On a good day, once you’ve generated a viable design concept, words and images seem to put themselves together. On a bad day, well, you might entertain another profession.
Most of us compose spontaneously. With a design concept driving the visualizing and composing, in the process of creating, shaping, moving, improvising, and experimenting with graphic elements, you compose. You utilize the principles of composition as well as rely on intuition and insights into the subject, audience, and design concept to form a composition. This type of composing is usually reserved for a single surface and therefore does not rely on formal structural devices or systems, such as a grid, which are necessary for multiple pages or websites.
Spontaneous composing does rely on creative as well as critical thinking, creative impulses that result from a working knowledge of design principles and experimentation. Often that’s why students resist iterations—their lack of experience (not to mention fear and frustration) prevents experimentation, which, ironically, would result in more experience.
Creativity exercises can help start the process, such as problem finding, free drawing/sketching, sketching based on prompts, unconventional methods, or anything that gets people moving type and images around. Sketching is thinking. And play with a purpose is self-directed fun.
If spontaneous composing is too open ended as a starting point, you (or your students) can try one of the following preliminary creativity exercises:
• Play with form:
- Contrast big and small shapes.
- Create the illusion of three-dimensional space or movement.
- Exaggerate scale.
- Exaggerate near and far relationships.
- Merge two images.
- Juxtapose contrasting patterns or textures.
• Play with media: Collage, photograms, photomontage, draw with sand, mixed media, painting, sculpture, 3D illustrations, photography, sewing/stitching, weavings, rubbings/blottings, monotypes, printmaking, among many others
• Mess about with historical styles: Vienna Secession, Psychedelic, New Wave, among many others
• Sketch with letterforms only.
Even on a good day, starting out with play rather than work allows you to be motivated by means rather than ends.
Excerpt from Graphic Design Solutions, 6th edition