As any fellow creative can attest to, there are many lessons from art school that follow us into our careers. We look at our x-acto blade scars and feel pride in the projects that we put our (literal) blood, sweat and tears into. However, no one warns the ambitious, young student about the real-world complexities of taking your first professional projects from start to finish.
Believe it or not, designing doesn’t start at turning on your computer and hitting print—it’s a process mixed with variables like research, brainstorming, establishing a look and feel and, most importantly, PROTOTYPING!
Other than graduating, learning how to prototype is the best thing that ever happened to me during school. Using my hands for more than clicking or trackpad action is something that I learned to be extremely valuable, and has shown to be applicable in many other fields of work.
Prototyping is the act of building a concept out in a physical space for yourself or the client in order to bring the idea to life. I find that it always makes it easier to assess edits and feel good about turning the concept into a reality. And, with the help of the BatesMeron team being a traditionally tactile agency, my love for cutting and taping feels right at home. If it’s a print project done here at BatesMeron, it doesn’t make its way to the client for approval without a cut-and-paste prototype and that makes my heart happy.
Here, we’re all on board for prototyping and all its benefits, including:
Stuck on an idea? Build it. Every design nerd reaches their version of nirvana when their prints come hot off the press or that sexy swag is finally delivered. But behold, prototyping allows your to see your work in real life before final print or delivery! You can feel that rush twice and experience a deeper sleep knowing it will look amazing.
When words start to look like shapes and the color white starts to look blue, that’s when you know you need to take a walk. No matter how passionate you are about the project or deadline, your eyesight is part of wellness and the most important asset as a visual artist. Prototyping allows you to take a break while continuing productivity on your beloved project. Print something, cut something, glue something. Then go back to work.
All those years in grade school smelling Elmers glue and making dioramas will finally come in handy. While creating your prototype, it’s socially acceptable to sit criss-crossed and back-hunched, playing with shapes and materials. It’s actually the only way to do it.
This is something I wish I learned sooner. Whenever I attempted to make a jaw-dropping prototype to convey a simple idea, too much time was spent on something that would end up in the garbage a week later. What I really needed to spend time on was fixing the little details after the initial mockup was critiqued.
The truth is, ugly is okay. You can make something beautiful out of ugly and you definitely can make ugly out of something beautiful. If an idea or design is overthought or over-kneaded, it can start to look real crazy. Taking a step back or coming back to it later helps greatly.
As a young designer (and a young adult), I’ve learned most lessons through making mistakes and fixing them—and listening to others’ hiccups and stories is the first step in the right direction. So, the next time you find yourself stuck in a rut or straining from the screen, start prototyping. And if you’ve learned any other valuable design lessons over the years, let us know in the comments!