Big Little Things

Stop looking. Stop thinking.



Something happened today as we were experimenting with possible layout directions for the Written on the City book: I stopped looking, I stopped thinking, and I finally felt like progress got made.

Designers are trained to look. Scratch that, they’re paid to look. So I’ll understand if you want to kick me in the crotch when I tell you that when beginning a design project, it’s sometimes a good idea to stop thinking, stop looking and start simply making.

Because here’s the thing: we’ve been so trained to look for a solution at the end of a project, we don’t see all the wonderful, serendipitous possibilities in what happens along the way.

So we floundered around like this for a good week or so. And if it hadn’t been for our good friend, the kick-ass Audrey Kallander we’d be floundering still.

She told us to shut the hell up and then held us at scissor-point until we began making collages of possible spreads. I know, it seems obvious. But no one really seems to take the time (and it does take some time) to use collage as a tool to figure out some smart design directions. Mostly, we go straight to the computer, and start designing from there. But starting with the computer forces you to think immediately about a grid, it forces you to think and re-think your actions, and it makes the design process too precious.

So here’s what you do:
Make a whole bunch of black and white copies (in many different sizes) of all your images. Then do the same thing using lorem ipsum text. Make some bold, some in italics, some giant and some tiny. Get some tape and start cutting and taping.

And don’t worry about what it looks like. Seriously. This means that you shouldn’t have an idea about what it’s gonna look like, before you begin. You just have to start laying your text and your images down next to eachother without thinking about your rule of thirds or your golden ratio or your rags or a grid or anything else for that matter. You can tap those things into place after you’ve found a direction that feels good. So work with your gut. And make as many different spreads as possible.

You’ll find that once you let go of seeing the process as the product, your designs will become a lot freer, they’ll lend themselves more to conversation and narrative. And you’ll have a damn good time, too.

Have you tried this? How did it go?

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