Design Articles

Design or Decoration

By James Robert Watson, PhD

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At a glance

Graphic Design is creative problem solving.

Graphic Decoration is rearranging elements to look pretty.

What graphic design is all about

• Problem solving and problem seeking.

• Innovating: creativity, open-minded exploration, taking risks.

• Communicating clearly: break through clutter to the real message.

• Persuading: change people’s minds and attitudes.

• Paying thorough attention to detail: in thinking, producing, and presenting.

• Asking the right questions: specific, focused.

• Making things better: find improvements, impact society.

• Passion: commitment, desire, love, dedication, pleasure.

• Courage: assertiveness, confidence, less fear, taking risks.

• Persistence: stick-to-itiveness, commitment.

• Participation: team player, confidence, offer.

• Doing more than is expected: push further.

• Compromise: tolerance, sensitivity, team player.

• Having fun: enjoying the process and results, joy.

What graphic decoration is all about

• Rearranging: moving elements around

• Arty: just making things look ‘pretty’

• Shallow: not at the root of issues or problems

• Randomness: haphazard layout compositions

• Mimicking: following trends and fads, copying CA

• Ineffective

Why so much decoration?

Much ‘design’ is just decoration, prettier pictures. Not effective. Just surface response.

• Are designers afraid to dig deep?

• Are they lazy?

• Untalented?

• Artists trying to make a living?

• Instant gratification – gotta have it now.

• Designers seduced by technology – see it as a panacea, not a tool.

• Influenced by the immediacy of the internet & web, MTV, ads.

• Clients who don’t know better – and are willing to pay for decorations.

Many ‘designers flip through CA and mimic trends, the fashion, the gimmicks, the clichés. This isn’t design.

Great design is concept-driven and content-driven. Decorators don’t come up with good concepts nor do they understand the content or its audience.

The bottom line

Graphic Design is creative problem solving.

Graphic Decoration is rearranging elements to look pretty.

Reprinted with permission from Dr. Watson

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