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Question: As a designer, how do you break away from doing everything on the computer?

FROM : Anonymous (via Ask TCI on our homepage)

Q: As a graphic designer, how do you break away from doing everything on the computer without using up a pile of time and money?

A: I think of graphic design as a performative act of art on behalf of someone/something else. It means you give up all of your ego and ownership, because you’re providing a service, but in return you’re granted access that can be emotional and personal, and you have to be empathetic and enlightened to make something powerful. If you will yourself to find that answer in each project, the essence of this scenario transcends mediums. Designers often overlook an analog approach, which sounds like it could be to your benefit.

But you might find that the solution requires computer time, and money to buy things to use on the computer. In this instance, don’t let the nature of your service get taken for granted (the nature being empathy, mentioned just a second ago). Take them to fucking church about the value of the work you do, and they’ll adjust their compensation to suit the situation. And if you just don’t want to deal with the computer time and money bullshit, I have great news for you—you are an artist! <3

William -Villalongo
Artist, Designer, Dad Joke Enthusiast
Textile Designer
Visual Artist, Teacher

Find the tools you have the access to to make the things you want to make.

We didn’t know what kind of designers we were: web designers, filmmakers, performance artists, graphic designers or what? That’s why we described our working method and not the medium we were using.

I would claim that the best pieces of design, or the best design systems, are like novels. They’re like literature. There’s a level of depth to why they’re made and how they’re made and there are internal stories, some of which might not be visible to a reader, but on the other hand, they read as something that has narrative complexity and different levels of interpretation.

I think materials are really personal and I think one has to find a relationship to material.

I tend to steer clear of other designers’ work or design blogs, and try to find source materials that are completely outside of the project’s reference point. I’ll spend a lot of time surfing the web and going down rabbit holes. I’m also an advocate for literally walking outside in the world. I think it helps clarify what your ideas are, without sitting at your computer trying to think of a solution.

For class, you have to take type and learn about kerning, and you have to do these beautiful flyers and brochures. There’s a very methodical practice, which is important. I learned how to use the pen tool. That’s important—to learn how to use the tools appropriately. But when I got home and I was done learning about that, part of me was like, “I just wanna do something really, really ugly.”

I would say just do it, even if you don’t think you’re doing it the right way. That makes it better because then you’ll have a unique perspective. You’re making something different from what anybody else is doing because you don’t know how anybody else is doing it, so there’s no way it can be the same. Just having your own way of doing things makes it more special.

When I was introduced to the digital way to make the art I do, I refused to do it that way because I fell in love with the beauty of having a hands-on experience…. Just like you look up close to a painting with brush strokes, I want people to see the process in my work when you look at it. It’s not perfect, it’s rough, it has mistakes and it’s human. I remember going to a museum, and when I was told to look closer at the imperfections in art, I pardoned the imperfections in my own art.

I think a designer might be an artist, it’s just that their medium is people.

About the Author

Mike Renaud


Mike Renaud is the co-founder of Varyer, a brand new integrated creative studio. Previously he was Creative Director and VP of Pitchfork, where he oversaw day-to-day operations of the organization, and shepherded the design sensibilities of its website, festivals and print publication for nearly a decade. Mike has been recognized with a National Magazine Award, Webby awards, AIGA’s Corporate Leadership Award, The Society of Publication Design’s Brand of the Year Award, and a spot on Ad Age’s Creativity 50 list.