Talking of Design


Breathe life back into designing

28/04/15 ★ WEB DESIGN, ART

A post about how life drawing might be a helpful activity for the tired designer, and also how the problems of life drawing are similar to the problems faced by designers — web, print or other.

Oh and deodorant. I also mention deodorant a few times. For some reason.

Life drawing 1

Life drawing. A subject I have blogged about a while back, and of which I am now blogging about again, obvs.

I saw this lovely Dancing Life Drawings” post on the Creative Review blog during the week, and it reminded me how much I miss doing life drawing. It was something we did almost daily at Art College, that I opted to do at University, and also something I took up again a couple of years after graduating.

Linking web design with the scribbles of naked people

There are a lot of blog posts that give advice on how to improve your professional practice, and also how to give yourself a boost if your practice feels a little stale. They are generally about things like: designing in the browser, getting yourself out of the studio, tools that speed up the repetitive side of coding, and such. All very good. All things I’ve implemented to keep myself fresh. That and deodorant.

Life drawing 3

But I’d like to broaden the thinking here, and wind things back to a time when it was just animals blood finger-painted on to the walls of caves.

OK, so life drawing does have the technology of pencils and paper, but it is still very much at that level of raw creativity.

It’s almost the spiritual beginning of the designer’s mind. Oo I’ve gone all Zen (starts humming; applies deodorant; no not that kind of humming).

So I’m suggesting some life drawing might be something to consider for the mind-tired designer. Think of it like a head detox, or yoga for your creative neurons.

What life drawing can give a designer

Life drawing 4

I know what your thinking. You’re thinking:

How can life drawing benefit me, other than being a recreational activity away from my computer? Surely I might as well just play badminton once a week?”

That, and: What deodorant do you recommend?” I go for any that are on offer — and that have some blue on their label. Blue ones usually smell nice.

Bullet points are always fun. So, drawing from life:

  • tunes your awareness of space
  • can help you be more efficient with what is needed — sometimes one line can explain more than many
  • helps you separate what something looks like, from it’s learned meaning as an object — which can stop you becoming visually lazy
  • places importance on line-weight for communicating areas of importance, and to explain the space between areas
  • tunes your ability to arrange items by importance by visual mark-making alone
  • exercises your mind to really look at things — how we sense our reality is the very root level reference point of our designs
  • frees us from binary thought processes — drawing the same composition from the other side of the room will result in a different solution; different, but not wrong
  • helps put technology and associated language in their place — they become tools and process, rather than the be-all and end-all of your practice
  • improves your overall visual communication skills

I think you’ll agree, the above could easily relate — and be helpful to — designing a web page, laying out a brochure advert, coming up with ideas for a brand etc.

But I’m a web developer, and I can’t draw for toffee!

Life drawing 2

Here’s an idea I’ve just thought of while writing this post: Why not go to a life drawing class with your laptop, and mark-up the compositional arrangement in HTML — not just what is there, but also a way of using tags to give meaning to the feeling and emotion of what you see. You could also then use CSS to create some kind of abstract visual layout of the arrangement.

I might even give that a go myself. An idea that reeks of artsy postmodernism I think you’ll agree.

I have an urge to put on a beret and change my name to an obscure symbol and/​or sound.

Anyway. Life drawing. If you’re a designer feeling a little bit stale, it might just be the roll-on for your armpit. So to speak. Various deodorants are available from all good stores.

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