Thinking About Design?

I often encounter people who are considering trying their hand at design or I’m asked to talk to someone who is considering design. They all want to get into it, but don’t know where to start. What program should I use…? how do I start…how does it work? All are standard questions that seem to come up regularly. Often, you’ll run up against two big road blocks - Adobe and no formal training.

To be upfront , I use Adobe and sacrifice ten cups of coffee a month on the alter of the Creative Suite. Is it awesome? Yes. Is it worth the money? Probably. Do you have to have it? NO! Most designers will tell you, “You must use Adobe Illustrator” to truly be a designer. But you know what, they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about. Illustrator is great but there is another way, and honestly you’ll be able to decide if design is right for you by taking the road less traveled.

When I began my path towards design I couldn’t afford Adobe, I wasn’t sure if this design thing would work out, and I hadn’t taken a design class in my life. As a philosophy major turned designer, I remembered what I had learned years earlier in an introductory philosophy class, that being most people don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Something I learned a little later, was that clear thought, care, and rational ideas equip you to do almost anything. So why the hell do I need to have a masters in digital design to make a logo for a band? I don’t. Now, those who adhere to the dogma of you-can’t-without-Adobe , especially in the midwest, all have degrees in the field, have full time jobs designing, and seem to be authorities on the subject. However, just as Socrates exposed various authorities back in Athens, we find today’s “authorities” in design often possess less skill and knowledge than they claim.

Let’s be honest, those pretentious designers work in a crappy screen printing, automotive wraps, or print shop and make some of the most unbearably horrid art to ever plague the planet. And if you think I’m being harsh, get in your car, drive around and look at vehicles, billboards, and business logos and consider the results they’re producing. So you know what? Forget what they think; they aren’t happy, don’t even do mediocre art, and don’t want to compete against you for work. So, they’re motivated by guild interest, the dogma of you-can’t-without-Adobe, and the requirement of technical training as road blocks so you never design a thing.

So let’s get you started. Download InkScape. It’s 100% free, open source, and you know what? It does almost everything Illustrator does and in some cases, more, for free. InkScape is also a thousand times easier to pick up quickly and because it’s open source it has one of the best online communities you’ll ever find. Want to learn how to make a transparent .png, make a space ship, or just make simple shapes? There are hundreds of step-by-step tutorials on YouTube where you will be walked through how to design almost anything you can imagine. So take a look, download it, and see what you can do.

SO…if you’re thinking that design is a daunting, scary thing that you can’t do – you’re wrong. If I can do it you can too. Is my work the best? No. Can it get better? Yes, and so can yours. It’s not about what you can do now that counts, it’s the drive to keep improving, working, thinking, and discovering that will help you become a designer.