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Critiquing friend’s work… a bit creepy!

July 13, 2010

Well, not necessarily creepy, but I couldn’t avoid that tempting alliteration…

But really today I was looking at a friend of mine’s work, a very excellent ID guy who has decided to try his hand at design, with not a little success so far. (Moral of the story: study ID and then move to GD; or, even better, study architecture and then the whole world is your oyster.) He’d put together a small pdf manual and asked me to look over it. I was saying this and that and yadda yadda yadda and the dirty truth is that I really enjoy critiquing and probably too much so; so much so that I’ve tried to cut down on unsolicited comments in classes. (In my defense, I’m sure they at least generated some discussion.)

The pdf was a bit neutral, so I pointed out that with some sort of maneuvers he could add some modulation and subtlety to the design of the document. (For example, on every page section and page numbers appeared, so I said he could differentiate them a bit) I gave a few examples of what he could concretely do (i.e. blow up the section number, crop it off the page, add some sort of form behind it), but mostly I talked quite vaguely, saying "I’m sure you can figure it out–just make sure the design echoes the meaning."

It’s funny how I remember Alex giving me advice in the fall, when I’d just started, and being so vague about the actual design details and it driving me NUTS. "You can figure it out." I HATED that! Yes, I had a good eye, but one never knew if the blowing up the section number or adding a rule under it looked better… And him breezily mentioning some typography thing I had ignored (like leading) and saying, "Just take another look at it, I’m sure you can use your best judgment."

And now here I am giving the same advice. I’m really struck by this, and I think ( I hope!) it sort of testifies to some sort of progress. I mean, the point is, it sort of really doesn’t matter if it’s a rule or a typeface or the size or a giant blob that differentiates the section number from the page number. Or that differentiates one sort of information from another. The point is, to understand what you want to differentiate and why, and to do it, and to do it coherently and consistently.

The rest will work itself out.

So maybe it is a bit creepy to have been echoing the same thing I heard about 9 months ago, from the opposite side.
But I won’t lie; quite satisfying.

(Hope the advice helped.)

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