Hi everyone … Here’s some advice, encouragement and a few warnings from my Fall 2014 students, who were asked to write to you about the five most important things they learned. These are in no particular order, so there’s great stuff at the end, too. My advice about this advice? Take heed.
IT’S TRUE: DESIGN MATTERS: Before I launch into my 5 tips, I’d like to share my most important realization about this class. Most likely, you’re taking GRA217 because it’s a requirement in your major. You should stop looking at this class as a requirement and more like a new hobby, or a creative adventure. Sure, learning to maneuver InDesign and Illustrator can seem more like homework than fun, but the parts where you get to transform ideas into actual art are so rewarding.
1. Give yourself time: If you look back at my portfolio of designs this semester, there’s a correlation between quality and effort. Schedule time into your week to sit down and just play around in InDesign, or to look up inspiration online. Spreading your work out over time will give you way more wiggle room for last minute fixes and it just helps to give you perspective on your designs. You may find that the work you did two weeks prior isn’t all that hot, and if you have a week left before deadline, you have time to make those changes.
2. Don’t get discouraged. There are always going to be those projects that you get stuck on, get bad feedback on or that you can’t find inspiration. I found that it’s usually beneficial to take a break or to get a second opinion. That’s why Professor Strong has drafts & revisions – if you’re not totally thrilled with what you’re turning in, there are a lot of opportunities to make it better. You just need to be able to push yourself.
3. Visit Prof. Strong’s Office hours! Everyone here says to do it, so you should. She’ll often tell it like it is, but in the realm of design, that’s essential. There were times that I was reluctant because I was attached to a design, but in the end, she knows what’s right. There were a few projects where I didn’t go to office hours, and because of that my content suffered, so make time in your schedule to attend office hours.
4. Pay attention to the little details. Make sure you pay attention to alignment, font size and your general scale. These things may count against you later on. I have to admit, I was pretty confused about the concept of a grid/columns for the better part of the semester, and would have benefited from asking for help earlier on. My designs also would have looked worlds better with a stronger grid. Don’t just consider how your designs look like on a computer monitor – how would they transfer onto an iPad? At a higher resolution?
5. Pursue ideas that you love. If you’re not feeling inspired or engaged with your project, it will definitely show in design. Choose ideas that play off of your interests or work – it’ll make the process a lot more enjoyable, and will most likely make you come up with way more creative ideas.
Listen to these tips and you will shine in Professor Strong’s classroom.
1. Procrastination is your worst enemy. Do not wait until the last minute to do your projects. Set your own deadlines, start thinking of ideas and sketching right when you are assigned a project, and always stay one step ahead of the game. Projects are better and less stressful when they’re done throughout a manageable time frame, rather than a couple days before.
2. Office hours are your best friend. Meet with Professor Strong and your TA, and meet with them often. It always helped me to meet with them early on to discuss my concept, ideas, and sketches so that I wouldn’t have to start over if my idea wasn’t a good one, and after I had a rough draft so that I could get advice on how to improve my design.
3. Rent adobe creative cloud. You’ll be living in the Newhouse labs if you don’t rent the Creative Cloud Suite at some point. They offer a 30 day trial for each software program, and once that runs out it’s totally worth it to get the $20/month student rental. Trust me, it’s so much better to be sitting on your couch working on your laptop while watching TV than leaving the Newhouse labs for South Campus at midnight every single night.
4. Commit to your projects. The only way your designs are going to turn out thoughtfully and beautifully done is if you put in the passion and time required. Don’t think of these projects as an opportunity to get a good grade, but as things to potentially add to your portfolio. You want each project to be something you’re proud of, something you want to show off to friends and family.
5. Breathe. Everything is going to be okay. Graphic design is intimidating for sure, but I promise you will make it out of this class with an amazing resume to use for future employers, a new perspective on design, and a new appreciation for the skills you have learned. This class is relevant to what you are doing in other classes and you will thank Newhouse for making you take it. In the meantime, take a deep breath and know that other students have nervously gone through it and not only survived, but thrived. So will you.
The semester flew by so fast. I learned so much throughout it all but there were five things that will stay with me for a long time.
1. Details details details. If you forget everything I type in this post don’t forget this. I could stop writing now…and you will still be left with valuable information but out of respect for the assignment I will continue. You’ll be surprised how the smallest details have the largest impacts. There were so many times that Prof Strong tweaked a bit of my project and it had a completely different look to it. It was stronger!
2. Don’t stress, don’t panic. I realized when you let yourself be scared before you even start a project, it stops you from being creative. And creativity is good (Spoiler: #3 Is about creativity). When Prof Strong introduces the topic, it will appear to be too much to handle but take everything step by step and you’ll be fine. Don’t panic because that waste time and you need all the time you get!
3. Creativity and simplicity. This will set you apart. Always try to see how you can improve something without compromising the concept and the understanding of the project. What helped me (with my successful assignments) was when I put myself in the seat of the client and saw if I really liked it. When you make your projects make them great–take ownership in your work. Your assignments are your babies and every parent wants their baby to be great. Make your babies great!
4. Time management. Manage your time well. This is the age old knowledge you’ve been hearing since high school. Well in this class your skill in time management is tested. This isn’t the class where you could do a project the night before and expect a good grade. THIS IS NOT THE CLASS WHERE YOU COULD DO A PROJECT THE NIGHT BEFORE AND EXPECT A GOOD GRADE! (Maybe now you’ll take me seriously.) The software, the concept, the creativity (see #3 for more information) will take a week alone (give or take a couple of days)!
5. Prof STRONG. Prof Strong was by far one of my favorite professors in Syracuse. She is very passionate about what she does and it will show in your critique…trust me. There may be times she destroys something you worked on for a while–it’s ok thats what rough drafts are for and if you have a great I.A. like I did, it makes understanding how to apply the critiques that much easier. Take ALL critiques with a notepad and an open mind. Yes!–she knows some of you aren’t graphic designers but she is pushing you to your creative limit to make you better as if you were one. Think of her as a coach–Coach Strong!
Best of luck guys. Much love and peace to all of you. You’re great–believe it!
OH THE PLACES YOU’LL GO … The lessons learned in this class can be applied to more than just this graphic design class, but to all classes that you might take this and next semesters.
1. Office hours are something you want to use to your advantage. And this doesn’t mean coming in unprepared and expecting to come out victorious. You have limited time at office hours and every minute is crucial when talking about your project. And don’t underestimate your TA either, most times they offer a new outlook and might notice something your professor hasn’t
2. Speaking of time, your projects may seem easy or simple, but most times, that is a very wrong assumption. Your projects require adequate time to be spent on them. This doesn’t mean that all other classes should be forgotten, but it does mean that you might have to spend a party or two rockin’ out to some music in the Newhouse 2 editing suite instead of the one at the frat.
3. Sometimes, ideas are not that easy to come by. And improving your project can be a daunting task. A few outside eyes can help improve your projects in ways you wouldn’t expect it to. Especially those people with no graphic design experience can offer advice that a person with that background wouldn’t have thought of. You have to remember who your project is being made for, and that is usually yes, for the professor, but also, for the audience that the poster, or website is intended for. Ask those people, it might help you get out of your designer’s block.
4. The box is not your friend in this class (nor should it be in any). Thinking outside of it can be very helpful. Think of something that you would never have thought of before and try it out. You might realize that you are capable of more than you thought you were. Sketch your different takes on an idea and pick the one that strikes a special chord with you.
5. Minimalism. You’ve probably heard this a lot in different aspects of your life, but here it really goes a long way especially when you have no idea what you’re doing). Keep it simple. Ask yourself if that extra word is really needed. Or is that image does anything for your project. If the answer is no, then take it out. Each element has to do something for what it is you are creating. Just keep that in mind.
Well, there ya go. Take it or leave it, but make sure that you take something out of this class, and genuinely try to enjoy it. You never know how far a class like this can take you.
GRA 217 was one of my most challenging but also fulfilling class. I learned so much from Professor Strong and I would like to pass along some helpful hints to the next GRA 217 class:
1) SKETCH!! For every project you are assigned for this class, Professor Strong always stresses the necessity of sketching before you start designing in the Adobe Suite programs. I would like to stress that this is so important. Sketching made the process for each project so much easier. Using the different software can be intimidating, especially for beginners. You can get caught up in trying to figure out how to work the software and distracted from the actual design. When you sketch first, you get all your ideas out on paper and you can easily transfer it to the computer afterwards.
2) Go to the office hours. Make sure that you go to Professor Strong or your TA’s office hours as much as possible. It is so helpful to get a second opinion on your design and receive help with using the different Adobe software. Professor Strong is very willing to help her students with their projects so you should really maximize on this opportunity. You cannot learn everything you need to know just in your class. Going to the office hours will ultimate help you become a better designer and help you grow as a student.
3) Communication is key. For those students who tend to be shy and timid, it is very important that you come out of your comfort zone and speak up! This class can get very overwhelming and confusing, thus it is important to communicate with Professor Strong and your TA. The earlier you start to communicate, the better time you will have in the class.
4) Don’t wait until the last minute. For all you king and queen procrastinators in the room, make sure you do not wait until the last day to start a project in this class. You cannot create a well designed project if you wait until the night before to start. I know for myself, many times I needed to step away from a project in order to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. If you wait until the last minute, you won’t have time to do that. When you plan ahead and start early, you can take drafts to Professor Strong or your TA and if you need to start over, you will have time to do so. It makes your time in this class a lot more enjoyable if you plan ahead.
5) Have fun. This is a vey unique class and you should really enjoy yourself while your in it. You will learn so much about the graphic design field and really be able to be creative. Take advantage of all the new skills you will learn in this class because you will be able to use these tools no matter what major you are in Newhouse. Enjoy the class !
Firstly, this class is awesome. Talking about the difference between a typeface and a font for a whole class period might not seem appealing at first. But learning about graphic design as a whole and all its subtleties is a great way to spend an hour and a half twice a week.
To survive this class and all its awesomeness, one must take into consideration all the effort and care it takes for each assignment. Here is five things (disclaimer: from my perspective) that you should know:
1. Take this seriously! From my own experience, people that I know don’t consider that design is the precursor to almost everything we own, interact with, see, etc. Discussing whether the spacing between the letters of the word “Festival” on a poster might seem tedious and unnecessary. This class is meant to show you that little things like that make all the difference. Audiences are susceptible and influenced, consciously or not, to the tactics of design. You learn this by taking these things seriously. Being fully present in each lecture, and even in the labs, is the first step to success.
2. Look for inspiration EVERYWHERE. When you feel you’re at a loss on how to even think up a concept for a project: stop, look around you, and think about the backstory behind each object you encounter. This could be a water bottle, the shoes you’re wearing, the table you’re sitting at. Even scrolling through tumblr will fill your head with all sorts of visual and conceptual ideas. Whether you’re looking at an advertisement on a billboard, watching a film, or even just looking up at your ceiling before you fall asleep, inspiration can strike you.
3. Office hours, office hours, and office hours. If you just can’t seem to either think of a concept, flesh one out, or take it from paper to computer, office hours WILL save you from whatever cinder block seems to be in the way of your creative flow. Professor Strong is thee opinion you must take into consideration when making your work. She’s such a great help, and really tries to compromise between what she envisions and what your vision might be. Creating that relationship between the two is what office hours are for.
4. Time. Giving yourself time to develop your projects is something that is ESSENTIAL. In this way, you’ll have time to get not only Professor Strong’s input on your work but the TAs’ input also. I’ve made the mistake of waiting until the night before something was due to work out the “little kinks” I have left to do. Do not do that to yourself. Who knows what program will act up on which computer, and considering the Newhouse labs close at midnight every night… Anxiously rushing the morning things are due is not fun, and not beneficial to your mental health (trust me) or your grade.
5. Enjoy it! Honestly, I’ve had a blast in the class. It’s always nice to get away from the noise and come in to watch enlightening documentaries, films, look at incredibly crafted artwork, talk to established designers, and just…really learn. You learn so much in such a short amount of time, but don’t let that scare you. Make sure you are adamant about remembering the length of the creative process, and the time it takes to fully execute an assignment. But enjoying it all is the best and most important part. Everything else will fall into place, as long as you actually give yourself a chance to connect to the material being taught and the enthusiasm of designers around the world that they have for the subject matter being taught.
This class,with Professor Strong, has been a long and rocky but such an amazing experience. For those who are taking this class, keep these tips/lessons in mind!
1. Manage your time well. For those who don’t have prior knowledge to the Adobe programs, be warned. The programs take some time to get used to so it’s really crucial to start sketching & planning out your projects ahead. You really can’t get away with doing things the night before because I guarantee you, it will not be your best. Give yourself plenty of time to work on your project because that honestly will save you so much stress and room for improvement.
2. Meet Professor Strong/TA often. I highly recommend seeing Professor Strong at least twice before you hand in your projects because the attention & advice you’ll get from your meetings with her will greatly improve your project. She’ll help you tremendously if you’re having any design problems with your project. Don’t be intimidated by criticism because, in the end, it’ll benefit you in the long run. Take her critic & seriously consider applying it in your projects.
3. See design everywhere. It’s crazy how ignorant I was to the omnipresence of design before this class. Inspiration lies everywhere (literally). Take time to surround yourself with inspiration when you’re stuck. Be observant & question yourself when you’re looking at a design. And you’ll actually see why the designer designed it that way because the components of a good design will all serve a purpose to the design project.
4. Simplicity is key. Another important concept that is heavily stressed is simplicity. Don’t clutter your projects with design ideas that serve no purpose. Honestly, I feel more satisfied, knowing that every element in designing your project should serve a purpose. Don’t overdo things because you feel the need to. Rather embrace the white/empty space and work with what you need. Sometimes it’s the most simplest designs that are honestly the best.
5. Have fun! If you manage your time well enough, I think you can really enjoy this class. For your projects, pursue a topic that interests you because what’s the point of doing something you’re not passionate about? This class was such an enjoyment, despite the stress sometimes, because I really got to incorporate the things I loved into my projects. I honestly believe that if you do have fun while doing your projects, the end product will be amazing.
I hope these lessons help you through this class! Good luck! (:
This class taught me many things, as it was definitely my most challenging and difficult. Along the road, I learned five crucial things to surviving a graphics class.
1. Sketch…Always sketch. Sketching is a key element of successful project and is one that is overlooked often. It’s important to outline and design your project on paper before going on an Adobe software and trying to design from scratch. Sketching not only made working on a software easier but also quicker, as I had the design to my project already laid out.
2. Accept criticism, from everyone. Criticism from peers is what drives the visual concepts and ideas behind projects, which is why it is important to accept criticism whenever showing a project to someone. Regardless if that person is a professor, TA, or fellow student, they will always have something helpful and enlightening to say and help you out with your project.
3. Revise Well. Sometimes, after handing in my final draft of a project I had figured I had done everything to make my project look the best it could, and therefore my revisions were not as intricate as I would have liked. Take advantage of the revisions, as they are another chance to better your project and your grade. Ask people for different ideas and concepts and ways you can improve your nearly perfect project.
4. Manage Time/Projects. Hard drives can crash, computers can shut off, and projects can get lost, which is why all projects should constantly be backed up, and a project shouldn’t be held until the night before because things like this can happen and make life miserable for you! Attend multiple lab sessions a week, giving you a large amount of time to work on your project with a TA’s help.
5. Don’t be afraid to fail. The worst thing for a designer to be with their project is tentative or hesitant; a project should be exactly what is on the designer’s mind or essentially extracted out of their head, so being tentative due to the fear of not succeeding is a bad trait to have. Professor Strong wants to see different designs and new ideas, so when working on a draft, there should be no fear of doing anything too crazy.
I was always really bad at designing posters when I was in middle school and high school. So I was really scared to take this class. But it turns out, design isn’t as scary as it seems. And this class is really fun if you approach it the right way. Here are 5 important things I learned this semester:
1. Go to office hours. The one project where I didn’t go to office hours was the project I did the worst on. I think I told myself I didn’t have time or something, but taking 20 minutes to get feedback on your design makes a huge difference and it really helps. So make sure you make time to go to office hours.
2. Don’t leave it to the last minute. This sounds sort of obvious, but leaving your project to the last minute is bad for a number of reasons. It’ll probably look rushed, you’ll probably make silly mistakes, and you probably won’t be able to get feedback from office hours. So just be proactive and budget your time so you have time to fix your design.
3. Don’t fixate on an idea if it doesn’t work. Sometimes ideas are better in theory. If you have an idea that seems really great, and you’re sure it’s the best thing ever, be prepared to change it if it ends up not working out. Ideas sometimes look better in your head, or don’t really work as a whole. So try multiple designs before setting your heart on one.
4. Buy a subscription to Adobe creative cloud. Not to sound like an advertisement, but having the creative suite on your laptop is so much better than having to go to newhouse every time you want to work on your project. It’s only $20 a month too. This sounds so advertisement but life being easier because you don’t have to risk losing your design on Newhouse computers is priceless.
5. Because cliches: HAVE FUN. Literally so cliche to say “have fun” but it is actually really fun to learn that you can actually create something. So take advantage of it and don’t complain about the amount of work you have to do. Before you know it, the semester will be over. Because time flies when you’re having fun.
1. Sketch it out: When you’re first assigned a project, don’t immediately open Adobe programs and slap a bunch of stuff onto a document; it never works. Putting your ideas on paper is the best way to create a great concept, so start there. And don’t think one or two sketches is enough; draw out every possible idea you can think of — even the ones you think are lame. To someone else, those ideas could be amazing!
2. Think cleverly, execute simply: Professor Strong will repeat this 100 times, so listen. Every part of your design should have a purpose, and if it doesn’t that element shouldn’t even be there. My most successful projects came from a clever concept and a simple, straightforward execution. So let your creativity be at the center of your design and think of the design elements as a way of executing that concept in a digestible way.
3. Go to office hours: I know you’d rather sleep in or spend your time watching Netflix, but going to office hours is the easiest way to improve your designs. Claudia always gives great and helpful feedback and she’s just a fun person to talk to. Getting critiqued is an essential part of the design process, and getting that critique from your professor will definitely pay off.
4. Ask questions: This especially applies to the Adobe programs you’ll be learning. Don’t be afraid to get clarification on any steps or features you’re unsure of, since getting a hang of the programs can be frustrating at times. That being said, messing around with InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator in your free time can make things easier once you start to execute your designs.
5. Don’t sweat it: A lot of people will tell you this class is scary and extremely difficult. Yes, it’s difficult, but it’s also fun and a nice break from writing papers and studying for exams. In some ways, working on your designs is relaxing and the best part is that you can do it while you watch TV! Don’t get hung up on the fact that this class is new territory, just take in everything you can and put in an honest effort and you’ll do fine.
You are in store for something special. Take it from previous classes, we know what’s best. Here are the top five things I’ve learned in Claudia Strong’s Graphic Design course.
Try, try, and try again. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Cliche, I know, but its undeniably true. And yes, this does include sketching. Don’t expect great things by just diving into your project with no direction or notion. You need to work your design over and over and over and over until you’re sick of looking at it. Please use grids/rulers/guides. Organization of your design matter too, not just a pretty facade. Save drafts, design alternate versions, play with colors, use the skills you’ve been taught.
Start early, finish last. Reality check, this class will take a hearty chunk out of your discretionary time. As soon as a project is introduced, start sketching and planning immediately. This could be done on the bus, when you can’t fall asleep at night, during your boring classes, anytime. The more time you put into your project, the more positive your result will be. It’s important to walk away from your project and return with a fresh eye. If you start early, you will have plenty of time to attend office hours and seriously make you project out of this world.
You will surprise yourself. Even if you think you have no artistic talent or you aren’t creative at all, you will be. Designing on a computer allows for faster manipulation and a more fluid flow of ideas. With Photoshop, InDesign, and Illustrator, you can literally think of something and create it without needing the gift of illustration. Learning these programs will seriously change the way you use and view anything that is printed or designed because with enough practice, you can do anything you’d ever imagine.
Enjoy the ride. There aren’t many classes that you have the freedom to do what you want to do. Of course there are criteria, but for the most part, you dictate the content you create. It’s an unbelievably incredible feeling finishing each project and reflecting black when the semester is just as sweet. Have fun with the work you design and be willing to try new thing and get out of your comfort zone. The more open you are, the more you’ll enjoy this
Be grateful. There will be other professors teaching graphic design, but consider yourself extremely lucky. You cannot compare to a professor like Claudia. Never before have I been so inspired, motivated, educated, and intimidated at the same time. Other graphics classes may have easier requirement or grading, but know that the education you are getting from Claudia is unparalleled. She will push you to your full potential and show you how much you are capable of. She won’t make things easy because growth as a designer/student doesn’t happen when someone holds your hand every step of the way. Do not take your semester with Claudia for granted because it will be truly applicable to your life outside of GRA217.
* Enjoy your semester and let your creativity flow.
1. Take notice: The first thing I learned in this class is that the process behind the design of everything around us is more comprehensive then I ever could have imagined. Every sign, label, poster, and website we encounter on a daily basis went through an extensive process of planning, designing, and executing. Even the simplest of designs are purposeful, and perhaps have even more thought put into them than more elaborate creations. This class showed me how design is not only a useful skill to put on my resume, but a necessity for being an educated consumer and citizens in our society.
2. Do it and do it again: Don’t be afraid to start over. While working on my magazine I completely redid one of my pages and the result was a million times better. You can get stuck on one thought path and be reluctant to veer from that path, however, sometimes changing your mind is best. Yes it is true that you should trust your gut, but in design you should take a step back and really examine your work. Your first attempt might not always be your best, and that is okay. Start your projects early because drafts and reflection will lead to your best designs.
3. The technicalities: This class focuses a lot on the design process and your final creation, but do not ignore the technical aspects of InDesign and Photoshop. Coming into this class I had never used either software, but I put in the extra effort in lab and in Professor Strong’s office hours to learn as much as I could about them. This not only helped me when designing, but it will also be useful in the real world. Having knowledge of these programs is a marketable skill on your resume. So pay attention in lab and ask questions because there is a difference between using InDesign and knowing InDesign, and people in the profession will know the difference.
4. Put you in your work: Just because this class has designated assignments with certain requirements doesn’t mean that your work should not be a reflection of you. Personally, my aesthetic is simple and clean so most of my designs were representative of that. I like minimalist designs with more plain colors, the interest comes in the use of space and style. I know other people in my class who preferred more bright colors and busy patterns. If you have the confidence to make your work a reflection of you, your work will be stronger and you will be more passionate about the success of your designs.
5. More than graphics: Finally, one thing I learned from this class that I definitely did not expect to learn was that design is more the graphics. It is more than magazine layouts and posters. Design is everything around us. Movies that we watched in class, like Objectified, explore the various fields of design. I feel like to be a great designer you need to understand the various fields of the profession. The thought process put into making a chair is very similar to that put into designing a website. There is aesthetics, there is function, and there is consistency in both an effective chair and a successful website. While taking this class look at design as a whole, not just an InDesign file.
Graphics is a challenging yet rewarding class. You will learn skills that will help you for the rest of your life. There are some points in the class where you will feel like you won’t make the deadline or that your project isn’t good, but you will make it and you will find a way to make your project better. Here are some tips that I learned that will help you during the year.
1. Office Hours: Go to office hours. Professor Strong is very willing to work with you and you should take advantage of this. During office hours Professor Strong will help you with any questions and concerns that you have about your project. Also your TA’s office hours will be very helpful as they too can assists you with any questions that you might have. Every time that I went to office hours this year, I left feeling better about my project and the direction it was going in.
2. Pay Attention in Class: Although in most classes, you don’t work directly on your project, the information that is taught in the classroom will help you when you are in the labs. From learning about which typefaces go well in what situations to learning about the different parts of a magazine, paying attention in class will help you save time and effort during your project.
3. Take Advantage of Peer Reviews: Although it may seem scary to have your work reviewed in front of the class, it will help you out a lot. Hearing different people’s viewpoints on your project can help you out. In class, during almost every peer review session, people pointed out flaws in projects that might have been overlooked and missed. To get your draft you reviewed in class, it would be helpful to submit it early to make sure that you have a chance for peer review. This means that you have to do a lot of work before your draft is due so that you will get the most out of your peers and Professor Strong’s comments.
4. Planning: Your first idea might not always be your best idea. It is important to go through the creative process to make sure that you have analyzed and thought out all aspects of your project. In this process you should make sure to have your ideas sketched out and you should have a general timeline of when you want to start working on your project so you manage your time well and don’t get stuck trying to finish your project a night before it’s due.
5. Relax and Enjoy the Ride: It might feel stressful with all of the deadlines and new Adobe programs that you aren’t familiar with, but you will survive and you will be amazed looking back on your journey. Looking back at my work and my classmates’ work, I am amazed at how far we have come from our first drafts to our final project. The skills I have learned have helped me out in other classes and just life in general. If you come into graphics with an open mind, you will be amazed at what you learn by the end of the semester.
Good luck and have fun!
This class is exciting. It’s challenging. It’s thought provoking. It’s different. In fact, this class helped me realize what I really want to do with the rest of my life.
I was given a few tips to tackle this class when I was just starting, and now I have a few tips of my own for those who will take the class after me.
1) Be on your game … like the minute Professor Strong assigns something. I constantly heard “GO TO OFFICE HOURS.” It wasn’t a joke. Office hours are really successful… for the students that are able to get to them. I always seemed to have class during open office hours, or if I did have time, all the appointments would be taken. My class was office hours hungry and would sign up weeks in advance. I have a theory some people even signed up before the project was assigned. I’ll admit that I didn’t plan very well with all the work (from all my classes together) I had this semester. I was not able to plan ahead and tell myself that I would have something ready to show Professor Strong by a given date. So my advice to you is plan. Plan when you are going to get to office hours. Plan when you are going to get your assignment done. Plan to be successful.
2) Don’t get caught up in perfection. I always wanted to chose the right concept. I wanted to have that creative and original design that stood out from everybody else’s, that was successful just in its ambitions alone. But this was where I went wrong. In trying to come up with an idea for the world’s next greatest design, I ended up continually pushing back when I was going to actually work on my project. I didn’t have a concept yet, so I wouldn’t open InDesign. As Julia Roberts said in Pretty Women, “Big mistake. BIG mistake!” Don’t let the idea of perfection stop you from starting to work on something. In fact, if you start you quickly learn what you like and what you don’t like aesthetically and can easily adjust your design from there. So don’t stare at the drawing board too long. Get your hands dirty early and let your design grow from there.
3) Beware of Creative Commons. While it can be your best friend, it can also be your worst enemy. I remember spending hours on searching for photos because none of them seemed right. None of them seemed to be that profession photo that left you in awe as you stare at it on the cover of your favorite magazine. If you want that perfect image, give yourself some time to that the pictures yourself. You know what you want, so go out an make it happen. Or, if you find the image online, contact the photographer. I ended up emailing a photographer for my magazine project and he was more then happy to help. He was even thrilled! Those people are out there. They are willing to help. You just have to find them.
4) Use all of your resources. You don’t know how to do something? Ask your TA’s, seek your friends advice, watch adobe videos online. There is help everywhere, you just have to be willing to go find it. Your TA’s are TA’s for a reason. They know how to use all these programs and are there to help you. Ask your friends what they think. Do they like it? Do they get it? What would they change? Still lost? Adobe has hundreds of video tutorials online. Im sure they have a video for whatever creative and ambitious design element you are trying to tackle. Go check it out. And definitely do not be afraid to ask for help.
5) Save, and save often. One thing I quickly got into the habit of is just editing the same document over and over until I reached my final design. ProTip: Don’t do that. Every time you try something new or edit, save the change as a new document. This is helpful for when you don’t like what you did. It is easier to go back and start again. Its also helpful when you forget Professor Strong wants you to turn in drafts along with your final project. Saving will be your new best friend.
Think about everything you’ve ever learned about graphics design and just design in general. Write all that down on a piece of paper. Okay? Have it written down? Now take that piece of paper and toss it out a window. Everything you think you know about graphics design, you don’t. Coming into this class I thought I had at least a pretty good understanding about design, I didn’t. I learned so much, and have vastly improved. And if you follow these helpful lessons you will too.
1. Go to Office Hours: GO. TO. OFFICE HOURS. I’ll repeat it just one more time, GO TO OFFICE HOURS! I can’t possibly stress this enough. I went to office hours at least once before every final revision of my projects and it helped me tremendously. No matter how good you think your project is, it’s not perfect. There are always areas that need improvement. You can always get helpful feedback from people so why not get it from the professor that’s going to be grading your project?
2. Be open-minded:There’s no shame in re-doing your project or concept multiple times. Some of my earlier drafts look absolutely nothing like my final submissions, and that’s a good thing. You think you have a good concept, you start it, and simply realize it’s not what you’re looking for. Don’t tie yourself down to one specific idea, if you want to see how something looks you can revise it and save it as a new copy. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it, that’s fine.
3. Pay Attention During Recitation: You will learn a lot about concepts and design in general from lecture, but that doesn’t mean you can just sleep through recitation either. Your TA’s are there to teach you about how to properly use all the programs. You could be the best designer in the world, but if you don’t know how to use InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator how are you going to do your actual projects? This doesn’t mean you have to be an expert when you first start this class. Most people have never used these programs before, but if you pay attention in recitation you’ll pick it up and get the hang of it, don’t worry.
4. Develop a Thick Skin: Criticism is good. Your professor, TA, and peers are going to criticize your works. They’re going to say all the things you did wrong. BUT, they’ll also tell you what you can do to correct those mistakes and how to improve your overall work. None of your projects are going to be completely perfect. As I said before there’s always room for improvement, but to improve you have to take some constructive criticism. Those who open themselves up to criticism are going to be the ones that see the most improvement in their works and grades.
5. Design things you’re interested in. For most of these assignments you are free to choose what you want to design. Yes you’re forced to design, a website, magazine, and a poster, but you get to choose the topic. The best way to make this process easier and more enjoyable is to just pick a topic you’re interested in. You like sports? Design a sports-related magazine. Interested inthat new science symposium coming to town? Design a poster to advertise it. You have to do these assignments so make it easier on yourself and make it interesting. I’m telling you right now, your best works are going to be the ones that you enjoy so have fun with it.
1. Go to office hours. After reviewing all the posts from the last year students, I have decided to make an appointment with professor Strong to go over my design. Her critiques and feedbacks were significantly helpful, since she pointed out few parts that I didn’t notice. I got much better grades after visiting her office hours. She also tells you about some design skills that you might have missed from lab class. I would say it would be difficult to get good grades without getting any critiques or feedbacks from professor. So go to her office hours!
2. Download Adobe package. I would recommend downloading Adobe packages since you would use Adobe programs more than once a week. Before taking this class, I had no opportunities to learn any of programs, such as Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. Although you get to learn certain skills that are required during the lab hours, you get the chance to explore tools if Adobe programs are downloaded on your computer. I recommend you to download programs and get used to using the tools/ skills.
3. Start brainstorming. I would recommend not to procrastinate! You would not do well or survive this class if you keep procrastinating. Outcome of your project would be great if you start as soon as the project is assigned. For me, thinking up with an idea was a great challenge. I almost changed topics/ ideas for each assignment more than twice. For instance, it took a while for me to choose the final concept for my iPad Magazine. Trust me, you cannot finish iPad Magazine and website projects the day before it’s due! iPad Magazine project was really challenging since you need to get used to interactivity element, the technological part. So, start early and brainstorm ASAP.
4. Read your assignment. Whenever I went to her office hour, professor always said that I missed some requirements that were on the assignment. It is important to read through your assignment since many points would be deducted although your project looks great. For instance, professor pointed out that I missed the byline on the story page for the iPad Magazine project. So read your assignment, and make sure that you have met all the requirements!
5. Go to class. My last advice would be “go to class!” During class, professor shows many examples that past students have done. It is very helpful when you are stuck on thinking up with an idea. Moreover, if you don’t have time to visit her office hour, you can upload your draft on the server and get feedback from your class and professor during the class. Make sure to take notes when getting feedback since you might forget some important technological/design element. Manage and plan your time wisely!
After completing all the projects, feel proud! Personally, this graphic design class was significantly rewarding experience. Not only did I learn technological elements of various Adobe programs, but also did I learn design aspect. I am really not great at designing or is skillful at art; however, I have learned that anyone can do graphic design if one has a creativity and passion. You would definitely enjoy your class.
Be warned: This has been one of the most stressful and time-consuming classes I have taken at Newhouse. That said, it is not impossible, but it will definitely not come easy. Here are my 5 biggest takeaways from GRA 217:
1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help: As a public relations major , I felt like I was being thrown out in the middle of nowhere when I started this course. This is the first time doing any type of design work for a majority of the kids in this class, so you are not alone, I promise! One of the worst habits I had early on in the course was being afraid to ask for help. Kick this instinct early on, because it’ll only make your life easier later on. Trust me, though, go to office hours and start asking for help sooner rather than later. The worst thing that could happen is that Professor Strong could tell you something useful about your work.
2. Sketch. And when you don’t want to, sketch some more: I absolutely hate drawing, and I know I’m not the only one. For any design, however, that is not an option. You need to get over that. I think one of the most important parts of any design is a working concept. A design does not have to be extremely complicated to be good as long as there’s a well thought out concept behind it. I found that the best parts of my projects came only after I started playing with different looks on paper. Sketches aren’t supposed to look like a polished digital copy. It’s a rough sketch outline of what you want your design to look like.
3. Give yourself time to deal with disaster: Because it will happen. I’m sorry in advance for the things that may go wrong. The key to avoiding this is giving yourself time to deal any possible mishaps. One of the most painful things about design is that the whole process takes time. From coming up with a concept to executing, the whole thing is incredibly time consuming. Cutting yourself short on any part of the process will hinder your final product, and ultimately your grade.
4. Open yourself up to the experience: This one took me a while. I can assure you, however, that the moment you do this, the whole thing will become more enjoyable. It gets stressful. Relax. Even when it feels like the end of the world, it’s not, I promise. It’s good to try new things. Don’t be discouraged after a bad comment or a critique. Those things are in place to make your work BETTER. The most important thing is to come up with a project that you’re proud of. This alone will make everything worth your time and stress.
5. Pick topic that you’re interested in for projects: I cannot stress this enough. If you choose a topic for a project that you are not interested in or passionate about, you will be absolutely miserable. This is why you should come up with several concepts before you ever start designing anything. Give yourself an idea and some time with that idea to decide if it is something your really want to spend weeks working on.
At the end of the day, there is something to gain from every experience. For me, this class was certainly a journey, and one I am ultimately glad I went through. Don’t be scared, let yourself experience design, and you’ll be fine!
Welcome to the most rewarding class in Newhouse. As a public relations major, I did not expect to enjoy this class or even believe I was creative enough to create work that I was actually proud of. Yes, there are assignments that will feel impossible and you will dread beginning. But once you sit down and organize your thoughts, get working, have an excellent idea; you will be entertained and eager. There are a couple of suggestions I can offer you that will help you succeed in this class and make the journey a lot more enjoyable. Do not be shy or intimidated by Professor Strong. She will critique your work honestly but listen to her remarks and work off of them to improve your designs.
I highly recommend signing up for Professor Strong’s office hours the first chance you have available and you take the initiative to introduce yourself to her at the beginning of your course. She is a tool for your success and creative growth in this class. Do not go to her office hours so you can show her that you are making an effort, her time is precious so ask her questions and for feedback on your work. Your TA is also a very helpful resource because they can assist you as often as you need and answer less complicated questions or clarify assignment requirements. I am so grateful for having the opportunity to email or meet with Professor Strong because she gave me necessary feedback and directed in a more suitable and advanced direction.
I really learned the importance of thinking before doing in this course. I am a person who hates procrastination and wants to start a project early so I can finish it. However, because this is a design class, you must remain patient and let the creative juice fill your mind before you try and start a project. Do not skip brainstorming or sketching different layouts because if you do, the assignment will just take you longer because you will not have a clear and main focus. Try to restrain yourself from starting your projects sitting at a computer in the lab because you will get frustrated when you are unhappy with what you are creating. Wait until you have a great idea, and then reward yourself by taking a seat in the lab and begin designing.
A third lesson I learned from this class is the importance of recognizing your strengths and weaknesses. I am a terrible artist. I cannot draw or illustrate images that are visually appealing and I have accepted that trait about myself. Rather than trying to draw a beautiful design that will take me hours and not even be great, I focused on the things I am good at and proceeded from there. I drew something simple and then advanced my project through other design principles. The illustration on my poster was merely the outline of a wine bottle and I incorporated hierarchy, color and symbolism to establish a certain tone to convey to my audience. Accept your weaknesses and amplify your strengths to balance them out to produce great work.
Additionally, this class is very time consuming. If you cannot get the software on your computer (which I highly highly recommend you do), plan accordingly. Do not force yourself to walk to the lab every night to work on your graphics assignments because it will make you resent the work you have to do. Often times, I would randomly come up with a new design strategy or idea and because I did not have the software on my computer at the time, I would write it down. Make sure you write down your thoughts as they come to you because if not, you will forget it when you sit down to work on your projects. The adobe subscription is only $10 a month and I am grateful that now I have access to so much software because you get very comfortable with Indesign, Photoshop and Illustrator during this course.
Lastly, enjoy the work you are doing. This class is not like an accounting or law course. You have the ability to design whatever you want (within certain boundaries) and get creative with it. Make sure every project reflects a certain passion of yours or yourself in some way, it will keep you engaged and interested in it throughout the entire duration of the assignment. It makes it more fun too!
Professor Strong does not want you to ask her what to do. She wants you to come up with brilliant ideas that meet the assignment requirements and reflect you in some way. One of the most valuable lessons Professor Strong taught our class was that whatever you are designing must create an experience for the audience. I have applied that lesson to every task I encounter. Life is a timeline of events that I want transform into different experiences to keep the journey exciting and journey. Many of the design lessons Professor Strong will teach you are applicable to so much more than just a graphics class, so take advantage of every lesson and push yourself to internalize everything beyond the limitations of the classroom.
When I first started this course, I experienced both waves of excitement and apprehension; I knew that I loved art and design, but I also have a slight fear of technology (a fear that I must face as a Newhouse student in the digital age!) Alas, I soon realized that all the programs are actually pretty easy to figure out (even the daunting Photoshop can ultimately be managed). Design is not just about using the software- it’s largely about the designer’s vision. With that being said, I will take you through the 5 most important lessons that I learned in this class.
1. The most fundamental part of a successful project is a strong concept. The professor will stress this as well; don’t even try to hit the computer before you have a good plan. I must admit that my initial on-the-server rough drafts were often embarrassingly rough, but that’s because I never rushed into properly working on a project without developing and streamlining my concept, and I benefited from this in the long run. So continue to conceptualize and sketch until you have a solid base to work from (but maybe don’t procrastinate quite as much).
2. I learned to train my design eye so that I am sharper when it comes to what works and what doesn’t. This starts with me browsing through well-designed and user-friendly magazines and websites, for example, and noticing what engages me, because I would like my projects to have the same “wow” effect on other people.
3. Other pairs of eyes are also essential, though. Perhaps you are a design prodigy and do not need guidance to produce solid work, but chances are that most students will. A lot of us are beginners in design and we don’t always know what works the best. One of the main goals of design is to make something audience-friendly, so who better to judge its effectiveness than audiences? You should ask your peers and friends about how they engage with your work, but ultimately Professor Strong has the most experience and skill with this (also, she is grading your projects, so her feedback is the best way you can maximize your scores). Design work can be frustrating and difficult, and a fresh pair of eyes might spot a solution for you more easily.
4. Besides all the awesome skills I gained, I also learned to enjoy the process and to put some soul into it. I learned to develop my own voice and my own brand identity. I learned to take risks, such as putting one of my own illustrations on the cover of my personal website design (as a journalism and economics dual major) and it worked. Make sure that your design speaks to your character; this is a good place to shine and to really be satisfied with your end project.
5. And last but not least, design isn’t decoration; there should be nothing ornamental or excessive about design. Design is also inescapable- it is all around us, in a beautiful magazine or a fun website, and even in the chair we sit on and the pen we use. Ultimately, it is fundamental to how we experience this world. The more you think about design in a broader context, and its direct effect on our experiences, the more you will try to consider this in your work and create something that can make people think and feel and dream.
This graphics class has the potential to teach you a ton about yourself, your work ethic and the industry you want to be apart of. Although this can be very challenging, the tips we received before beginning this class (from the classes before us) were very helpful in leading us in the right direction. So here we are giving you all some tips to help you throughout this semester.
1. Go to Office Hours: This is something I couldn’t emphasize more. You’ll see right away the differences of lab and class…office hours are a good time to get a good mix about both. Professor Strong gives very good advice and it would be foolish to not take her advice and to listen to what she has to say.
2. Don’t take anything to heart: One thing I learned right away is that even though you think things look nice, they probably don’t look as good as u think, or at least there is always room for improvement. After you ask the first person and they tell you that nothing is wrong with your project, you will sure ask more and more people. You will soon get one person’s honest opinion and get bad news that your project isn’t as good as you once thought. Don’t take it to heart and just work harder.
3. Make sketches: This is something that I was advised and I found very helpful. Doing a ton of work on an Adobe program takes time and if it takes you many tries to see that you have to start over, you will regret not making sketches and planning ahead.
4. Manage your Time: It may take a project or two to see that you definitely don’t want to wait till the last minute to get working on a project. A lot of projects take a lot of time to think out. Also, you definitely want to seek time to go to office hours so it’s better to a little work whenever you can once you get the assignment given to you. The labs are really helpful in getting work done but definitely dedicate some time outside of labs right off the bat.
5. Practice Makes Perfect: If you are new to these programs, don’t get frustrated! I was very new to Adobe programs and it can get very annoying not knowing what you are doing. Be patient, you will get it. There is enough information online, books, as well as information you’ll get from your professor and TA to get through this class.
Overall this class was incredibly rewarding. Work hard and hopefully you’ll leave happy as well.
I can vividly remember sitting in the library 4 months ago reading posts from previous students about GRA 217. It seems like yesterday, and yet at the same time I feel like I am a completely different student as I sit down to share a couple new bits of information with future designers. So, here we go!
1. Take advantage of prof. Strong! This will be mentioned in just about every blog post by students of Claudia Strong – but that is only because it is the single most important thing you can do to get the best possible experience out of GRA 217. Strong gives direct and helpful feedback that will help your projects become real masterpieces. She always goes out of her way to make time for her students, so take advantage! There will always be those few students (like me) that visit Professor Strong on a weekly (or even daily) basis just to check in on work or even share life’s adventures. I promise you that your grades will be better if you make use of Professor Strong’s office hours, and I also promise you that you will fall in love with her charm and passion for life the more time you spend with her.
2. Start early. The projects you will tackle in Graphics 217 are VERY time consuming. You will need to think, sketch, think more, sketch more, play around on Adobe programs for hours, finalize, revise, etc. etc. etc. There are always ways to improve your work, and Prof. Strong will always push you to explore these ways. Therefore, always start your projects the day or two after they are assigned. When drafts are due, try to have the most possible work done so that Prof. Strong and the class can give you helpful feedback. Finish your projects days in advance so that you can ask for feedback and revise multiple times. The workload is large, but definitely feasible if you take it in chunks, follow deadlines, and work hard to start projects early and stay ahead of the game.
3. Pick project ideas that you are passionate about. You will be spending an insane amount of time working on all the projects you are assigned in GRA 217. This means that you have to pick topics and concepts for your designs that you are passionate about. For example, all of my projects focused on fashion and interior design – two subjects I am extremely passionate about and never get bored of. When you are going back to a project two, three, four times to revise and rework your design, you want a concept or topic that you will not get sick of. Don’t pick topics that you think might be easy or “just because” you couldn’t think of anything better. Pick a topic that you will be okay spending the next month staring at every single day – because you will be! (In a good way, I promise!)
4. Budget time for the rationale. At the end of each project, there is a component that calls for a typed rationale. This allows you to explain your design choices – why you used the typeface, colors, images, layout, etc. that you did. It is easy to forget about this when you are busy trying to finish up a project, but setting aside time for the rationale WILL HELP! Professor Strong actually reads the rationale and actually takes your design justification into account when grading your projects. Not only will she refer to it multiple times when giving you your feedback, but writing out WHY you made the design choices that you did might even help you think through your project and make some last minute improvements.
5. Always Do The Offered Revisions. Unlike many of the other professors, Strong offers a revision for [almost] EVERY PROJECT that you hand in. This means [the first three] projects you turn in are treated like first drafts – IF YOU REVISE THEM! Professor Strong spends so much time creating feedback videos for all of us on every project, and the least we can do is spend a couple extra hours revising them. Your grade will improve, you will feel more accomplished, and your portfolio will be enhanced. There is no excuse to not turn in revised versions of your projects – you always have ample time to do so and you will have direct feedback and helpful tips from Strong to bring the projects from low to high grades. So trust me, revise.
My last piece of advice is to enjoy yourself. These blog posts might be a bit intimidating, but they are only aimed to help you succeed. If you put in the time and effort you should, you will do well in this class. Strong rewards students who are eager to learn and participate in class – so show up and let your voice be heard! Good luck!
Dear Future Professor Strong Students,
You are about to embark on a journey. Graphic Design class is the class your taking this semester that will consume your life. Whether your crunching numbers in your stat class, or reading a book in your ETS class, graphic design will be on your mind. It’s not necessarily the work you have or your own current projects on your mind. You’ll soon find out that graphic design is everywhere and apart of your everyday life. This class will simply open up a new door to the way you read street signs, advertisements, and menu’s (etc.) and you will learn skills that will help you in the future. Here are a few tips to succeed:
1. Prioritize: In graphics you’ll often be dealing with 2 projects at a time. It’s important to set times and your mind on one project at a time and not stress yourself out over deadlines. Set aside time to work on one project and then work on your other project the next day. Figure out what works best for you, just understand you need to prioritize your work so that you don’t become flustered dealing with too many things at once.
2. Relax! God oh god, relax. I can guarantee you say to yourself “I hate this class” multiple times throughout the semester and it has nothing to do with the wonderful Professor Strong! Graphic design is just a lengthy, never-ending process. The best thing about our class was that the nights before a deadline I would be in the Newhouse labs with a few other students, everyone in the same boat, when you realize that it’s just your draft due. Claudia lets you submit your project and then edit it after. Don’t stress out about creating the perfect project for your first draft. It takes a submission and feedback from the professor in order to create that great final project. Do your best for the first submission, and take advantage of the time you get to edit your projects….
3. Edit: There is literally nothing more important to do in graphic design than edit. There is no project that you’ll ever look at and say “There is literally nothing else I can fix.” It comes down to what you like the best after exploring as many options as you can. The time you put into your projects will be worth the result. Late nights in the Newhouse labs are also quite peaceful. Throw your headphones on and move everything around 500 times until it feels right.
4. Get help! The majority of your class ALSO has no idea what they’re doing. Your not the only one who thinks to themselves “how the hell am I supposed to make a website?” (but about every project). The best way to conquer your projects is to get help. Professor Strong and your TA are more than happy to help you. Our TA Cori was available at all hours to take a question or take a look at your project and give you ideas to make it better. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. I promise you that getting people with graphic design skills to look at your project will ONLY HELP. All of you should get help as much as possible and never think that you’re on your own. Getting help relieves your stresses over your project because you’ll get ideas on how to change your project when your at a standstill. Friends can also help boost your confidence though they’ll probably tell you anything you show them is good because any graphic design is impressive. Any eyes on your project help, but the best help will come from graphic design teachers and professionals.
5. Enjoy it! Graphic design is a crazy roller coaster with flips, corkscrews and gut-wrenching drops…and during the ride you may be a little scared and wanna get off, but in the end, you’ll look back at it and enjoy the ride you took and be more than happy you took it. I’ve learned so much about graphic design this semester and have realized how important it is in life. Having the capability to create anything for anyone or any company using graphic design is a HUGE skill this day in age. Some big name companies hire people just to do graphic design. Your going to leave Newhouse with the skills you learn from your major, in addition to proficiency in graphic design which will definitely appeal to your boss and look pretty sexy on your resume. I love that I have graphic design capabilities and I’m very confident I can get a graphic design task done and do it well for anyone here on out. I was embarrassed of my work when I started the class and would hope Claudia didn’t put mine up in front of the whole class, where at the end I really hoped she did so that I can hold my chest high to my classmates.
6. Don’t take criticism personally! In the beginning, you want to be criticized to improve your project, but once you think you’ve submitted LEGIT work, don’t get offended when your told it’s not perfect. (DISCLAIMER: this was something I wish I understood better). You’re going to spend a ridiculous amount of time doing your projects, and someone will tell you they don’t like it. Not everyone is going to like every graphic design idea you have. Anyone who tells you they don’t like something is challenging you to get back in the lab and make it better. There’s always something you can make better. Instead of sulking because someone didn’t like your project, use it as fuel to spend a few more hours in the lab to prove you are indeed capable of making your project better. Professor Strong didn’t tell me she liked any one draft I submitted all semester, and that is why I believe I learned so much and finished so well in this class. My projects came out 20 times better after I was told it wasn’t good enough. Don’t be stubborn about your work but be passionate. There is no perfect design, there is no right answer. Put the time in and creativity will come. Be passionate about your work and be proud of it. After you’ve got the help, the hours editing, and you’ve thrown your project onto the drive, take a step back and admire your work. YOU JUST DID THAT! It’s not easy to do, but you will be able to do it. You’ll surprise yourself on what you’re capable of and you will open up new sectors of creativity your brain hasn’t yet explored.
Enjoy the semester and don’t stress out. Everything always works out and you’ll end the semester just as happy as I am. Good Luck!
1. It’s a process. There is a science to good graphic design. It does’t just look good. As counter-intuitive as it may seem at first, there are rules and principals that contribute to what works and restrictions to what doesn’t. This applies even when working with something as subjective as art. Of course, there are exceptions but those usually work out for experienced designers. I would recommend, at first, to follow the directions given in class and only deviate when you really start understanding the concept of design.
2. Attention to detail. Be wary, Professor Strong doesn’t grade easy. Little mistakes could cause big marks. Work to your margins, spell check, be consistent, have others look over it, check for grammar errors, and spell check again. As meticulous as it may sound, attention to detail is key to doing well in this class.
3. Communicating effectively. As mentioned earlier, graphic design isn’t just about something looking good. It’s also about sending a message. Your design should have a concept behind it that sets the tone and feel of your entire project. All of this is part of communicating effectively. Your selection of font, color, hierarchy of text, and al the small details around it play into delivering a clear, sound message.
4. Start early. These projects could take a while and starting the night before its due is not a good idea. There is a creative process before starting that also takes a lot of time and staring at a computer monitor for too long could cloud your sense of taste. You also want to give yourself time to think of good ideas to add to your project and check for missteps within your work. Think things through, don’t rush, share your design with friends and see what they think and make sure they’re honest.
There were a few times you may not even know where to start. You may not be confident in how to use Indesign/Illustrator/Photoshop. Your concept isn’t all the way there, and the excuses keep piling on. Start anyway. Work during other lab times, sketch, look at good examples for inspiration, go to office hours. Do something! Just find a way to learn and get it done right.
5. Ask for help. From what I can see, unless you have a serious background in graphic design, there is no easy way around this class. You have been warned. Fortunately, there are plenty of resources to help you succeed. Professor Strong gladly makes herself available to her students and is usually very constructive with her critiques. She takes the learning process very seriously and would appreciate your effort (though effort alone won’t get you a good grade). Sign up early because spots could fill up quick! If they do, don’t fret. Your I.A. should still be there to help.
I would also recommend to be nice to your peers. Throughout the semester, you may meet in the labs while working on your projects and they could provide helpful feedback and advice.
6. Bonus Tip: Keep grindin’. Don’t get too discouraged because there is a good chance, at one point or another, you will get discouraged. There were a few times over the course of the semester where students would get dispirited because they were’t given the critique or grade they wanted. It happens. I’ll admit, it’s not easy getting your work picked apart after working hard on it, but don’t let that deter you from trying your best. Usually when students got discouraged, they stopped working as hard, it showed, and their work suffered. Pace yourself, try not to take it personally, and use those tough critiques as fuel to improve and do better.
p.s. Beware the Gremlin!
There is no easy way to approach this class. No amount of prepping can, well, prep you for what’s to come in the next semester. You just have to hit the ground running.
I have learned so many things, not just about design, but about myself and my industry and about deadlines. And I want to teach YOU, Claudia’s next class, about what I learned to try and get you ready for what you signed up for.
1. Your friends are your worst (and best) critics. When you’re working on a design project, it’s always great to get critiques from friends and family. Don’t just rely on yourself because after staring at the same page for hours on end will not help you submit a better looking product. The more feedback you can get, especially from peers in your class (they also know what Claudia likes and doesn’t like!!), the more revisions you can make and the better your product will be.
2. Open your eyes. Design is literally all around you. Everything that we look at, everything that we come in contact with went through some sort of design process. So if you’re stuck on a project, Google ideas, walk around the mall, browse a magazine. Make a list of things that you like so that you can possibly incorporate some of them into your project. Another source of inspiration is your fellows students’ work. They might be using something that you like and then you could apply it to your own project.
3. Ask (and you probably will receive). There is no shame for asking for help. And who better to ask than your lab TA’s, your class TA and especially your professor? Sign up for at least one set of office hours per project you are given. You need to make sure that Claudia sees a version of your project. This will help in the long run: you won’t have to do as many revisions in the end. She also recommends design ideas that you might have never have thought of.
4. REVISE. There are always ways to make your project better, even if you think there aren’t. You should save multiple versions of the same project and have variations of it too. You never know: if you like one version but want to incorporate something from another version. Keep every version that you work on so that you can go back if you need to.
5. Don’t be scared. When I first started this class, I was terrified that I would not be able to do any of the projects in the class. But I put my fear aside and started crunching out great work that I was very proud of. It’s okay to be scared, but turn in into innovation.
The five most important things that I have learned in graphic design during this course:
1. Design doesn’t mean understanding a software program, but being comfortable working with the programs is extremely helpful. You can be an extremely creative designer and have great ideas and sketches, but one of the struggles that you will ultimately face is in turning those ideas into reality when working with InDesign and Photoshop. Go to your lab and listen to your instructor, practice as often as you can, and take the time to be committed to learning the tools. It will limit you as a designer if you neglect to pay attention to the software tutorials, and you won’t be able to express yourself as fully as someone who is really knowledgeable in these programs.
2. SKETCH! Even if you’re just drawing in the margins of your notebook during class, be sure to make multiple sketches for every aspect of every project that you do. Just having a few different concepts will make your designs much stronger, because it will encourage you to look for ideas outside of what comes to your brain first. Even if you sketch something that you think you like, try it with different angles, or shading, or sizing. You never know what you could discover, and it’s a lot easier to explore your designs on paper than in the software program.
3. Don’t be afraid to ditch a design if it isn’t working. I found that a lot of the times I would get stuck on one idea and try a million different ways to make it work, even when I could tell that something wasn’t working. Instead of sinking even more time into a mediocre design, don’t be afraid to give it up if it’s just not going the way you want. Even though you spent time on it, the rest of your time is better spent working with something that has potential rather than trying to save something that isn’t going to be a good end product.
4. Pay attention to design principles and use them. We learn the principles in class for a reason, and they’re a really easy way to make sure that you have a strong, clean design. If you’re getting stuck, just go back to what we learned in class and try to simplify what you have to only fit within the principles. I often did this and found that I ended up liking a simplified version of my designs that stuck to the principles so much better than whatever wacky idea I came up with myself.
5. I know it sounds cliche, but HAVE FUN! Your best designs will come from the projects that you’re passionate about and the ones where you actually enjoy the design process. Even if things aren’t coming together perfectly, just try to enjoy the process and be proud of what you create. I found that when I could relax and stop thinking about the projects as assignments that I had to finish by a certain deadline, the process was a lot easier and more enjoyable. For many of you, this is the only design class that you’ll take in college, so take advantage of the time to play!
1. Utilize in class critiques. Submit your draft a day before so that your project will be one of the first viewed in class. Constructive criticism from Professor Strong and your peers will be one of the most helpful things to better your project. DON’T BE AFRAID! When people give you advice on your design, they are only trying to help you. Take it with a grain of salt. Be open to suggestions, I promise it will better your final product!
2. Attend office hours. Office hours. Office hours. Office hours. Stay on top of them, because they fill up FAST. If you’re having trouble or you’re stuck, see Professor Strong. She doesn’t bite and she’s very helpful and she definitely knows what she’s talking about. If you finished a draft, GO TO OFFICE HOURS. Trust me, you can never go to office hours too much. No question is a stupid question. If you feel like design is “not your thing,” HAVE NO FEAR, that was me too. With Professor Strong’s help, I ‘d say I made some cool designs this year. Remember you’ll want to revise, revise, revise.
3. Time-management. Start working on your project immediately! Since not many students know all the Adobe Suite programs, most of lab is spent learning them. You may think some parts of the project will be easy, but they take far more time than you’ll assume, especially if you don’t know the programs well.
4. Sleep on your design. You will get frustrated and want to quit. When you feel upset or angry, it’s time to sleep on your design. LEAVE LAB. Take a hot shower and watch some netflix. Go back to your design the next day or day after with fresh eyes.
5. Take notes in lab. I urge you to attend lab EVERY WEEK, even though there is a make up lab. Take notes in lab! You will forget what you learned when you get back on the program, if it’s your first time working on it. Take advantage of tutorials and youtube. Go to the help lab every sunday to work on your project, there’s a TA in there to help. I also urge you to go to labs that are not at your assigned time in addition to your original lab. Your TA has 5 other sections, just ask them what times. It’s much easier working on a project when your TA is there to answer simple technical problems that could have you stuck for a while.
Go To Office Hours. I am not an “office hours” kind of student. I honestly hardly ever go, if at all, but in this class it is necessary. This class is project based (four projects that will consume more of your time then you ever thought they would), so it is especially important to go to office hours. You get one on one time with the professor and get really good feedback on what you can do to improve your project. The professor is the one grading the end results, so why not get her opinion beforehand? It will only save you headaches and heartaches.
Hierarchy, hierarchy, hierarchy! Before this class, I went on my merry way seeing a poster here and there, but honestly not paying much attention to it. Now I see one and I study what is the most important element? Where did my eye go first? Why did my eye go there first? All of these are question that you will ask yourself during every project. Oh! And you have to be prepared to defend it. Why did you put it there? “Just cause”, isn’t going to work, there is reason behind it. Hierarchy is everything when it comes to designing something.
Do your projects on topics you care about. A lot of late nights will be spent on this class, no matter how well you plan ahead and start early. The only way to make it manageable is if your projects are important to you. If you do them on things that you like they will be easier to complete, time in the labs will go faster, and you will be able to defend the decisions that you made. Plus, it will make the final result that much sweeter cause you’re proud of what you have produced.
Get indesign for the last project. I didn’t have a Mac, but all was not lost. You can get the Adobe products for free on your computer with a limited trial. If you end up in the case where you can only get this program once, wait for the last project. For one, this project is over Thanksgiving break so you can do some work at home. If you use up the trial period before hand, you will be tied to the Newhouse labs. Two: the last project is due during the end of the semester when everyone in Newhouse is trying to complete their final projects. It will be near impossible to find a free computer to work on. And three: it is also during your finals time. If you save the trial untill the end you can stay in your dorm/apartment and work from there in your free time, and you can also concentrate on your other classes that you have to study for. Plus you won’t have to trudge out in the cold to get to a Newhouse lab so you can stay in your cozy bed, with your fuzzy socks on and work from there.
Your project will change from the rough draft, be willing to change it. I’m not the creative type. I’m actually not creative at all and that makes the creative class hard, but taking critiques and learning from it only makes you better. Your final product will almost look nothing like your original (that comes from office hours when the professor tells you to change almost everything), but in the end your project will turn out so much better. Accept peoples critiques and be willing to move/change/alter/rearrange all of the elements on your project.