I’ve always loved puzzles – jigsaw, crossword, word games, whatever you’ve got. I think that’s one of the things that makes me passionate about design. Every design project is a puzzle – a problem-solving exercise. The pursuit of the answer is fun – and finding the right answer can be incredibly satisfying. Design and puzzles – two of my favorite things.
Branding and logo design
Oooh – logos. How to create a perfect, concise mark that tells a specific story at a glance – and usually sparse of words? The mark should be distinctive and original – and hopefully also have layers of meaning. A good logo can tell you what the company does but it should also say more. It should hint at their bigger mission – a bigger meaning. Tall order, and so many ways to go. Sounds like my kind of puzzle!
A print design project is a different kind of puzzle. The challenge here is about effectively utilizing multiple elements to tell a story. Take for example, a 24-page brochure for a non profit’s upcoming event. You start with a collection of brand elements such as the organization’s logo, palette, fonts, supporting graphics and images, and pages of written content. All of these need to be effectively arranged to tell the story in a way that keeps the reader engaged, while at the same time upholding brand standards. Extra points if you can increase the brand’s effectiveness through the piece. Further points if your work encourages the reader to follow through on whatever the call to action of the piece may be. Did they send in their registration form? sign up online? attend your event? Bingo! That’s a win!
Websites – like print design you have to effectively balance messaging with brand elements – but you also need to work in the digital user’s experience. As opposed to print, you need consider how you’ll attract users from across the net to find the site – SEO? Ad campaigns? Social media? All can be effective. Once your audience is on the site, encourage them through effective UX design to stay on the site, look around, and execute the desired actions. Did you they sign up for the newsletter? Share the page on social media? Comment on a blog post? Yahtzee!
Infographics – the ultimate puzzle. Effective infographic design takes a complex concept and distills it down to it’s most important points told in a compelling visual way. Yow. Some of these can get super complex and yet others are remarkably simple. The measure of success is if the audience understands the full meaning and has an “aha” moment. How will you know if it resonates? You don’t always know, but one sign is if the audience shares it. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – a big compliment to the writer and the designer if that happens.
Design and puzzles – placing the final piece
It’s so satisfying to complete a puzzle. Fitting into place that final jigsaw piece – delicious. Finishing a Sunday NYT crossword – and getting them all right – love it! In design however, it’s not so easy to know if you found the “right” answer.
I’ve been doing this a long time, and there is no definitive answer to that question. Sometimes that perfect answer comes to you right away, and sometimes it takes many tries. Sometimes you never get there because the deadline is looming and you have to show something… that can be a real shame. An uncomfortable feeling that you could have done better, given time. But if you have time, you keep searching, trying different ideas and angles. Just like trying different jigsaw pieces until you find the one that fits.
Finding the solution – and there can be many of them – is a mixture of fulfilling the goals of the project and doing it in a way that only you could. Anybody can learn how to use Adobe Illustrator or Photoshop, but how you use the tool is what makes you different. As a designer, you’re only as good as your ability to impart your individual style into the project, while still meeting all the goals of the project and upholding brand integrity. And if your client loves it and it helps them achieve their marketing goals, that is a huge win and a great feeling.
For me, finding the right design solution feels like falling in love – in love with the thing I just created. I can’t stop looking at it – tweaking and perfecting it – and I can’t wait to share it. That feeling is passion – and it keeps me coming back for more, year after year.