Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Finding your way

Let me tell you a story.

It's the 1860's and the Civil War has begun. You are a young soldier, about to experience your first encounter with the enemy. Form the time you were a young boy you daydreamed about being a hero. You reveled in the successful battles you participated in. You dreamed about how it would be when you returned home—men cheer and women swoon in your presence. It's a wonderful dream. But in the recesses of your mind you wonder: do you have the courage to charge into battle and face an uncertain outcome?

Many of you have read "The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane. A classic text on high school reading lists, this book explores issues that transcend the reasons for the conflict between the North and the South. What does it mean to be a man? Will I fail to stand up to my fears? If I fail, will I return to the fight and regain my balance? You'll have to read the story for yourself for the answer. It's available in print, film/DVD (Audie  Murphy. Wow!), and e-book format (free).

So what can you learn from the story as a designer?

In book cover design, capturing the essence of the story helps bring the reader in. Not new information, I admit. Here are some examples from a Google Image search.

Screen capture from Google® Image
A designer has the ability to see things with new eyes.  The covers above express creativity in varying degrees. Whether or not you like them, doesn't it make you think, how would I approach this design problem? What would my cover design look like? 

Cover design, Quark XPress® 9. Photo from Library of Congress

Cover design, Photoshop® CS 5, blood splatter brush

As you design the interior pages, how does your interior design move the readers from one page to the next? When you export the design to various media, how does your design enhance the end users' experience?

Interior spread. Quark XPress® 9

For designers and other creatives, getting to the solution involves trial and error. Try another font. Tweak the leading. To add or not add a graphic? More white space. Drop the gradient. Add a drop shadow. Add a motion tween. Slow down the Keynote transition. Make it faster! And the client asks to make his/her logo bigger. The really great designers are persistent and willing to try again, and again. After all, at our best we are servants working for the greater good.

Sometimes we lose our perspective and wonder if we really have what it takes to help others make their dreams (and ours) a reality. Then we take a walk, listen to music, rest. And then, we remember why we are called to do what we do. We pick up our banner and "run the race that is set before us."

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