But What Is Design?

Flashback to my high school social studies class. The theme, what career will you chose?

Without hesitation, I told myself, graphic design! I’m going to be a graphic designer!  I’ll make posters, magazine ads, design stuff, it’ll be awesome!  

Fast forward a few years later, there I was taking it all in. The new smells and sounds of a print shop as I waited eagerly to start my first co-op position.  My teacher had instructed us to arrive prepared, so there I sat with my brand new glitter pen and notebook in hand ready to take on the world – or so I thought. This new world involved bleeds, crop marks, yields and an endless list of vocabulary that I had never heard of before.  I very quickly realized I knew nothing about this industry that I was so interested in.

Through college, I had made it my mission to learn as much about the industry and what graphic design really was.   It was one class in particular that caught my attention - PRINT! I had the opportunity to run a press, prepare screens and even do screen printing on garments (photos attached as proof!).  My world of design had been opened up. Why had I never thought of the end result? Why was my mind stuck solely in the design phase, when there existed an entire world of print and production?  It was then that I started to realize the correlation between design and production.

As I started my new job at Mito, I was excited to learn how everything was made, beginning to end. Design to production. I had the same nervous feeling I once felt back in my high school co-op days, except this time, it was a good nervous. It was the eagerness to learn and understand how things became a design on screen to something tangible in the world.  And THIS time I was prepared! I knew what a bleed and crop marks were! (Queue in jazz hands).

Through this job, I learned the impact that design had on print and re-production.  Design was not just making things look pretty as I once had thought.  Design and the end result had to go hand in hand.  Working on projects from varied ranges such close view decals, large scale signage, working from blueprints and branding guides.  They all required different design requirements.  Can it be read? can it be seen? is it functional? all the while maintaining the integrity of the end result and considering things such as brand identity and client expectation. 

My initial concepts of what design was is far from what I know it to be today.  Most elements that we don’t consider to be related with design are integrated into our every day.  The printed buttons on a microwave, the dials on your car stereo, that cool graphic on a car, street signs, those annoying-but-sometimes funny bumper stickers everyone has, the sign on the building on your favourite coffee spot.  

Design is everywhere and it all belongs to the ever-changing world of visual communication.  Understanding your end result, audience and intent is a critical step in achieving both the functionality and beauty that design has to offer.

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