Design Thinking

What’s Your Workshop? by David Sherwin

Ah, January. It’s the New Year, and you’ve decided to work on your core design skills: Creating better ideas on your projects, improving your ability to frame problems, sketching like a pro. But by the time February rolls around, you’ve barely gotten started.

It doesn’t have to be this way. For the skills that you really want to improve in 2017 (and beyond), create a solo workshop practice, where you work regularly on your own to practice and master specific skills.

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Timeboxing for Creative Professionals by David Sherwin

Being creative is a mind game.

No matter how much time you have for ideation, you can always come up with a good idea. It just takes extra time and energy to identify which of those ideas is the best one to pursue, then iterate on it to achieve some polish. This can be accomplished through the use of timeboxing. This is a technique that is regularly used in agile software development, but is also quite adaptable and useful for any creative professional to improve their speed to an idea.

Timeboxing is also excellent for defeating procrastinators. Most designers—myself included—ruminate subconsciously on a possible solution for days on end. I've met design professionals that partake in wildly different rituals in order to generate compelling visual ideas—ranging anywhere from always using their lucky pencil to opening up Adobe Illustrator after having exactly 1.5 cups of coffee with sugar and a dash of cream. Upon asking these folks how they arrived at this ideal method for creative inspiration, the consistent response I received was, "It has worked for me more than any other method." Then, when really stuck on a thorny problem, they would sleep on it, go for a walk, or otherwise let their subconscious ruminate on a possible solution for days on end.

This is a luxury of time that isn't feasible if you're working regularly to tight deadlines. And besides, most designers have trouble meeting their deadlines no matter how far off they twinkle in the distance. 

So, what is timeboxing? And how can you use it on your next project?

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Design Thievery by David Sherwin

In my very first days as a fledgling graphic designer, in love with the potent combination of Emigre and Ray Gun that my high school literary magazine editor had foisted upon me, I combed through the local bookstore for anything that could explain to me, in a nutshell, all of the skills I'd need to learn to become a graphic designer. 

I found plenty of Graphis Annuals, back issues of Communications Arts, and a number of books that recounted the history of graphic design. What I really dreamt of, in those days, was a book that could teach me everything that I'd need to know to design a logo, create a typeface from scratch, put together an annual report, art direct a photo shoot. You name it, I wanted to know how to do it well.

Much to my surprise, such a book did not exist. Twenty years later, such a book still does not exist. And that book never will.

It took me long into my career to learn the following: The only way to learn your best process for doing graphic design work is to do graphic design work.

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