The (New) Vocabulary of Design

As I welcomed the new member to our team last week, we had many conversations about design. Since we both studied at the School of Visual Arts we reminisced about our favorite classes and teachers, and brought up some old war stories about things we had to do when we were in school and first starting out in the business. So many of those things (like stat cameras and phototypositors) are not only gone from our business, but the terms no longer exist in the regular lexicon of today’s designers.

This got me thinking about the things we are taught in art school that apply to our everyday designing, and how today’s designer (particularly the in-house designer) have a whole new dictionary of word and terms to use in daily work-life.

Remember back when you were in art school learning all of the theories and techniques related to design and the creative process? Ah, those were the days when your daily vocabulary (and worries) consisted of concepts like breaking the grid, golden rule, complimentary color, split color combinations, negative space, zeitgeist… things you brought to the table in your first few years on the job developing concepts.

For those of you who remember what ruby-lithe is, ask your young designers why photoshop channels are have a red tint. They won’t know because ruby-lithe doesn’t exist in our toolboxes – or lexicon – anymore even though it’s legacy remains as a visual metaphor in one of our most popular tools.

Jump ahead a few years to where you are now managing people and have responsibilities to the departmental (AKA business unit) success as an in-house manager or leader. As creative professionals we never imagined that we would someday have responsibilities where our daily conversations didn’t relate to those creative concepts. But we do. Especially if you get involved in strategic decision-making (creative or business)

Today’s designers and design managers still love talking about the things that make design fun, but now we also have conversations about not-so-creative concepts related to business management such as; process, metrics, utilization, coaching, mentoring, development cycles, etc.

I’m curious to know what you’re talking about today, that you could not have imagined you would be talking about earlier in your career.

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About Andy Brenits

Andy Brenits is a brand and creative strategist with extensive experience building and leading creative teams for national and international brands. He has worked with major brands such as Banana Republic, The Gap, National Football League, KPMG, and Arizona Public Service. In addition to consulting and writing, Andy is the President of the board of directors at InSource and lectures on Visual Branding at Columbia University in New York.

One thought on “The (New) Vocabulary of Design

  1. Kevin

    I have these kinds of discussions with my History of Graphic Design students all the time. I have fond memories of rubylith, amberlith, and goldenrod. Wonder why the default color for guidelines is usually light blue? We had to draw our guidelines on artboards with a non-repro blue pen or pencil so they wouldn’t show up on film negatives.

    The new lexicon for me involves more terms like interactivity, interface, and “user experience.” It’s not enough to design something people want to look at, now we design something that people want to poke, swipe, zoom, and multi-touch. The new dynamics of design are extrapolating into a multi-sensory experience for the consumer.

    Thanks for the article Andy, and for the stroll down memory lane.

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