De facto, Design!

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I recently had to compile a couple of thoughts about Design. I've never really thought of myself as a designer. I usually think of myself as a writer. Lately, I've been trying really hard to think of myself as a person, but I digress.

I thought I'd share it here. Enjoy.

How I practice design:

I have worked in Adobe’s Creative Suite, as well as Publisher, Word, and many of the open-source Adobe alternative programs. I find that there is usually a way to achieve the design impact I'm looking for via whatever toolset I have available. Pro-tools are nicer, easier, and almost always have better results, but they're also expensive, fiddly and not always available.

Because of this approach, I can make Microsoft Word sing.

I believe the key to successful design isn't in the tools you use, but in applying a consistent and deliberate aesthetic. Ultimately, it comes down to taste.

Some thoughts on my past design experience

I've learned design through real world experience. I have mostly worked for small firms where the writer was often times the de facto designer. I've read a number of design and style books over the years, had endless design conversations about font and leading while working in the newspaper industry, and lead a Milwaukee-based technology and design-based meet up from 2004 to 2007. Not that I know much about deisgn. But I do know what I think looks good. Start from there. Learn about the rule of thirds. Talk to lots of people about color theory. Learn about print standards by trial and error. Steal someone's Pantone book. This is how I learned design. I'm not sure that qualifies me as a designer, but it certainly qualifies me as a designer pro tempore.

Five design principles I hold dear:

  1. Simple is better.
  2. Font choices matter. (I have an expensive taste in fonts. I know this. I try to keep it under control. )
  3. Just because you have lots of colors, doesn’t mean you should use them.
  4. Usability often trumps fashion.
  5. Typography should mean something.

I used Microsoft Word and Windows to develop an electronic workflow that seamlessly integrated a manual paste-up and electronic pagination system based on Quark Express in the Lake Country Reporter’s newsroom in 2004. It was magic. I can't believe it worked as well as it did.