Design.0 - Beyond the Surface of Forms
The starting point of your design career.
Welcome to the Agency’s first edition of Design.
This category shall be a long-lasting guide for anyone looking to start designing but lacking a direction that is interesting enough.
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So you wanna be a designer, huh?
Well, time is a grand illusion.
So perhaps, a designer, you already are.
Or even more so, you have been a designer for a long time but maybe forgot why you started in the first place.
Because the vocation of designing doesn’t start with the perfect synchronicity behind the simple fact that this publication found you and you found it, maybe even years after it was first published.
The vocation of designing starts with a calling.
And a calling always starts as a tiny and unexplainable spark in the deepest corners of your heart that doesn’t seem to beat like before.
Like a single and lonesome drop of water in the driest of the deserts.
A spark that grows with such a blazing intensity that there is simply no way of stopping it from becoming a massive fire of creative energy ready to dissipate heat and warmth in every single direction of every possible dimension.
Designing, nevertheless, is the most human thing one can do.
Being human, nonetheless, is the hardest designation of all.
That is precisely why before equipping either a pen or a brush, you should acknowledge the immense responsibility you are about to handle.
Because your ideas could give birth to a new brand.
Nah, not just that.
Your ideas could give birth to the next Apple.
Still not enough for you.
With your ideas, you will build your own UNIVERSE!
As long as you deposit enough belief in them.
Because if when you look around, you don’t like what you see.
You need to design a new reality.
So if you think you got it, go ahead.
Your vocation won't start with a youtube tutorial or inside Photoshop.
First, we need to ignite you with ideas.
The spark you are looking for is somewhere very close to you.
Either on a creative that inspires you.
Or on the words you are about to read.
After all, I’m pretty sure you are here for one sole reason.
Either fixing the world.
Or letting the world fix you.
You got this.
And the philosophy behind forms.
The topic of Semiotics was first approached here on Agency in the Issue.12, it is very much a fun and creative introduction to one of the hardest subjects in communication.and I also turned it into a podcast episode that can help you grasp the concept through a tale! You can find the links below.
Let’s give a more technical look into this subject.
The study of signs and symbols and their use or interpretation is not only essential for developing brands but also important to craft authentic storytelling.
Semiotics is one of the most complex and misunderstood subjects in communication degrees. But its value for understanding how to properly convey a message is as much important and subjective as its own meaning.
Every [ꜰᴏʀᴍ/ꜱʜᴀᴘᴇ] has one or multiple [ᴄᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ/ᴍᴇᴀɴɪɴɢ] attached to it, together representing a [ꜱʏᴍʙᴏʟ].
To think "semiotically" is to understand how to separate the form from its content so that both can be used separately and through new combinations
If we are to analyze the icon of a feather, or even a real feather in front of us (different forms for the same subject), we can extract many different meanings that are unique to every person or culture. A feather can represent a bird in the same way it can represent the idea of freedom or the adjective of being light.
There is simply an infinite amount of associations that can be made through your creativity and this is precisely your most fundamental skill as a creative, the capacity to connect dots in a way that is not logical but that pertains to meanings and symbolism.
We can then combine the meanings we extract from the feather form with other forms in order to create new combinations and transmit different messages.
If, for example, you need to design an ad for a product that carries the slogan: “It makes you fly.”, you can always be more objective and maybe put a wing on a person in order to represent the effects of the product in the ad. But once you start diving deeper into semiotics, you realize that you can transmit the same message without making it look so evident. When you make the recipient of your messages solve the equation behind the imagery instead of giving it objectively, you can better engage and mark that person with what you are trying to communicate. So how about just putting a single feather in the image? The further you evolve in a design career, the more you will realize that less is more.
If we observe a flower in its prime of health and colors, we can notice that in its [ꜰᴏʀᴍ/ꜱʜᴀᴘᴇ] the petals are vibrant, the texture is smooth and the stalk is firm. But as a physical form, it is subject to the decay of time, this means that while healthy, it can represent different [ꜱʏᴍʙᴏʟꜱ], like a flower; nature; youth, and beauty, but once the decomposition stage starts and it loses these properties, these [ꜱʏᴍʙᴏʟꜱ] are immediately replaced by different and negative ones, which is what we can see in the form of a dying flower, like dryness; decay and desaturation.
If we subtract the form from this context, we can identify new possibilities of meanings, because we can still observe the flower without being limited by its physical form.
So if we are to observe a flower until a bee lands on it and pollinates its stigma, we are able to capture a whole new set of meanings behind this behavior from nature, because, behind this regenerative, recurring, and holistic cycle, we can capture much stronger and universal [ꜱʏᴍʙᴏʟꜱ] that are not limited to the shape of a flower, like life; regeneration; cooperation and growth.
2. Information Consumption
Dot Reading vs Line Reading
With the rise of technical images, brought forward by inventions like photography, the consumption of information started putting aside the interpretation of what we call written lines and replacing it with images and videos on screens.
This created a context where our way of thinking split into two separate ones:
[ꜱᴜʀꜰᴀᴄᴇ ᴛʜɪɴᴋɪɴɢ] or [ᴅᴏᴛ ʀᴇᴀᴅɪɴɢ]
[ʟɪɴᴇ ᴛʜɪɴᴋɪɴɢ] or [ʟɪɴᴇ ʀᴇᴀᴅɪɴɢ]
Information has always been perceived on surfaces, for example, in a rock painting of a man hunting in the walls of a cave, or in the same way, as an e-book page on the screen of a Kindle.
BUT! Even though these are both pieces of information present on physical surfaces, we can identify three major differences between the two cases: ᴀ) The span of time between the Paleolithic Era and the Modern Era of digital devices; ʙ) The fact that one is a painting; ᴄ) the fact the other one is a set of written lines.
This takes us to the main subject of this investigation. The main differences between reading the information in a text - [ʟɪɴᴇ ʀᴇᴀᴅɪɴɢ] and the information in an image or video - [ᴅᴏᴛ ʀᴇᴀᴅɪɴɢ]
When it comes to dot reading, it means that there is no starting point for the reading process. You can’t control where a person will first start reading the information presented on a video or an image in the exact same way that you can’t control what meanings the person will extract behind the [ꜱʏᴍʙᴏʟꜱ] used in the image
Now in order to understand [ʟɪɴᴇ ʀᴇᴀᴅɪɴɢ], let's analyze this beautiful poetry from- ImagiNation: the only Nation
Imagine all the bad guys/girls of this world slithering away
and paying for their crimes; imagine no more wars,
WMD, nefarious agendas to enslave humanity.
Imagine everything turning around for the good of all
and reading about it on your phones or laptops and
the utter amazement you feel when you see this...
Imagine you feel better than
you’ve ever felt before in your life!
Imagine celebrations in the streets,
parks and stadiums across the world;
blizzards of confetti, hugging and
kissing strangers, shouts of triumphant joy!
Sure, you may think it’s crazy,
when pigs fly to chow down
on pie in the sky, that’s ok.
Because if everything
that ever existed came 1st from
this nation, then everything above
has already happened, and it’s
only a matter of time before
it plays out on the only
screen we watch
When it comes to line reading, there is a starting point and a finish line because you can still extract different meanings from the information but in order to take your conclusions, you need to analyze the full body of it. Although this is only an excerpt from the poem, you can realize that VP takes us on a journey of words that helps us visualize the message that is being transmitted, word by word until the title finally makes the utmost perfect sense.
If we are to imagine the painting of Monalisa right in front of us, there is absolutely no right place to start reading the message that it portrays. You, as a viewer or recipient, can start by analyzing the background, the eyes, or even the irreplaceable and timeless expression on her face, while another person could start by looking at the frame as a whole or maybe even a particularity of her hair. This essentially means that [ᴅᴏᴛ ʀᴇᴀᴅɪɴɢ] represents a completely free approach to how information can be read because an infinite amount of interpretations can be made by an infinite amount of perspectives.
In perfect comparison, the other example would be precisely this text. Because even though you are reading it on the surface of a screen, you are following a discursive and linear line of thought put together by me! This means that when it comes to [ʟɪɴᴇ ʀᴇᴀᴅɪɴɢ], much more in-depth and accurate information can be provided because you are limiting the recipient of the message (like I'm doing with you) to hold your hands and follow your exact path of thinking, subject by subject so that the recipient can take its own conclusions based on your direction.
3. Bridging the Gap of Understanding
To design or to write?
To generate or manipulate forms means to infuse graphics, language, and visuals with symbolic meanings that are capable of communicating a message or content to our target audience. Now that we understand the main differences between [ꜰᴏʀᴍ/ꜱʜᴀᴘᴇ] • [ᴄᴏɴᴛᴇɴᴛ/ᴍᴇᴀɴɪɴɢ] and how they are currently consumed via [ᴅᴏᴛ ʀᴇᴀᴅɪɴɢ] or [ʟɪɴᴇ ʀᴇᴀᴅɪɴɢ]. It is time to start asking how we create and invent by taking advantage of these theories.
The word "Poetry" comes from the Greek "Poieîn" which means "to make" or "to produce". In the same way, the word "Design" comes from the Greek "Schédio" which means "To plan" or "To scheme". Thus, both the poet/copywriter/journalist and the visual artist/designer share the same craftsman root within their vocations, which is nevertheless, the action of creating. Being the main difference that the first deal with written information and the other with visual compositions.
If through the skills of writing or designing, we are able to generate messages, how do we know what is the adequate approach to the communications problem we intend to solve? The answer will always pertain to what medium will transmit the message and what is our goal within the initiative.
If we want to cause a fast impression, for example, make a consumer know that our product exists, the consumer will not have the time nor attention to go through a comprehensive guide on how the product can be useful for his company, thus, synthesizing as many benefits of the product while illustrating how it looks by designing a feed post artwork would be the best approach to quickly spark an interest.
If we want to educate the consumer in regard to how our product can make his company more efficient, it would be necessary to describe in detail and in a linear way all the levels of the supply chain that it would improve and that could be achieved through an in-depth blog article or a sales PDF.
4. Creative Logic
Lateral Thinking vs Vertical Thinking
Now that we understand how messages are currently consumed, we need to start asking where they come from so that we can craft the right message for the right audience. To think creatively regards connecting dots that were never connected before. That approach is essentially the opposite of thinking logically and I will explain that below.
[ᴠᴇʀᴛɪᴄᴀʟ ᴛʜɪɴᴋɪɴɢ] or [ʟᴏɢɪᴄᴀʟ ᴛʜɪɴᴋɪɴɢ]
To think vertically means to connect dots in a linearity of logical information, through trial and error, where every conclusion comes after the previous one. That is how science, programming (hence, bugs and debugging), and math work because their purpose is to build scalable and long-lasting logical structures that are self-sustainable, where every dot, validates each other.
[ʟᴀᴛᴇʀᴀʟ ᴛʜɪɴᴋɪɴɢ] ᴏʀ [ᴄʀᴇᴀᴛɪᴠᴇ ᴛʜɪɴᴋɪɴɢ]
To think horizontally regards connecting distant dots in a non-linear way through reason rather than logic. This means that in order for creative ideas to surge, the creative needs to be able to identify new types of thought patterns and perspectives to the problem that is being solved. Thinking subjectively is always the main method to break patterns.
If we are to imagine a maze, we can immediately understand that within its puzzling structure, there will be a way in and a way out. Through [ᴠᴇʀᴛɪᴄᴀʟ ᴛʜɪɴᴋɪɴɢ], we walk towards the different paths until we hit different walls, mapping, through trial and error, the final path to the exit.
In a [ʟᴀᴛᴇʀᴀʟ ᴛʜɪɴᴋɪɴɢ] approach, it would be necessary to first break the pattern of what is trying to be achieved, if the goal is to reach the exit, what if instead of entering the maze, we just walk around the external part of the maze until we reach that very same goal?
In conclusion to these comparisons, we can recognize that it is part of the creative nature to not only question conventions but also break patterns in order to build new and better ones. Patterns are a byproduct of safety and consistency, but without creative and critical reasoning, they tend to become dated and inefficient.
And that’s a wrap.
If you feel curious about what you just read, I will leave you with a challenge and you can feel free to comment your answer in the comments section.
What could the combination of Feathers + Sunglasses possibly transmit as a message?
See you in the next edition, imagiNator!
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About the Author
That’s me in a nutshell but you can learn more about Agency and myself on the About page!
Agency. is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.