousness. Understand your tools at hand and push them to their capacity. That said, do not rely on them for creativity, as they are only a means to an end.
Some tools to think about: The telegraph was the internet of its day. People got married via the damn thing. Cameras were used as tools by some of the most respected painters of the 1800s, that they may capture a figure with lighting, to paint from. It alleviated prima donna models and bathroom breaks for said models.
Likewise, a computer is a tool. Brainiac Stephen Hawkin proposes that humans no longer change their DNA, no longer store new information there. Instead they use ones and zeros to expand the human experience, storing their data, not internally - in their DNA, - but externally, in our libraries and software. Hawkin also suggests that the most important invention of the last millennium was the printing press.
The few tools mentioned above - telegraphs, cameras/photography, paints, computers, libraries, software, and printing presses - are the tip of the iceberg. Language, form, color, typography, are but a few other tools that must be mastered in the name of becoming a well-rounded Design Shaman.
Our job is to bridge the plane between the mundane and a higher existence, to reach levels of ecstasy, to give sublime pleasure and experience. Really. That's an awesome responsibility. That "higher existence" may the the understanding of a company - it's product or services - or may be offering insight and enlightenment on a subject or experience.
Traditionally that out of body experience was achieved through means of psychotropic drugs, dance, trance, meditation, or sleep/nourishment deprivation or any combination of the above to establish a level of consciousness that exceeded that of the day-to-day. In doing so, the subject would often hallucinate or dream, and in that dream state draw upon previous experiences and memories, often combining them in a manner that became relevatory.
Why expand your consciousness? For your own enlightenment and if you hope to achieve the same in others.
How to expand your consciousness without all of that rigamarole and without the drugs? There are two ways.
The easiest is to open your mind to books of all kinds. Read non-industry topics. Read the classics and understand what makes them classics.
Open your body - and mind - to travel. While books do that relatively inexpensively, nothing beats putting your foot on a Hopi rooftop, walking the sands of a Saharan grave, or running through the streets of Tijuana. Or they may be less exotic, but just as rich: pork BBQ at the Full Moon in Birmingham, Alabama, or running along Lake Michigan in Chicago, taking a bus from Palm Springs to San Diego with a pocket full of tangerines you’ve pulled from a tree, or standing on the shore in Maine as rain pelts down and you pull flotsam to shore. Each experience offers opportunity to see the land and its people, to understand what constitutes the idea of culture and often witness overlapping cultures within the confines of a very tight radius.
Sights, smells, sounds, textures, tastes, all the senses come alive when you step out of your daily world and inhabit new ones. Absorb weather. And if you combine all of the above, it only gets better.
Think about it: while your associates are doing the same-old same-old, you're perusing Aristotle and Ethics in Guatemala; Henry Miller in Morocco; the local paper in Vancouver's Chinatown. Also works at your local ethnic section of town. But get out and embrace real culture. Then bring it all together and share.
But remember: when you get in a groove, don't turn it into a rut. Or as philosopher Frank Zappa said, "You gotta get into it before you get out of it. You gotta get out of it, before you get into it."
While many in the western world turn to MapQuest.com or Googlemap, or make use on in-vehicle GPS systems to find their way, there are still those in less developed parts of the world that still make plans based on the sun, moon, the stars, the seasons. Each as regular as . . . clockwork. The Design Shaman must understand how to manage experiences , whether the media is paper, metal or ones and zeroes. They have to map those experiences and guide.
To guide others, we must know where we came from, where we are, and where we are going. Of course the best guides are those that have been explorers. They have gone out beyond where the average go, seen what there is to see, and come back to show others the way. Primitive man based hunting and gathering on understanding clouds, stars, rainfall patterns, migration patterns. Modern man equally has to understand motive, consequence, and those very same notions as the big picture (strategy vs stars) and the details (tactics vs that thundering herd coming over the hill).
Not as easy as it sounds. Getting people from A to Z, from one to infinity - and even more exciting, - from A to infinity. How do you do it and remain clear? What speed should you go? What dimension? What medium?
Think of navigating your way to the airport in an unfamiliar city; of navigating your way through an unfamiliar website or magazine. Wayfinding systems operate in each of those arenas. Signage gets us to the airport or through an office park. A site map gets us through a website or interface experience. A table of contents begins navigating anything from a book to a catalog. How do you create an environment in 15, 30, 60, 120 seconds that opens a film or broadcast? These are just a few of the considerations the Design Shaman has to be able to pull from the bad of tricks.
Alexander the Great went against historical tradition to rout the Indian army by crossing the Hindu Kush. Absorbing local talent made it possible to further his conquests. But bad managerial skills led to an empire that couldn’t stand up after his death. Not understanding the histories of the peoples his armies conquered was part of that downfall.
In the 1800s, the Sears-Roebuck catalog was a way to tap into and connect vast markets, theretofore unreachable, by means of a national delivery system: the U.S. Mail. In the 1980s catalog sales became a unique market, where retail shops were not needed. By the late 1990s the Internet had ripped into that market. But witness J. Peterman & Co. (a remarkably successful catalog company) and their over-expansion into new markets (retail) and subsequent bankruptcy.
Or even the current situation of U.S. policy in Iraq. Failure to understand history has resulted in a situation that preceded our intervention: the Brits messed it up after the Great War or First World War, and before that it was exactly the same clan upon clan, tribe upon tribe violence we see today.
What’s this got to do with you? Understand your history – your personal history, your family history, your local, regional, national and world history, - and those of the worlds you have to deal with, including the history of anything that touches your career choice. Those worlds may be the history of markets or products, or the history or typography or media. Add it up, and it’s a great story: yours.
We speak languages of nationality, ethnicity, religion. We speak professional languages coded with jargon; generational languages which give us a sense of belonging to a specific era or time. And as important as spoken language, so too are the written and visual languages - the visual ones consisting of signs and symbols that have meaning to a particular cult or culture. Music is a branch of language, a way of communicating.
There are languages of color, texture, form, taste. To understand as many languages as possible allows one to communicate with a broader, deeper, firmer grasp. Mastering those many languages, and translating the message of your client through those many languages, takes skill and finesse. A word misspelled, misspoken, a color out of order or sequence, and often the message is lost.
Sometimes it's a gut thing. Trust it.
Sometimes it's a learned thing. The years of experience build to a level of extra-sensory perception. Of sorts. Or better said, those experiences lead to a certain perspective, gained by knowledge and understanding of all of the above (out of body experiences, language, history, etc).
Example? They teach you to field in baseball or softball by "getting in front of the ball." Which means literally positioning oneself in front of where the ball has been hit, by means of crouching down, legs together for a grounder, or glove in front of you, both hands up, for a fly ball.
Years later, you realize that you don't even look at the ground when it bounces: you just stick your glove out and shag it. Or instead both feet leave the ground for that diving stab at the fly ball, heedless of where you will land.
Intuition makes it possible to run full-tilt over the railroad ties that span a river, without looking down to the water directly below, because 20 years earlier you walked on railroad ties to get to school
Intuition guides us when we nock an arrow and send it in flight toward a target, having intuitively taken in the wind, its direction and the distance of the target. It takes learned instinct to do that. You learn to trust your decisions.
Much of intuition is remembered experiences which are at our beck and call, that we may put them into service upon command. When those tools are part of your professional experience and expertise, your intuition comes full-circle with memory, and becomes an asset for all situations, professional and personal.