Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Acupuncture and Pretending I Know Graphic Design

Photoshop and Illustrator can be your greatest allies and your worst enemy at the very same time.  There are endless options and endless opinions on the "right" way to use the programs.  In undergrad, my introductory class to photoshop and illustrator left me disheartened, the programs felt inflexible.  The screen of the computer was so limiting compared to being able to touch your hand to paper.  Now, I'm no expert, not even a semi-expert, but I'm willing to break the rules within these programs.  I'm willing to try all the options in both ways they should or shouldn't be used.  I'll use Illustrator like Photoshop and damn the consequences!

What I experienced while completing the narrative assignment as well as creating infographics is that computer programs do not have to be rigid if you are willing to take risks.  In undergrad, I took what my professors said as the way things had to be.  I trusted them (and they were grading me), so what they gave me was god.  I didn't question.  But what I was creating on the computer went against every instinct I had as a traditional artist.  I thought that's just how it has to be: two styles, two techniques, of two minds.  That is not only limiting, but slows me down.  Learning how to combine the best of traditional and the best of digital into one package is time-saving and creates a sleek end result.

For the narrative, I used paintbrush within illustrator.  I'm pretty sure a certain undergrad professor would have shot me for using that in his class.  But it turns out, I'm just more comfortable with illustrator as a base.  It is more intuitive to me.  I like how the layers work, I like how it highlights what's selected.  I'm pretty messy with my layers, but I can always find my way back in illustrator.  Sketching straight onto illustrator from photographic reference felt amazing.  I'm used to time-consuming between steps of highly rendering the design on paper, scanning it in, and then using the pen tool to outline.  I'm just not a pen tool kind of girl.  It's too geometric, too static.  There are so many options why would you do something that feels unnatural?

I finally felt a sense of creativeness while working digital instead of a cog in a machine.  All I needed was a rough (very rough) sketch, photographic reference, and a general feeling/idea in my head, and I could make it come to life on the computer.  Saving different options, changing canvas size as I go, control Z, these are all things I can't get in traditional drawing, but I hadn't been using to their fullest potential on the computer because I'd been prepping too much on the physical page.  On the computer I don't have to be afraid to leave behind an original sketch because I can stretch the page the necessary 3 extra inches.  I have rulers automatically show up.  Everything can align itself.  Why would I ever attempt this on paper when I have Adobe?

I'm proud of what I'm accomplishing in Instructional Design because it is where my weaknesses lie.  I don't know graphic design other than to grid everything.  I have little a clue on font choices and digital color picking is not my forte, but through my experiences in the narrative and infographic projects, I see how I can develop a bag of tricks for faking graphic design talent.  So far simplicity works for me and trying to add a little bit of "traditional" flair makes it feel more my style.

I think my next step is getting better at self-critique.  Knowing when something I created looks bad isn't the problem, I usually just don't know why or how to go about fixing it.  I suppose trial and error can work, but I'd like to be as efficient as possible.

In celebration of finishing this "how to," I think I should actually experience acupuncture.  I find it interesting to work with the body in such an indirect way.  The above video inspired my choice of illustrating the "headache point."  Enjoy!

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