Start with the problem
Classes are back in session, so after you’ve ranked all of your new professors on the Sparano Scale™, it’s time to get down to some designing.
Today’s bit of advice may be the most important in the Hey students! series so far. It’s so fundamental to your growth as a designer – and so critical to the effectiveness of design in general – it should really be addressed to Hey all designers everywhere!
Before starting your next project, take a step back. Before you double-click anything. Before you start looking for inspiration. Before everything else. Start with the problem.
Until this moment, you may not have realized that you were designing backwards. That’s OK. It’s common for young designers to start with the solution. In other words, it’s common to treat style as a problem-solved (instead of a means to an end). You may see a gorgeous Eric Tan poster, something sharp from the Exergian blog, or a clever logo by Logomotive – and set out to make something (anything) like it. Whatever your next project is, you want it to look just like that other amazing thing I just saw!
But that’s a mistake. You should first take the time to define the problem that needs to be solved: What’s the message? Who are you speaking to? What style is appropriate for that message? When you ask these questions (and many more), you’ll likely realize that the style you decided on isn’t appropriate at all.
Every time you sit down to start something new, you should first ask yourself: Where am I going? Only then can you start to look for a path to get there.