No Silver Bullet to Design

March 15, 2012

By Tad Fry

Do you want to be a better designer, and are not sure where to start? After college, I wanted to ensure I became a better designer as I grew with my profession. I bought a few books about universal design principles and it helped quite a bit, but I felt like something was missing. Sure, we learn and apply design principles, but there had to be more to design than principles alone. I’m just now discovering there is no silver bullet to design, and we need to dig deeper within elements of design.

The question of how to be a better designer surfaces often on Forrst. We want to know which books to get or tutorials to read. A reply I found most useful was when a member said there is not a single book that will help us become better designers overall, but we need to get many books on single topics. Then drill down to learn as much as we can. That advice motivated me to get a typography book, and I’m amazed by how much there is to know on type.

To find which typography book to read, I did a search on college design programs to discover many classes use Thinking with Type by Ellen Lupton. The book is magnificent—No, those are not affiliate links. Lupton teaches how to use type, and does so with inspiring references and has an amazing sense of humor. Reading this helped me to see why some uses of type look so well done while other uses look awkward. I could never discern this a few months ago.

So, where to go from here. I highly recommend you pick a topic about design and focus on it. Dig deep. Here’s a few suggestions of topics you could read about:

  1. Grid
  2. Typography
  3. Sketching
  4. Color

Overall, I find this wonderfully annoying. I want to grow as a designer, but now I’ve found there is so much more I don’t know. Yes, I understand we’ll never know everything, but that’s what sets well-designed work a part from the so-so work. It was created by those who took the time to learn and apply individual elements of design.