Design Justified

This is from the syllabus for my 2-Dimensional Design course at UC Denver this Spring. I sat here for a while trying to make something reasonably concise, so I thought I might as well share it on the site, too, for all the trouble I put in.

Artists often work intuitively, myself included, and great works can’t be summed up in words.  Design, on the other hand, deals with aspects of image making that can be talked about and examined.  In a phrase, design deals with how images work. If you understand something about why your favorite artworks are so powerful, you’ve got a much better chance of making something great. In some ways, learning design is a process of becoming aware of the obvious. That’s because much of it is based on consistent threads and tendencies in human perception, and we’re all the same species here, so far.

Design is a way of looking at problems (the “design process”), a vocabulary of “design principles” that enables one to speak intelligently about images, and, for this class, a basic grounding in some tools and materials.

We’ll find our material in old art, new art, commercial design, cinema, random chance, and the world around us. Projects will range from laborious charts to wild splatters, from pen and ink to paint, to printmaking, to animation. Increasingly, the world relies on images to convey information, rather than words, for better or worse. Commercially oriented design and advertising puts much of its energy into manipulating viewers’ emotions and taking advantage of perceptual blind spots that are (apparently) built into the underlying mechanics of the nervous system. If you don’t understand how images are constructed, you’re at the mercy of the various media and advertising industries. Boundaries between art & design are less clear than ever, and as the culture becomes predominantly visually oriented, ignorance about the basic strategies of design becomes, simply, ignorance.  We’ll fix that, don’t you worry. You’ll still have your intuition, and you’ll hopefully get some insight into the workings of your own mind.

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