Hi everyone … Here’s some advice, encouragement and a few warnings from my Fall 2015 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 in the middle and at the end, too. I suggest you grab a cup of coffee, get comfortable and go for it. My advice about the following advice? Take heed.
- In order to do well in graphic design projects, you need to think like a graphic designer. This may sound obvious, but a person would normally not consider margins when looking at anything with graphics on it. Don’t just look at something and think “this looks good.” Instead, think about WHY does it look good. Is it the kerning, leading, color usage? After this class, you won’t be able to look at a simple tee shirt without being bothered by the tee shirt designer’s lack of margin use.
- Kerning and leading are so important. I made this mistake and learned the hard way so I’m telling you now: when you have a group of text with varying text sizing, the leading and kerning change with it. You need to manually set the leading and kerning and make it all equal because otherwise the spacing will look terrible.
- Pay attention in class to other students’ critiques. Even if it s not your work being critiqued, their mistakes are probably your mistakes as well.
- Go to office hours. Professor Strong is one of the nicest and most helpful professors and will meet with you as much as you need for extra help and advice. I was at her office so much for project guidance that I should have just pitched a tent outside of it. She really knows what she is talking about so take her advice into consideration as well.
- With effort comes reward. Challenge yourself and go the extra mile. You will be so happy with what you can accomplish in this class as long as you pay attention and try your best. I could not believe how far I came in a few short months. The skills you learn in this class will carry on with you for the rest of your life.
- Having a keen eye to detail is the key to success. One of the first lessons I learned in GRA 217 is that I must pay attention to detail. If there is one mistake on a design, it could ruin the entire piece. Making sure that every piece on a design has a correct place and purpose ensures the quality of the design. This goes back to what we learned that simple is success. Making sure designs are simple means that they look fresh, clean, modern and visually appealing.
- Every element in a design must have a purpose. Before I began this class, I would put random objects into my designs. These unnecessary items made my work cluttered and distracting. I did not realize that these random elements took away from my overall message. Through this course, I learned that every element in a design must serve a purpose; otherwise, it does not belong. Elements can include anything, such as wording, images, colors and placement of objects.
- Planning and starting any design early is a must. Normally, I like to leave my work until the last minute to complete it. However, when I began this class, Professor Strong constantly emphasized that you cannot create a crafted design overnight. Because we had to submit drafts for each assignment, it required me to begin my work early. I quickly learned that the revisions after each assignment made my work 100 times better. Also, it would have been too difficult to pay that much attention to detail if I had done the assignments last minute. As a result, I learned time-management skills and how great graphic designs are created and edited through many different steps.
- The strategic use of typography is so important. I learned that typography is very important in graphic design because type reflects how people feel or react towards a document. For instance, if a hard-to-read or ugly font is used on a beautiful illustration, the whole illustration will likely be outspoken by the disliked typeface. As a result, the selection of a typeface, its size, color and amount the type is used has to serve a purpose.
- A great design creates an experience and could have so much impact. Before this class, I never realized or paid much attention to all of the graphics that daily surround me. Whether designs consist of posters, advertisements or branding, I never realized the importance of how the design was shown. I learned that the way something is presented impacts the response. Designs can create awareness, help a cause or promote an event. As a result, graphic designers have a sense of responsibility that they must successfully design something that represents a specific message.
Well it definitely has been a crazy semester. It’s hard to believe that 15 short weeks ago, I knew absolutely nothing about leading, typeface, grids, or anything else involving design. Now, after many long nights in the lab, multiple frustrated run-ins with InDesign, and more than one or two near-mental breakdowns, I can confidently say I know how to design. Here are my 5 tips to surviving graphics:
- Get ahead and give yourself time: Good design takes time, and a lot of it. Even if your design seems simple, it may take more time than you expect to actually execute the idea. On top of that, it takes time to revise and reformat before you come up with the final product. The worst thing you can do for yourself is wait until the day before the draft or assignment is due to start the project. If you can, start as soon as possible. Even if it’s just sketching or coming up with an idea, it’s better than nothing! On top of that, make sure you allot enough time for yourself to get everything done. You’ll be thanking yourself when you’re sleeping soundly in your bed while your classmates are getting kicked out of the lab at midnight the night before the due date.
- Don’t get too attached to your first idea: I know the feeling. When Professor Strong announces “okay you’re next assignment is to design a poster” and you immediately come up with the best idea for the best poster ever and there’s no way any other poster idea could be better. I hate to break it to you, but most times, your first idea is not your best. Concept is everything in design, so the more you think about the concept, the better the design will be. It’s great that you came up with something so quickly! But where can you take it from there? And how can you alter it to make it even better?
- Contrast, contrast, contrast: When you’re looking at your design and something just doesn’t seem right, most times, you just need to add contrast. Contrast creates visual interest and can make your design way more dynamic. A lot of the time you can get caught up in alignment and typefaces and content, and contrast gets pushed to the side. If you’re looking at your design and it feels like something is wrong, figure out how you can add contrast. 9/10 that’s exactly what your design needs to take it to the next level.
- Office hours are your best friend: Professor Strong is one of the most valuable resources in this class. If there is something wrong with your design, she’ll not only be able to pick it out, but also provide you with new solutions. If you think your design is perfect, she’ll show you new techniques and tricks to help elevate your design and make it even better. If you just want to talk and look at some cool designs, she’s a great person to talk to and her office is filled with awesome designs from past classes. I highly recommend scheduling office hours with her at least once for each assignment. Whether you chat for 15 minutes and actually discuss the assignment for 5 or vice versa, it will really help you in the long run.
- Make it fun: After reading this review and hearing what others have said about graphics, you’re probably thinking “what did I get myself into?” But don’t fret! I won’t lie, it’s definitely tough, but if you choose topics you enjoy and have fun with it, the long hours in the lab will fly by. Even after all the stressful nights, graphics is one of the most rewarding classes I’ve ever taken. So, when you’re feeling stressed out or hopeless, take a deep breath, get some coffee, and keep pushing!
I walked into GRA 217 kind of frustrated that this was a requirement and very worried about what was about to happen this upcoming semester. However, I was mistaken. This was the most rewarding class I have ever taken and it was even better taking it with Professor Strong. She is so passionate, caring, and an overall the best teacher to learn graphic design from. She eats, breaths, sleeps graphic design. Although she will tell you the honest truth that sometimes hurts, trust me, it is definitely for the better. Here are some things I have learned during my semester in this class.
- Definitely get the free Creative Cloud. It was so great to have and I could work in my apartment on my computer rather than the dirty Newhouse lab computers.
- Sign up for as many office hours as possible. These hours Professor Strong offers are worth the time and you learn so much more about design and how you should approach your project. I would always walk out feeling a little bit more confident in my work and also with fresh ideas offered by her.
- Never get stuck on an idea. If something isn’t working be O.K. with just scrapping it. Dropping it will be better in the long run and if you don’t have passion for what you’re creating, it will not come through and show on your projects.
- Practice your skills as much as you can. After this semester I am happy to say I know parts of the Adobe Creative Suite and have now applied InDesign on projects outside of this class.
- Find a typeface you love! After finding the typeface Avenir my life changed. I used it in almost every project and it had so many different weights so it was a perfect typeface to play with.
Graphics was challenging but it was so worth it!
When I saw Graphics as one of the classes I had to take for my Public Relations major my first thought was “Why Graphics? What does this have to do with Public Relations?” Now, 15 weeks later, after having completed this class it is evident to me that having knowledge on graphic design is imperative for mostly any Newhouse major. There are many tips I would give to you as a new student about to embark on your journey through GRA 217 but here is a list of what I think are the top 5 most important:
- Go to office hours. I repeat go to office hours. I went at least once for every project. Professor Strong loves helping her students and dedicates so many hours for individual help so take advantage of it. The one-on-one help really allowed me to learn a lot about each of my projects before submitting the final version of them. She was willing to help and look at anything students had questions on during her scheduled office hours. Make sure to book office hours in advanced as they book up super quickly especially as the semester comes to an end.
- Make revisions on all of the projects. Professor Strong requires revisions to be done on the resume but revisions for the poster and website are optional. Take advantage of the advice she gives you and revise those two projects. My grade went up a significant amount when I did that. Unfortunately for the last project, the magazine, no revisions are allowed since it is due the last day of class. So, for this project make sure you get a time during office hours to meet with Professor Strong to get her feedback since getting feedback after you submit it is too late because you will already be home for break by the time you get your grade back.
- Take breaks. Cramming an entire project into 6 hours isn’t the answer in this class. I found it most helpful when I worked on projects during my 80-minute lab then the next day did a little more work and each day continued with an hour or so of work on the project until I thought it was completed to the best of my ability. Break it up so you can come and look at your work each day with fresh eyes.
- Go to the extra lab. My lab was Monday nights but I often found myself also going to other labs as well because the TA’s were so helpful. I would almost always go to the Tuesday 8-9:30pm lab, which was the makeup lab, as an extra time slot to get some work done. I had the software on my own computer too but it was much more helpful to be in the lab and see it on the bigger screen not my tiny laptop screen.
- Manage your time. Time management is huge in a class like this where the majority of your grade is the four projects you create. Saving a project for the day before isn’t going to get you the grade you want. The day you get the project sheet you should start sketching and brainstorming ideas for the project (resume, poster, website, magazine) so that the day that you have your next lab you can start right away and not waste half of your lab sitting thinking of a creative idea.
Wow. Where has the time gone? I feel like it is the end of freshman year and I am waiting to hear back from Newhouse if I got off the waitlist for my GRA 218 lab. Man oh man, time flies! GRA 217 has by far been one of the most challenging courses I have taken thus far. As a PR major coming into graphics I never really considered all the benefits it would help provide me with. I genuinely can say that this class has changed my life. I used to send companies a boring and dreary resume, which almost always they would give me feedback on. Now, my resume has made those same executives go “OMG” and they are so impressed with the changes I made. Getting this type of feedback from an executive is so important because now I am considered a serious candidate. It has changed the way employees view my brand and me and for that I am forever grateful.
Now for the fun stuff, here are my top 5 things that you need to know:
- Download Adobe Creative Cloud Free Trial like now. No, seriously, like right now. What sounds better to you: schlepping to Newhouse at 9PM to finish that project or sitting in bed in your PJ’s sipping on Starbucks doing your project. Creative Cloud is by far the best thing to happen to any GRA 217 student’s life. You get a free trial of all the programs we use in class for 30 days. It is seriously a life saver.
- GO TO OFFICE HOURS. Yes, you have been told this since you were enrolled at ‘Cuse but actually do it. Getting one-on-one time with professor Strong is so important for not only your learning experience but also for the success of your project. Don’t be afraid to send her pictures of your work in progress as well. Always better to get as much feedback as possible.
- Don’t procrastinate. Yes, we all do it but seriously don’t in this class. It will come back to haunt you. Graphics is something that takes time, effort and patience. I could show you my first draft and then my last and I can probably guarantee you would assume they were done by different people and completely different projects. Accept defeat at times and listen to your peers, trust me their advice is a lot more important than you may think or want to admit.
- Don’t get discouraged. If your anything like me, your probably coming into this class with little to no experience using programs like InDesign or Photoshop. Don’t worry. There are so many other people in this class who don’t know them either. Take the time one weekend to teach yourself the basics of each. A little time for that will genuinely go a really long way.
- Finally, do the projects on things that interest you. People can really tell when you give something your all. It’s worth it. Plus, it makes designing it a little bit more fun too. Choose things your passionate about and maybe wouldn’t usually get to work with. Have fun with it.
Well, I guess that’s it for me. I’m starting to feel like a washed up sophomore (is that a thing?). Oh wait: one last piece of advice. Make everything count. Don’t just half-ass these projects—you will feel the pain if you do. Really try and commit to putting in 100% effort on everything. I know it is easier said than done but it makes a huge difference. Lastly, enjoy Professor Strong. She is truly one of the best and smartest professors I have had. Take advantage of the fact that you have a teacher who really wants you to succeed and only is giving you tough love because she wants the best for you.
Okay, well that’s all for now. Have a great semester and I wish you nothing but the best!
Back in early September when I first walked into Professor Strong’s class, I was excited, anxious, overwhelmed, and intrigued. I was delving into an art that I had absolutely no experience in: graphic design. In all honesty, this scared me at first. How was I supposed to learn InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop all while producing top-notch designs? Right now, you’re probably thinking the same thought. However, through my own persistence and creativity, along with all of Professor Strong’s helpful knowledge, I MADE IT. And I think I became a pretty decent graphic designer. And so will you, I promise. Here are the five most important things I learned about GRA 217 with Professor Strong and graphic design in general.
- Remain calm. Trust me, I know this class can be overwhelming, especially if you have no graphics experience. However, it’s silly and time-consuming to freak out because you’re having trouble with InDesign, or you can’t seem to find inspiration. Everything will be fine, and if you keep your cool, you will enjoy the creative process more, which altogether leads to a more successful end product.
- Do not procrastinate. Seriously. You’ve probably been told this for years, but it’s so important in this class. If you’re like me, you’re probably experiencing the sophomore slump, which means pretending an assignment doesn’t exist until the night before it’s due. That’s what I did with my first graphics project (my apologies, Professor Strong). Huge mistake. This is not a class for the procrastinators out there. In graphic design, I learned that you have to let the creative process guide you. It can be a lengthy process, which is why it’s important to start brainstorming early. Some of the greatest ideas for your designs will come to you when you aren’t even trying. You will constantly be improving your projects, so the earlier you start, the better your final submission will be.
- Ask for feedback.Whether it’s Professor Strong, your mom, or your graphics squad (shout out to Sydney and Hanna), you will be thankful that you asked for opinions other than your own. You may realize your “brilliant” idea actually isn’t so brilliant after talking it over with someone. Or, they may suggest an idea that you had never considered. This leads me to my next piece of advice: go to office hours! And, sign up early because they fill up quick. Professor Strong is hands down one of the greatest professors I’ve had here at Syracuse. She’s so creative, smart, and helpful — you can tell she genuinely cares about the success of her students. She recognizes that we all have design potential, and encourages us to push our creative limits. At first, this frustrated me. Who am I, Milton Glaser? Now, I know if Professor Strong hadn’t been so persistent, I wouldn’t have learned nearly as much. Thank you, Professor Strong!!
- Pick projects that you’re interested in.It will make the creative process so much more enjoyable. If you like fashion, make a poster for a fashion event. If you hate sports, don’t make a sports magazine. You will literally be dreading the mere thought of it, which will probably lead to a poor product. This class gives you the opportunity to really get in touch with your creativity, so go for it!
- GRA 217 is so much more than a required course.It was an incredible learning experience, and looking back, probably my favorite class of the semester. I got to explore an art I had never considered relevant to my magazine journalism major. Now, I can add, “proficient in the Adobe Creative Suite” to my résumé. It is a valuable skill that will give me an edge over other job applicants. It’s so fun and rewarding to create a complex design of your own.
Well, I think that’s it. You should really take this advice to heart, as well as the advice of my classmates. We all went through the graphic design journey you’re about to embark on this semester. Good luck, and remember, have fun!
Let me start off by saying that, before this class, I had never used Adobe software. I didn’t use it in high school, like half of my classmates had. I didn’t use it in any classes I previously took in Newhouse or at ‘Cuse. These programs were foreign to me, and I had no idea how they worked. That being said, I still succeeded in this class. I was able to teach myself and learn from my peers, and after a rough beginning of the semester when I lacked confidence in my ability to keep up with my classmates in this class, I eventually learned how to use the programs and I turned my good ideas into even better projects. My first piece of advice would be to not worry too much about not having prior experience with the Adobe programs. Here’s some more advice that will be helpful for the rest of your semester.
- Download the Adobe Creative Cloud. This is possibly one of the best pieces of advice I can offer. My feelings toward this class would be quite different if I had to spend hours and hours in the Newhouse computer labs working on projects as opposed to working on them in the comfort of my own bed, or quad, or Bird. There is an option for a free trial, but if you want to go all out and purchase the software for your laptop for a year, that’s a good option, too. It is SO worth it, especially when you’re working on projects last minute (which will inevitably happen, no matter how many times you say you won’t procrastinate).
- Take the advice you’re given. Don’t be stubborn, and don’t be sensitive toward the advice you’re given. In class critiques can be intimidating, and it may be hard to listen as people criticize (and, sometimes, crush) the project you’ve been working so hard on. You might feel embarrassed if the class doesn’t like your ideas, but just remember that five minutes later no one will remember that you disproportionally sized an image or stretched the text. It’s important to listen to your peers’ opinions because sometimes they see things you just didn’t see at first. Also, ALWAYS listen to Prof. Strong’s ideas. She obviously knows better than anyone.
- Don’t get attached to your first idea. Your first draft will most likely look NOTHING AT ALL like your final draft. Or, at least, that’s how it should be. As you work on a project you will get inspired with new ideas, and those ideas may be completely different from your original ideas. You may even change the topic of your project mid way through, I’ve done it twice. Let it happen. Don’t get attached to an idea that just might not work.
- Do NOT wait until the last minute. Just don’t do it. 10/10 would not recommend.
- It’s OK to not talk in class. I never talked in class. I sat in one of the last rows and I stayed quiet all lecture, every lecture. For me, listening to my classmates’ chat back and forth and bounce ideas around was more helpful than participating in the conversation. I’m not afraid to admit that a majority of my classmates had better ideas than I had, and they were also better designers than I am. I did not have to talk and share my opinions in class in order to succeed, but going to class is very important. If you like to participate, this class will be great for you. If you’re more like me and you prefer to just observe from a distance, this class will also be great for you. Even if you’re a more reserved student, however, sign up for at least one office hour session with Prof. Strong and have a conversation with her. Let her get to know you as more than just that quiet student who sits far in the back.
As the semester comes to a close, I have begun to reflect on some of the many lessons I learned in Graphic Design. One of the most challenging courses for me this semester, graphic design pushed me way out of my comfort zone. As a newspaper major, walking into class I was annoyed that I had to take this class, thinking that I was not a graphic design major and thus didn’t need graphic design. Now looking back, I have found graphic design more applicable to my life than ever and have learned some valuable lessons for the rest of my time at Newhouse. Here are the top 5 lessons I learned this semester:
- Go to Professor Strong’s office hours!!!! I remember reading this piece of advice from the previous year’s students, and never realized how helpful this advice would be. Professor Strong really helps you with drafts and gives you a ton of options to edit and redo your work. She is very blunt, but that doesn’t mean what you have is bad! She really just wants you to push yourself and your work. A lot of my projects would be no where close to what they ended up being if I hadn’t gone to her office hours. She goes way more in depth than in class critiques, so don’t think getting your piece critiqued is enough.
- Concept is, really, everything. I would often jump into a project that I thought sounded cool before thinking about if that concept was really plausible. Spend a couple of minutes. Think about if this idea makes sense, would be relatively easy to execute and would be able to follow all the instructions. I would often get started on a project and realize the concept I had originally thought of it too complicated. Sketch out a couple ideas, browse few a couple of font options, before you do anything too major. Trust me, I have wasted way too many hours starting something before realizing a better font was available.
- Attention to detail. Detail is SO important! Every time professor Strong sent me back some comments and revisions, most of the work and corrections I made were little ones, things that I had missed in the first turn in. Turn in everything after checking over your work multiple times. I learned to go back to the original instructions and make sure I follow all the parameters of the project.
- You will have to redo something at one point. There have been countless on countless times where I work on something for hours on hours, before finally giving up and starting from scratch. However, the second redo always ended up better than the first. Don’t be afraid to completely start over. Something beautiful can come out of that second try.
- Don’t do everything the night before. Start early. Like the second she assigns the project. The projects I waited a little bit to start always ended up less than satisfactory. Give yourself the entire time to sketch out and plan your concept.
My closing thought is to have fun! Every project, I went with ideas that I genuinely liked and enjoyed working on. Over thanksgiving, I would work on my magazine over thanksgiving break, hanging out with my family (note: download the free trail of the applications). I learned a lot from the class, and now can say that I have a pretty extensive knowledge of adobe applications, and graphic design. Though I never would have admitted it in September, I can confidently say now that I am a graphic designer.
Ok, not quite. But it does seem like I’ve come a long way since the beginning of GRA 217. You’ll learn how to use InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop and honestly feel so accomplished when you’re done. Here are 5 things that I learned in this class and helped me out a ton. You’ll see some of these repeated over and over by other people, so hopefully it’ll convince you to take them seriously!
- Your first idea probably isn’t the best one. You may think that your first sketch for your wordmark is amazing, and the best thing you’ve ever thought of, but it probably isn’t. Challenge yourself, keep sketching, and keep brainstorming. Having a lot of planning done will make it so much easier when you actually get on the computer and start designing.
- Get Creative Cloud on your own computer. Don’t spend hours trapped in the dungeons that are the Newhouse labs. Seriously, get yourself a free 30 day trial of Creative Cloud and stagger your downloads of each program so you have the longest amount of time with each one. That does blow by fast, but it is beyond worth it to get the $20/month package after it runs out. You can even cancel before 2 weeks and get a refund, making it two free months.
- Go to office hours. In all honesty, I’ve never been to office hours before this class. But like I said above, your first idea probably isn’t your best one. If you can’t tell yourself the hard truth (or don’t even know your idea isn’t the best), Professor Strong will. She really cares about your success and will help you develop the best project you can!
- Work. Put a lot of effort into this class, it’s worth it. And your grades will really suffer if you don’t. It can get frustrating, it can get hard, but those problems will all work themselves out if you keep at it. That being said, there will be times when you’ll need to step away from the computer. Don’t procrastinate, because getting a head start leaves you the time to break up the project into manageable chunks and not hate yourself or your project when you’re done.
- Love what you’re doing. Your resume and website are both things you can use for years, and your poster and magazine can be about something you love. Choosing projects that you care about will make it so much easier to get it done to the best of your ability, and you’ll probably end up enjoying it a lot more. The things you’re turning out can be valuable pieces of your portfolio or total crap, and that all depends how much you care about what you’re doing. I would opt for the former.
I know so many come into this class scared, but honestly, get excited! There’s no essays or boring textbooks to read. Just put on some music, sit down with some coffee, and design.
- Adobe Creative Cloud. This is by far the most helpful thing that I learned from the past students’ blog post for this class. I was able to download the free trials for InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop right onto my laptop. The only one I winded up paying for was InDesign because I needed to use that program all semester. However, the other trials winded up lasting the perfect amount of time for the duration of the projects that required these programs without me having to pay to extend the use on my laptop. This will save you from having to camp out in Newhouse and live there until your projects are done.
- Do not procrastinate. This is a concept you will learn the hard way as you go on throughout the semester if you do not get it now. While the technicalities of graphic design are very important, it is important to not disregard the importance of the creative process. You may think you have this amazing idea straight off the bat, but you may come to realize you hate it or it simply doesn’t work halfway through the design BUT you don’t have time to change it because you waited until the night before to start the project. ALLOW YOURSELF TIME TO MESS UP OR CHANGE YOUR MIND. It is good to change your design along the way. That means you are being critical and looking for ways to simplify and improve. This wont work unless you give yourself enough time to go through this process. **As soon as Professor Strong assigns the project START THINKING AND START SKETCHING.**
- Office hours, office hours, office hours. Literally you should probably sign up for a time slot now because those things will be filled up before you even have time to blink. Plan ahead for time to schedule a meeting with her. Maybe a project hasn’t been assigned yet, but you know that at some point you will need to meet to discuss your design or issues before submitting it. Book an appointment and remember to actually show up because that one-on-one time is precious for improving your design.
- BACK UP YOUR FILES. Put it on Google drive, put it on dropbox, put it on your external hard drive, put it on your mom’s external hard drive. DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO TO NOT LOSE YOUR FILES. Take this seriously now because you won’t be laughing when InDesign crashes and you lose about 5 hours of work. Hit that save button. Did you hit it? Hit it again.
- HAVE FUN WITH IT. I have never found a class to be more rewarding, frustrating or useful than this one. I had an internship this semester and the first thing they asked me was if I knew how to use InDesign and I said “SURE!” (I had no idea how to use it but thank God I was taking this class because I was about to learn.) You will create amazing work in this class. You will learn new skills you can impress employers with. You will get to be expressive and creative in this class when your other classes suck the fun out of life. Even if you are totally lost and incompetent about graphic design when you start, I PROMISE you will be the exact opposite at the end and you will feel so accomplished. There is a big learning curve but you learn and get better by doing. So dig right in to InDesign and start messing around with it and get comfortable with the tools. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. AND MOST IMPORTANTLY: Professor Strong’s criticism may seem harsh but she knows exactly what she is talking about and tells you these criticisms so that you can become a better designer. She sees potential in everyone and will push you to reach your potential. GOOD LUCK.
Dear New Graphic Design Student,
Some of the projects in this class are difficult. Your grades won’t be as high as you might think. Still, you can always learn from the failures and critiques. Here are some things I’ve learned about graphic design to help you succeed:
- The software can be tricky: Even if you’ve downloaded Creative Cloud onto your laptop, don’t wait until the night before to finish your projects. Don’t underestimate the amount of time it will take for you to execute your project, especially if you’re a beginner. Also, despite all of the software being Adobe, there are major differences between InDesign and Photoshop, and you need to take time to learn them both–it won’t be as easy as you think.
- It’s all about the details: In graphic design, little details matter. This doesn’t mean to add a bunch of meaningless work–it means to refine what you have and think about the little things. Equal spacing, working on a grid and lining everything up are details that matter.
- Sometimes, simpler is better: You don’t have to be an amazing artist and come up with some elaborate plan to do well in graphic design. Simple but effective ideas are better than complex, overdone, crazy ideas. Always try to make the final product look clean.
- Select typefaces carefully: Typefaces can make all the difference when it comes to your design. At the beginning of the course, spend time really looking at all the options and finding ones you love. This will make future projects easier because you will be able to better visualize what you want for the typeface before you even start.
- Think about your audience and brand: For your own résumé and personal website, you need to figure out who you are and what you want to communicate about yourself–you can use this information and design work in real life after class, too. For the poster and magazine, think about the brand and audience and imagine that you are really that brand. Knowing who you are and who the brand is will make your designs personal and tailored to the correct audience.
Have fun! You’ll get so much out of this class.
Surprise! I never thought I would spend more time anywhere on this campus than I do in Bird Library, but this class has proven me wrong. Welcome to the Newhouse 205 lab, your new home! But on a more serious note, the skills that I learned during my time in graphics 217 have been worth every second spent in front of Adobe Suite. Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned:
- Pay attention in lecture, because you don’t know the half of it. I thought that I knew about design before graphics 217, but my mind has been blown by all of the nitty-gritty aspects of design that I never would have considered before. Each of Professor Strong’s lectures introduces you to a new design concept, and while you may think that the information seems basic at times, these principals make such a big difference in the outcome of your projects. You will need to apply every single aspect of design that you learn about at some point, so pay attention.
- Be Patient. There is nothing easy about learning how to use Photoshop for the first time. Nothing. But getting angsty and frustrated over the software won’t teach you how to use it any better, so just give yourself time. Watch the Lynda.com videos that your TA shows you because taking 45 minutes to watch a how-to lesson will take a lot less time than struggling to teach yourself how to use the programs.
- THINK before you download. While the 30 day free trial of Creative Suite was a lifesaver (and granted me some much needed time away from “home” otherwise known as the labs) keep in mind that it only lasts for 30 days. Download the trial during the project that you think will take the most time and effort. For me, it was a huge life saver during the website assignment because I had to learn how to use Photoshop on top of creating the project. It is also helpful to have the programs on your laptop over a break when you will be away from the labs but still have work to do, so plan accordingly.
- Find the balance between simplicity and pushing yourself. This is perhaps what I struggled with the most this semester. I was often stuck on the idea that “pushing myself”, something that Professor Strong will frequently remind you to do, meant creating something elaborate and over the top. Simplicity is so important in design, and you must learn how to push yourself in the design process while still creating simple, organized work. You don’t have to download endless typefaces and clutter your page with hand-designed images to create something that shows you challenged yourself. Finding this balance is possible, and the earlier you realize, the easier your life as a graphics student will be.
- You don’t always have to like everything. You will hear a lot about “enjoying the process” but in reality, these projects are often stressful and difficult. That’s okay. You will struggle in this class and it will be hard. You will spend 8 hours on a project only to step away from it and hate it. Walk away, take a break, and start over again tomorrow. You don’t have to like everything about this class, but accept that and move on. Your best designs are rarely your first ones, and hating a design may actually help you create something better in the end.
So there you have it. While I may not use all of the skills that I learned in graphics outside of the class, I did learn a whole lot about my work ethic, passions, and drive. This class taught me about myself, and that, in my opinion, is the most valuable thing a class can give you. Enjoy!
This semester flew by, and I’m coming out of GRA 217 with four projects under my belt, and many more lessons learned. This class was one of the most challenging I’ve taken in my time at SU, and looking back I am sure spent more time working on assignments for it than any of my other courses this semester. The challenge was so worth it, though. Here are my top five tips on how to get the most out of GRA 217.
- Enter the class with a positive attitude and open mind. Before I started GRA 217, I honestly wasn’t expecting to like this class or do well in it. I am not tech-savvy and in the past was extremely intimidated by all of the buttons on programs like InDesign and Photoshop, and I expected this to hold me back. However, after I was forced to learn how to use the software while working on the first project, I was able to overcome that hurdle and get excited about/have fun with design. Once you get enthusiastic about your projects and about design, everything falls into place. So even if you don’t believe you’re a visual thinker or don’t currently find design interesting, give it a chance and you could surprise yourself.
- Plan ahead. This is not a class where you can start a project the night before and do well or create something that you’re proud of. You’ll learn soon that every project involves many steps: finding inspiration, developing a few concepts and choosing the best one, sketching, learning how to use the software, adjusting your concept so that you’re able to create it within the limits of the software, and revising it over and over again, going to office hours, and revising AGAIN. In order to make time for this lengthy process, it is imperative that you begin brainstorming ideas as soon as the project is introduced. Procrastination is your worst enemy in this class, especially once your InDesign trial ends and you’re forced to plan your time around the Newhouse lab hours.
- Go to office hours and communicate with Professor Strong. Professor Strong will be your best friend in helping your projects reach their maximum potential. She is extremely helpful and gives very specific advice on how to improve your project. Professor Strong is one of the smartest, most helpful professors I’ve had. She is so passionate and genuinely cares about her students’ success — the amount of time she dedicates to her students is truly impressive. If you don’t take advantage of everything you can learn from Professor Strong, you will be missing out on a great opportunity. Be sure to take notes on every suggestion she makes because there will be many. You will learn the most and get the most out of the class proactively schedule meetings with her (her hours fill up very fast) and consider her as much a mentor as a professor.
- You can find inspiration all around you. GRA 217 is the perfect time to open your eyes to the beauty that is all around you. You’ll start to notice details like the pretty labels on soaps in stores, the veins of leaves on the ground, or the elegance of a simple but functional website. All of these things will simmer in your mind for a while but will ultimately be where the ideas for your projects are born from. Especially in the starting phase of a project, looking for inspiration in your daily life, and maybe snapping some photos of it or writing it down, will help your designs stand out as more creative and will give you a plethora of fresh, original ideas.
- Everything should have a reason. If there’s one lesson when it comes to design as a subject that I will remember, it’s this. Every single detail in your projects should have a conscious, intentional decision behind it. From the size of typeface, to the length of an indent, there is no design detail too small to justify. You’ll learn soon, if you don’t know already, that design is as much about function as it is about aesthetics. While planning your design concept for each project, let your sense of purpose and intention guide you.
Best of luck this semester, and don’t forget to have fun with this class too!
I still remember my feeling when I read those blog posts from previous students. Now, it is my turn to write something. I do not want to repeat anything similar to what my classmates said. But what I have learned is very important and useful, because they all come from my personal experience.
- Always make notes when you find one suitable choice of typeface or color. Please write down the name of the typeface or the CMYK number of certain color when you find a suitable one. Because it is too time-consuming when you try every typeface and guess which one is better. When you are doing your project, try to connect with what you have learned from the class such as serif, san serif, old style, etc. Making some notes helps you have a professional sense of graphic design and save your time on the project.
- Idea, idea, idea. Idea is the most important thing for your project. The most difficult thing that you might face in this designing process is coming up with a good idea. Sketching and looking for artistic inspiration online might be a good start. On the other hand, you should always know if your idea is practical. Sometimes, even if you have a very fancy one, you cannot make it with adobe applications unfortunately. So your idea must be conducted within your own ability. Otherwise, you have to change your idea and make it applicable.
- Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity. You should always remember simplicity when you are designing or coming up with an idea. As for graphic design, less is more. If you get the hang of simplicity, you are almost success in this class. Simplicity can be applied to your wordmark, layout, illustration, and the like. So try to think of simplicity when you start your design. A simple and straightforward design idea is the most acceptable one for audience.
- Get familiar with adobe applications as soon as possible. In you lab, you are going to receive a sheet where you should watch all the listed videos online. If you do not know anything about illustrator, Photoshop, and InDesign, please watch those videos and get familiar with those applications as soon as possible. Otherwise, you will feel lost when you open those applications but do not know how to use them. You will learn fast if you follow instructions from the video and practice them at the same time. I was a green hand and knew nothing about them, so I know how difficult it is to make your idea to a real design via those applications.
- Book office hour early. Booking office hour early can be a momentum for your design project because you have to prepare fully and try to have some ideas or sketches for the office hour. If you go to professor Strong’s office hour, you will find how helpful it is. She can provide a lot of suggestions for your design. Since her suggestions are very helpful, many students will book the office hour one week ago, so spots will be booked up quickly. Please make a schedule as early as possible and prepared all the questions and designing ideas for the office hour.
Taking graphic design was a very interesting experience for me, although the process is a little bit suffering. In the end, I have a sense of achievement when I finish all the projects. So I hope you will enjoy this experience like me.
I may not be a Graphic Design major, but I have certainly learned more in this class than in most others I’ve taken at SU. The five most important things I’ve taken away from this course are:
- Be Fearless. Although I do have some design experience, I walked into GRA 217 with uncertainty. My fear of making mistakes and facing the judgment of my peers and Professor Strong was a misconception. By the end of the semester, I felt comfortable receiving critique and loved having my work projected for the class to see…and I’m sure you will too. I wish I had the same confidence walking into the class as I did walking out.
- Concept is Key. It is so important to take the time to plan ahead. A project stemming from a mediocre idea can end up okay, but never great. The projects I struggled most with were those, which I didn’t take the time to develop a fantastic concept. When you receive a project assignment, the first step is to think. Planning and organizing will definitely pay off in the end.
- Take Smart Risks. Listen to what Professor Strong says, learn the “rules” of design, then push the boundaries. Now, I’m not saying to do use uppercase script letters in all your projects, but try to think outside the box and do something you’ve never seen before. It may not work, and that’s okay. Sometimes, your best work may come from just playing with InDesign.
- Book Office Hours….in Advance. Really, I mean months in advance. Even if your project “isn’t where you want it to be” the day of your meeting, Professor Strong can help you. Looking back, I wish I knew this. During the last few weeks of classes, I would constantly check her booking website just praying a slot would open up (it never did). Meet with Professor Strong often, she is easily one of the best professors I’ve ever had and constantly made me question my major.
- Open Your Eyes. Probably the biggest lesson I’ve taken from GRA 217 is to look around me: design is everywhere. I literally have a newfound appreciation for the serifs on a typeface to the use of red in McDonald’s logo. Professor Strong shows you the world through a new and exciting lens. Appreciate the details you will learn and find real-life examples. Ultimately, this class teaches you so much more than design.
I hope you enjoy this class, soon enough it will be your turn to write about the lessons Professor Strong has passed onto you. Love the process!
Welcome to GRA 217! You are about to embark on a great adventure and learn so many things about yourself and the world around you. The road ahead of you will be challenging, but with Professor Strong’s help you’ll be able to accomplish great work that you will really be proud of! Here are some tips to help you along the way.
- Don’t freak out if you don’t know the software. I came into this class not knowing anything about Adobe InDesign or Photoshop. By the end of the semester I was using these programs like a pro! The Lynda videos you watch in lab help a lot. However, I found it most helpful to go to the TA during lab sessions with questions. I also would search tutorials of specific functions online. With each project, using the software gets easier. Really focus on learning the basics in the beginning and then move on to more challenging functions as you go on. Every project assigned is completely doable for a student with no prior experience! If I can do it, so can you!
- Don’t force your creativity. For me, coming up with ideas for layouts was the hardest part of the creative process. Some days I would force myself to sit down and sketch when my mind just wasn’t in a creative place. While it is important to sketch, it is also important to note that creativity can’t be forced. I found my most creative times to be on the weekends when I wasn’t stressed. I would grab a cup of tea, go to a quiet place and sketch. Also, be persistent with your sketching! Sometimes sketching the bad ideas gets them out of your system so that you can move forward to new ideas! I also found that creativity would hit me at odd times, like during class, so I always brought my sketchbook along with me. When you absolutely hit a standstill in your creative process, take a break! Go outside, take a walk and observe the world around you. Design is everywhere, and sometimes inspiration can be found just by observing your environment.
- Make time to meet with Professor Strong. You are so lucky have such a great professor this semester! Not only does Professor Strong really know her stuff, she is also extremely dedicated to the success of her students. She really wants you to do well and makes herself available via office hours for any questions/problems you have. I found it helpful to meet with Professor Strong early on in my creative process. I would go to her with sketches and ideas and she would then help me to expand those ideas. Brainstorming with Professor Strong is really great. Ultimately, all the design decisions you make are up to you, but her input may really help you to see things in a different way or think of an idea that hadn’t crossed your mind before. I also found it helpful to meet with Professor Strong later on in the design process once you have worked on your drafts. She may have InDesign or Photoshop tips that could really enhance your project.
- The more time you dedicate, the better your projects will turn out. This class isn’t a class you can ace by completing a project the night before. Yes, you can design a project in a few hours, but it will by no means be your best work. The more time you put into this course, the more pride you will have for the work you create. Design is a process; a stressful, crazy, beautiful process that requires a lot of time. As soon as a project is assigned, start sketching and finding inspiration in your community. For the poster project, observe posters that you see on your way to class. For the website project, start looking around at different websites and observe their layout. It’s never too early to start thinking of ideas. After sketching comes lab work. I am not going to lie, you will be spending a lot of time in the Newhouse labs this semester. You will design multiple drafts before you get to your final design. It is very important that you save each of your drafts as its own file. That way if you change something but liked it better the way you had it before you have it saved in its own file. Also, know that your first draft is not going to be your final draft. A project goes through many drafts before it reaches its final stage. Knowing this, don’t be discouraged if you aren’t happy with your first draft! It will develop with time.
- Enjoy the process. Yes, you will spend multiple hours in the labs working on your GRA 217 projects. Yes, you may have a few meltdowns during your creative process. Yes, you are going to think that you aren’t capable of living up to the high standard Prof Strong has set for you. But guess what, you are capable of so much more than you know! Stepping back for a second and looking back at this semester I cannot believe the work I have accomplished. I went from not knowing anything about InDesign and design in general to designing a resume, poster, website and magazine layout. Each new project may seem like an impossible task, but you are more than capable of creating great work! At the end of every project assignment, Prof Strong writes “enjoy the process” and that is the last advice I am going to give to you. Design really is a process. You can choose to fight it or you can choose to enjoy it. I really hope you choose to embrace it. If you choose to embrace design you will leave this class with a new perspective on the world and a new way to communicate your thoughts and feelings with those around you.
- Software is your friend… even if it isn’t. For those who aren’t used to working in InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator, etc. it is not easy at first. Take time to become familiar with the different functions and capabilities of each program and explore the space a bit. If you get stuck with a software issue or you want to do something within a program and don’t know how, the TA’s are great resources (and when in doubt there is always the internet).
- Pay attention to class critiques. If you are unable to get to office hours for one reason or another (busy schedule, no spots available, etc.) class critiques are the next best thing. Be sure to try and get your drafts on the server early enough so that they can be critiqued in class. Not only do you get feedback on things that you might want to change, but you also your classmates can help you come up with ideas if there is a particular element of a project that you are not sure about.
- Inspiration. Don’t stress if you do not come up with an idea immediately. Think about things that you are interested in or that you like, this can often lead to amazing ideas for projects (and it makes them more fun). If you are truly in need of inspiration, the Internet is you friend. There are tons of mood board websites or online galleries that can help you get the creative energy flowing. Here are two that I use for inspiration: http://www.wmagazine.com/mood-board/filter?q=^Models|Cara%20Delevingne and https://niice.co.
- Graphic design is all around you. Throughout this class you will begin to realize more and more that the elements of graphic design that you learn about are literally all around you in the real world. I can’t go to a shopping mall or supermarket without thinking about brand logos and typefaces, the same goes for looking at magazines and posters. Even though this is a required class (which I know is the main reason a lot of you are taking it) the design principles and elements of good design are very present in the real world.
- You can always fix it. Many of these projects seem very stressful and require a lot of work, but Professor Strong gives you the opportunity to improve your grade on every project (except the final project). Once you submit your project it will be graded and you will be emailed a detailed video critique with feedback and suggestions on how to improve your project. You are given a period of time, usually a week to fix your project for the chance to receive a higher grade. I strongly encourage everyone to take advantage of this because it is extremely helpful for improving your design and your grade.
It is truly crazy that a few months ago, I was reading these tips of advice, praying that I would succeed in this class. As a photography major, this is a required course, yet, I found that I am truly passionate about graphic design. EVERYTHING that I learned in this class is necessary for my future, and I am so blessed to have learned such amazing skills. Professor Strong wanted her students to not only grow as graphic designers, but also as people. This class will be challenging and time consuming, but trust me when I say this is one of the most rewarding classes that you will ever take. Here are five vital tips to succeeding in GRA 217:
- Move On: Yes, I know the feeling of spending hours on a project, and then completely changing the whole thing, but this is where you will find your best work. It is vital to go through MANY drafts, in order to truly succeed. Although the time you spent changing your project from your original might feel like time wasted, it is such great practice using the programs and graphic design techniques.
- Ask for opinions: You might love your idea, especially because you know the amount of time you put into it, but your audience might not agree with you. It is great to ask other people, especially classmates, to critique your work. By doing this, you can see a variety of opinions, which will only improve your project. Also, Professor Strong gives out such amazing advice and you should definitely schedule a bunch of office hours with her! P.S. Don’t forget to sign up WAY before a project is due.
- Work in the Newhouse Labs: Yes, you should definitely download the Adobe Creative Cloud Free Trial on your laptop, but I found that I did not do my best work on my tiny laptop. Although it is a pain to force yourself to sit in the labs, you will be able to focus better on your project, as well as have a bigger screen to work on InDesign with. Spend a few extra minutes walking to the Newhouse lab, and you will see a huge difference in creating your projects!
- Stop, Take a break, and Revise: Sometimes, it is necessary to stop working on your project. Although it is great to work on it for hours, you NEED to stop, sleep on it, and go back the next day (and repeat this many times.) By revisiting your project after not seeing it for a while, you will see mistakes that can be easily fixed, or think of even better ideas to improve your project with.
- Pay attention to detail: There is nothing small in graphic design. It is so important to think of the tiniest things that could improve your project, or the little things that are necessary to take out. These things that you think are “little” can make or break your project.
- Take advantage of office hours. Office hours go quicker than you would ever expect so sign up early. Even if you don’t have any questions in the moment, trust me, you will in due time. It is so nice to get Professor Strong’s perspective and insight about your projects in a one on one situation. Bring a note pad to this and take notes. Keep in mind that everything Professor Strong tells you is from her perspective. Although extremely qualified, knowledgeable, and important, there are so many creative directions and at the end of the day it is your work. You don’t have to make all changes she suggests, even to get a good grade. Make the change, then play with it for hours after to see how YOU like it, because it’s YOUR work.
- Get inspiration from everywhere. Think outside the box for all your projects. Try working with typography or crazy pictures. There are so many incredibly beautiful ads, magazines, and publications that you are always able to work off things. Pinterest is also a HUGE help in the inspiration department. Find professional examples you love and work with them. I fell in love with Esquire magazine in this class and my magazine wouldn’t be what it was if I didn’t do the research in finding my inspiration.
- Get Critiqued. Turn everything in early enough to be critiqued in class. For each deadline you’ll have, you will have a rough draft due a week or so prior. Take advantage of this!! Being critiqued is such an important part of the creative process. There were so many times I was creatively stumped and input form Professor Strong and especially my classmate brought my work to the next level. On the other side of that, actively participate in critiques because some of the most valuable information I heard and applied to my projects was not said during my critique.
- Support Each other. It’s a rough world out there, especially competing with Newhouse’s brightest minds. Help each other and give each other advice outside of class. Give your classmates a complement, often. Very often you get ripped apart in critiques and forget that your stuff is actually amazing, and that’s important to hear form your friends in the class. I met with a friend a couple days before every project was due and we went through each other’s projects and gave each other advice. The advice was often little margin or alignment errors, but it was so helpful. On of my roommates was also in the class and we helped each other so much with ideas, millions of software questions, and tiny things at 4 am when we were finishing our projects.
- Start Early. In order to do all of these things, start early!! This is NOT a class you can leave a project to the last minute, even for rough drafts. Take advantage of your labs. I stayed hours after my lab to continue working because that was a set block of time I had in my schedule to work on projects, ask questions, and bounce ideas off friends. Also, you will be a stress ball if you don’t. In terms of printing, always print a day early. The copy center is so hit or miss in terms of the line and you don’t want to be late turning a project because it was being printed. I can’t think of a more stupid way to loose points.
- Take these tips seriously. If you’re anything like me, you’re sitting here on syllabus week thinking about something — anything — other than class because, well, it’s syllabus week. But here’s the thing, syllabus week (if that’s when Professor Strong shows you these advice columns) is probably the most helpful advice you’ll get in any class all semester. Keep all the advice you get and you’ll be fine.
- Work in the Newhouse labs. There’s nothing quite like walking into that Newhouse lab right near the NH3 doors the night before a big GRA 217 project is due, seeing classmates who are just as panicked as you are and feeling indescribable camaraderie. Jokes aside, working in Newhouse is beneficial for a bunch of reasons, starting with those classmates. You can bounce ideas off them and show them drafts to see what they think. Also, if you’re like me and are one of the five kids in Newhouse to not have a Mac then this is the spot. Don’t mess with the trial version you can download to your laptop. It’s not worth it. Make time to go to Newhouse and work on the projects because that’s where you get the best results.
- Also leave Newhouse. There comes a time of night where nothing positive will be accomplished sitting and staring at your project. If you’ve just sat there for four hours and made a lot of good progress but find yourself struggling to know what to do next, then get up and leave. Sometimes walking around and thinking about something other than design helps the most. That’s because design is everywhere. Last year I took a Greyhound from Maine to ‘Cuse and at a stop in Albany, I saw a sign that I ended up using a typeface from because I liked it so much. Sometimes your brain needs a break from looking at Adobe to get back in the zone.
- Visit Professor Strong’s office hours. I never registered for her office hours (chock it up to a lot of things, laziness chiefly among them) until the magazine project. But 20 minutes sitting in her office and having my project analyzed gave me a dozen things that could be better and that I should go work on in the labs. Things as simple as: “Have you considered using a different cover image? A different crop of this cover image? Why this font?” could be useful thought-kickstarters and suddenly you find yourself immersed in which typeface conveys the message of your magazine the most. I know that sounded strange to me before I started this class, but you’ll understand soon enough.
- Use critique days to their max potential. Remember when you turn in a draft of a project that, in all likelihood, Professor Strong will critique it in front of the class. This is a great opportunity to get feedback from multiple people about what does/doesn’t work in the design, so make sure you’re putting the best foot forward, for a couple reasons. One, you want the best feedback so turn in something you think is solid so you get critiqued on your best work. Two, it’s embarrassing to turn in something you know is sub par and have it be pulled up in front of all your classmates (I know from experience).
I remember reading these posts and becoming very afraid…And I had good reason too! It is a really hard class that took up a lot of time, but is so worth it! Go to office hours and good luck.
- Graphic Design is everywhere! Even in places you’d never expect…And one you learn to keep an eye out for it, you will start to see everything from street signs to your favorite website in a totally new light. Being able to notice and then distinguish good design is fun but also useful when it comes to working on projects. Keep an eye out for design that catches your attention and that you like and then see if you can apply it to your work.
- Take time to learn InDesign. InDesign is a really cool software but it is also not that easy to use. It is probably important to mention here that I am extremely challenged when it comes to anything to do with computers and avoid screens at all costs but nevertheless even if you are tech savvy, it is really helpful to take the time in lab to watch all of the videos and actually learn how to use the thing you have to make projects with. And learn the shortcuts! You will be able to work so much faster.
- Good graphic design takes a very long time. Even if you become InDesign master #1 creating quality work takes a lot of planning, thought, and then experimentation. Sketching is required but it is really helpful to actually do it before you start working. It helps to tie the concept or idea you have in your head to the actual design and create an overall better product. Also, unless you really like to kick it in Newhouse I would recommend downloading Adobe creative cloud. You will never have to worry about finding a free computer or having to move right in the middle of a brain blast moment.
- Go to office hours!! I’m sure everyone else is saying the same thing but Professor Strong is so helpful when you go and see her. She has such a great eye and will help you to see what is really working or what needs to be fixed. Make sure to book them ahead of time though because they fill up very fast. Monday Google hangs are cool too.
- Pay attention in lecture. Professor Strong presents some really fascinating stuff, and even if the projects aren’t going that well, the more theory based parts of graphics are really cool. If you actually learn the concepts you will be able to apply them to your projects and make them even better!
- Office Hours! It is extremely beneficial to get feedback from Professor Strong before you submit your final draft. I, unfortunately, never was able to take advantage of her office hours because they fill up fast. They were booked almost a month in advance, so I advise anyone taking her class to sign-up ASAP! If you cannot make office hours, submit your stuff early for in-class critiques. It is vital that you have Professor Strong see your drafts.
- Buy Adobe Creative Suite. I bought the Creative Suite for my computer and it saved me from spending a lot of my nights in the Newhouse labs. It was also nice to have during critiques, so you could change some of your project during class. However, the Creative Suite did make my computer extremely slow, especially towards the end of the semester. The programs do run a lot faster on the Newhouse computers, so it is easier to get work done there sometimes, but it is definitely helpful to have it on your computer.
- Start Your Projects Early! Sometimes it is impossible to start your project early, but start as soon as you can. There were a lot of instances where I wish I had more time to fix certain things on my projects. Creativity takes time, if it is rushed the final product will not be the best it can be.
- Think Before You Do! Don’t start a project without planning what you want to do. If you start in a program to see what you come up with, it will just be a mess. My best projects were planned out beforehand. However, sometimes things do not go as planned. In that case, make a new plan. Also, ALWAYS WORK ON A GRID. It makes deciding where to put elements so much easier!
- Lab Time. Some lab TAs were better than others, I was fortunate to have a good TA. She helped me understand how to use the various programs within the Adobe Creative Suite, and that information is essential. If you know your software, it will make your project much easier to execute. Do not be afraid to ask how to use something, everyone is learning how to use it, it will help you in the long run.
- Graphic Design is all around! Once you know what to look for, you will start to notice it everywhere. It’s amazing to see how much thought goes into simple everyday objects such as stop signs and billboards. Everything was created by someone and everything took a lot of time and thought to create.
- Make time to meet with professor Strong. She takes the time to look at every small detail and explain to you how to improve. She is dedicated in helping us turn in the best work possible, so if you take the time to see out her critiques, she will help you tremendously.
- Coming up with a great idea is the most important thing for your project and takes the most time. Never stick to your first idea. Always keep sketching and looking for artistic inspiration before settling on an idea. Not all great ideas work, so make sure you have a few backup plans to choose from.
- Simplicity is key. The simpler you keep aspects of your design, the better it will turn out. Filling space up and creating complicated and complex designs sometimes takes away from what you are trying to create. Always remember that if something simple and well-thought out, it’s probably a more appealing design.
- Get Creative Cloud on your own computer, otherwise you will spend hours the Newhouse labs. The free 30 day trial of Creative Cloud and is an incredible help and will save you so much time when you’re creating your projects.
- Pay attention in class. Class time is so important for learning the concepts before you actually act them out on the programs. Also, class time is really good for listening to feedback for other students as you most likely have the same question they have or made the same mistake. Staying alert during class will help so much in the long run.
- Stay on top of your assignments. Design takes a very long time to do well, so you have to make time for this classwork. Giving yourself enough time to work will give you more time to gain feedback and perfect more things before turning it in.
- Get cool with your TA. I could not have survived this semester without the support from my TA. Don’t be afraid to ask them for help because they’re there to help! (which they are more than happy to do). Go to their office hours if Prof. Strong’s are booked
- Spend some time researching and sketching. If you go into an assignment with an idea of what you want it to look like, you will have an easier time getting to that end goal. This doesn’t mean you should settling on one final idea, but you should spend some time browsing different ways to stylize your design.
- Be patient. Like I said before, good design takes time. By remaining patient and not rushing an amazing idea to pop into your head, you will be much more satisfied with your final product. Your best ideas won’t come when you force them, so just be patient and maybe come back to it another time.
If there is one thing I learned in GRA 217, it’s that everyone has design and creativity within them. I was full of anxiety coming into this class because I knew it was going to be different from every class I’ve taken at Syracuse so far. I do not believe that I’m a creative person, so having to be in a space where I had to create was daunting. Once I began, I learned that there is more to design than just being creative and that it is a process. This class has changed my view in the world and the way I view advertisements, movies and everyday objects. Design is everywhere!
Here, I’ve listed 5 pieces of advice to have the most successful/rewarding semester possible:
- Office Hours are EVERYTHING. Try to go to office hours as much as you can, whether it is with Professor Strong or the IA. They are extremely helpful if you’re feeling a creative block, or if you’re unsure of the design decisions you’ve made on your project. They also provide great advice that can take your project to the next level.
- Edit, Edit, EDIT. We’ve all had classes where the professor will give an assignment or a paper and stress that it isn’t something that can be completed the night before the deadline. If you’re anything like me, those words meant nothing because you knew it was always something that could be completed the night before. Please listen when I say this, graphic design is NOT SOMETHING THAT YOU CAN DO THE NIGHT BEFORE. Design is a process. In order to produce good work, you need to continuously go back and make changes. After editing and tweaking, you carve out something you never even thought you could create.
- A Free Trial Could Save Your Life. I know there are mixed thoughts and feelings about doing your work on your own computer vs. the lab computers. It all depends on preference and how you work best. I found using the 30 day free trials to be very helpful. I live off campus so I felt more comfortable going home and working on my projects at home, rather than staying late at the labs and walking home at night. I also just found it more relaxing and less like “work” when I was working on a project at home. You can wear your pajamas and play your music out loud, and just be alone in your own creative space. It also allows you the freedom to work on your projects wherever you want.
- Sometimes You Have to Walk Away. It can get hard sometimes when your sitting at a computer for hours, falling into an abyss of fonts and colors. It’s important to take some refreshers and then go back to work with a new mindset. Go for a walk, take a shower, take a nap. It sounds strange, and a bit like procrastination, but it’s not. Sometime your brain needs a break to get back to its full creative power.
- Believe in Yourself. This was something I struggled with the most. You have to trust your decisions and believe in your abilities. Yes, it’s intimidating when you do in class critiques and see the excellent work of your classmates, but you’re excellent too. You’ll learn from this class that you’re capable of doing amazing work, and by the end you’ll look back surprised at how much you’ve grown mentally and creatively.
- Believe in yourself. Truly, one of the most important lessons I’ve learned in this class is to believe in your ability. Using the software for the first time can be very intimidating but know that the beauty of a project is in the design—which happens before you ever hit the computers, in your mind and in your sketchbook (or maybe a few sheets of computer paper). Don’t feel limited by software because you can always receive assistance with the technical stuff and there’s many different techniques available to execute your ideas. The best projects are always the ones with the most thought and intention behind every decision. So, work on the quality of your design before you even consider working up a sweat in the labs.
- Be flexible (and take a deep breath). I won’t play with your emotions, the software isn’t easy nor is it intuitive much of the time. Learning takes practice and a lot of time spent fiddling with buttons and watching Lynda.com instructional videos. When it gets to be too much, step away and take a few breathes or switch to a different activity for a bit. Fresh eyes (and patience) never hurt your final product. Furthermore, you learn very quickly that many of your ideas–even the ones you hold most dearly–won’t be great ones. Be flexible and willing to change direction at the drop of a hat. From personal experience, I can tell you that hard work can bring a project from average to amazing with the right effort and attitude.
- Create the best drafts possible. A really helpful way to get feedback is to create the most complete and well-executed draft you during in-class draft critiques. This is especially useful when office hours don’t smoothly fit into your schedule. Submit early to the server so that you can get great feedback from other students and Professor Strong before submitting your final draft. If you are like me, a little direction goes a long way and the advice I received in class led to huge improvements and sometimes whole redesigns that ultimately improved my projects.
- Design isn’t frivolous, it’s functional. An important concept you will learn through lecture and the several documentaries aired during class is that design is functional. Everything you design should have a purpose and you should be able to explain the reason for everything you create. Picking and placing typography might seem “Microsoft Word” simple, but it’s not as easy as 1, 2, 3 Times New Roman. Choosing a typeface actually proved to be on of the most difficult aspects of every project. Do you need a typeface with high readability or high visual impact? Nothing is insignificant when it comes to design, so choose carefully.
- Take it slow. We were all in your shoes. This course is an INTRODUCTION course, meaning you are not required to walk into class on the first day as a professional graphic designer. This class was designed to cater to students that most likely don’t have much experience with producing graphic design content. As long as you remember it is a learning process, you will avoid the discouraging feeling that high expectations may bring.
- Don’t be afraid of in-class critiques and don’t take it personally. In-class critiques are extremely instrumental to the process of having your work reach it’s full potential. Don’t be shy to display your work up in front of the entire class because they will most likely offer genuine feedback and opinions that will be very valuable to you. They all mean well. What’s the worse that can happen?
- Accept the fact that you will spend many hours in the lab. There are no shortcuts. This is a project based class which means you will switch those “study session all-nighters” will be replaced with “lab all-nighters”.
- Utilize office hours. Everyone will probably post this in their advice section.. because IT’S TRUE! One on one time with Prof. Strong is truly valuable and if she isn’t available then your TA will be your guide as well. You don’t have to complete your project alone. There is plenty of help available to you!
- Be proud. You have no idea what you are capable of yet and when you look back you will be amazed at what you accomplished. So during the process, own up to every wild creative concept you think up and be prideful. Don’t be shy if you think your designs are too far-fetched.
- Office Hours. Go to every single office hour you can get. The advices given by the professor will be extremely helpful. Be aware that office hour is very valuable so everyone want to get in. Make an appointment a week early.
- Take Good Notes. The lecture given by professor is a thorough guideline of each project. Do not underestimate the details of the professor’s instruction.
- Revise. After every single assignment, the professor would give you a video to tell you the weak spots of your design. Watch the video over and over again, and revise every single detail mentioned in the video that needs to be improved. This is the last chance to improve your grade.
- Details. Details make design. Besides taking over the entity, you have to look carefully at your detailed design. One little detail failure can ruin one good design. Exclude all the unnecessary design. Design is supposed to make sense.
- Enjoy It! Design is so much fun. Everyone would love. Even though it can be very hard to get the look you want, the process will grant you so much fun. You will love it. Once you fall in love with graphic design, everything would be easy.
- Go to class. Please go to every lecture. The class was so fun and informative. Professor Strong will tell you many useful information during the class, and there are also amazing documentaries to watch. In my opinion, the most amazing part of the class is reviewing of the draft. You will find that all of your classmate are such great designers. Also, the advice will be very helpful for your own design.
- Do not freak out if you do not know how to use those software. To be honest, since most people do not know how to use InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator, everyone hates those softwares at the beginning, especially Photoshop. However, when I am writing this tips for you, I found I am kind of like them. Although some steps were really complex for me, when you see your own work, you will know all your effort was worth it. In addition, go to lab. TAs are all very helpful. If you have any question, just ask.
- Make time to meet Professor Strong. The most helpful person in the class is Professor Strong. Do not be afraid of going to her office hours. She is very nice, and if you do not have any idea, she will help you to come up with a great one. If you already have a draft, definitely go to her office hour! She will tell you which points you should adjust and inform you some software tips. And remember to book her office hour in advance, since she is very popular among students and everyone wants her help.
- Simplicity is the key. Simplicity may the word that we talked most in the class. In designer’s world, less is more. When you come up with the idea, keep simplicity in mind. When you design for a work, every detail like format, typeface, image, and other elements all should be simple.
- Enjoy it! I have to admit that every assignment is quite time-consuming. However, the more time you dedicate into the work, the better the work is. And during the process, you will find the beautiful of designing. You can create your own work, select concept and choose anything for your work. You are an actual designer in the class. Enjoy this class and you will find a more interesting life.
- You are your harshest critic. Sometimes staring at a project for too long can make you absolutely hate it. Projects that I worked on for hours and hours suddenly seemed boring and that there was nothing I could do anymore. It feels like you’re having a creative block. Take a step back, save your work and wait a day or two to work again. Sometimes looking at things (or asking friends your trust) is the best way to move forward.
- Don’t wait! Beautiful work takes time. The projects in graphics are a marathon, not a sprint. It will only be beneficial to start things early and slowly add more each day. Don’t wait until the night before and stay in Newhouse until the sun comes up. You can always tell when work has been thoughtfully planned and executed.
- Find inspiration. Although you never want to directly copy something, there is inspiration all around us. Posters, billboards, album covers and more- you can’t avoid it. I completely view the world differently and took magazines that I have read a million times and looked at how they designed every single letter to be important and beautiful.
- Two words: Office. Hours. It’s rare to find a teacher who is almost begging to help you. Professor Strong is your strongest resource and she will help you with whatever you need. She is available for video chats and office hours that will help you elevate your work (and your grade!) In-class critiques are super helpful as well, so make sure to upload SOMETHING to the server (even if it’s just a title or an image that you’re thinking of using.)
- Be you! Pick subjects that you’re passionate about, not that are just easy! Not many courses allow you to choose any topic you want. For my first few projects, I tried to work in ways that I thought would get a good grade but didn’t feel right. It will make the work so much more enjoyable if you are working with things you like, and that you know about. Your personality and creativity will shine through every project if you use your prior knowledge, life experiences and passion.
- Take advantage of critiques. If you do not get critique on your work, you might get an A or you might get a D and you will never know why. Trust me, by the end of the semester you will be dying for critique. When you have looked at your project for so many hours, your brain gets tired. You may not pick up on details that someone with a fresh perspective will. There were times when I would look at my project and I knew something felt wrong, but I did not know exactly what it was. I would look to critique for the answers. Every time, I felt better-equipped and more confident at the end.
- Break up your time commitment. Do not save anything until last minute. I know, you hear this all the time…but REALLY, do not save anything until last minute. There are two reasons: One, you will most certainly under-estimate the amount of time these projects are going to take you; two, your brain cannot handle doing this kind of detailed work for 8 hours at a time. You will get “designers’ block” and your final product will undoubtedly be much worse than it would have been if you broke up your time.
- Go to office hours. This is your saving grace. This is your only insight into what your grade will be. And you will probably accomplish more in those 20 minutes, than in 2 hours of working on your own.
- If you are feeling frustrated and stuck … take a break. When you get to the point that you are tired, frustrated, stuck, and overwhelmed, take a break! Do not waste your time trying to force yourself through another hour of work. Sometimes all it takes is a “breather” from graphic design. When you come back to it in an hour, or 8 hours, or a day, you will have fresh visions and ideas in your head that will solve that problem you were so worried about before.
- Record all your ideas right when you think of them. This is so important. Chances are you are not going to come up with your best ideas while you are sitting in front of your computer telling yourself to think of ideas. You will probably come up with them when you are walking to class or falling asleep or driving around. If you do not write them down in that moment, you will not remember.