Graphic Design is like Figure Skating

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I’ve always had an appreciation for people who make near-impossible feats look easy. Watching Olympic figure skaters like 15-year-old Yulia Lipnitskaya twirl time after time on the ice without a slip or stumble made us, the spectators, feel as though we could strap on skates, hit the ice and perform the same flawless routine. In reality, we’d be spun into a nauseating whirlwind before falling bottom first onto the ice, assuming we even made it that far.  

In this way, graphic designers are like figure skaters. I know, sounds like a ridiculous comparison, but let me explain.

I was recently tasked with creating an infographic as an assignment in my strategic writing class. I’ve worked with graphic designers on several projects, and like figure skaters, they made it look like child’s play. Move that there, change that font, tweak that color a bit and BAM! A professional-quality piece ready to publish. Naively, I approached the assignment thinking I could replicate that ease, and boy was I wrong. So wrong, in fact, that I’m too ashamed to share my finished product on the interweb. The experience was humbling and gave me a deep appreciation for graphic design. A wise man once said that life’s greatest lessons are learned in defeat, and I’d like to share those lessons with you today. Here are my 4 tips for the amateur graphic designer.

1.    Sketch a draft. I made the mistake of relying on a mental picture of what I wanted my infographic to look like during the creation process. After hours of frustration, I finally put pen to paper and it made the process a lot easier

2.    Start early. Mistakenly thinking design was a piece of cake, I waited until the last minute to start. BIG mistake. Simple changes and additions take a long time for amateur designers.

3.     Be flexible. Falling in love with your first draft or first idea will only cause frustration and stress. Go into the project expecting to scratch your first idea. Starting early will allow you the time for multiple drafts. 

4.     Welcome criticism. Find a friend or colleague who doesn’t like you all that much and ask them to point out anything they don’t like about your design. This candid feedback will go a long way in making your project a success.

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2 comments

  1. This was great! Comparing graphic design with figure skating was an awesome way to look at it and I love how you admitted that you learned from your mistakes in approaching the project and want others to learn how not to do it.

  2. Bravo! This is a win in my book. Number 3 is my favorite and suggests that you have more capability than you think if you are willing to surrender to the process next time. I’m sharing this post with all of my J452 students from now on. Thanks for your honesty Austin!

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