Last week when sharing my thoughts on multipurposing I offered that you could become more productive by looking at the tasks you have to do differently and understanding how you could do one thing and have it serve multiple purposes. There’s another side to this concept.
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Sometimes different activities have things in common and working on them separately can contribute to something important at the core of all of them. Sometimes it’s best to do multiple things that serve a single purpose.
Design and Writing
A couple of weeks ago I came across a short post by Jordan Koschei for The Industry. The post is titled Design Writing and the Self-Aware Industry and it comments on how there are many designers who also write about design.
Jordan brings up an interesting point that this is both positive to help the community learn and potentially negative in that the industry tends to iterate off each other instead of truly innovating. It’s a great point, however it’s not the reason I’m citing the article. I mention it for these two quotes from the start of the post.
- We designers are natural observers
- That same trait makes one a natural author
The reason why being a designer, specifically a graphic designer makes one a natural author is because both are fundamentally the same thing. Both are at the core about communication.
- Graphic designers communicate to an audience through visual elements
- Authors communicate to an audience through the written word
Both make use of language. The difference is each uses a different language with which to communicate. Getting better at one involves becoming a better communicator, which can then be applied to the other. Designers write, because writing helps make them better designers.
Multiple Disciplines Contributing to a Single Skill
Let’s dig a little deeper into how writing helps make you a better designer. As a designer a large part of your job is to communicate to an audience. To do that you have to learn the language of design. You learn how to work with things like
When you write you learn to work with a different set of elements. You learn how to use words and how to combine words into sentences and paragraphs according to rules of grammar. You learn to work with the language to create:
What you learn from writing can be indirectly applied to design. Pace, tone, story, and perspective can all be communicated visually. Learn to control pace through the rhythm of word structures and you’ll have a greater understanding how to control pace through the rhythm of graphic elements and space.
Design and writing use different tools, but at their core both are fundamentally the same. Both are about communicating as effectively as possible. Learning and practicing one helps you understand how to do the other better.
Learn to see how the things are connected. Train yourself to see both the vertical patterns that go deeper and the horizontal patterns that cut across.
Sometimes it’s best to take out two birds with a single throw of a stone. Other times you’re better off throwing stones at two different birds in order to learn how to throw better.
It’s a good idea to become more productive by doing things that contribute to multiple projects at the same time. It’s also a good idea to do more than you have to a times, because they share something in common and doing that common thing in a different way helps you see it from a new perspective.
The connection between writing and design is communication. Learning to communicate in one language will help you learn to communicate in another.
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