matthewpennell.com
A blog of acquiescent temper, miscellaneous opinions, and uncertain vote

Sunday, 22 December 2019

Although I’ve been working as a Web Designer (or, more recently, and through no fault of my own, a UX Designer) for almost twenty years, I’ve never had much of a talent for graphic design. Unlike many of my colleagues, I didn’t attend art school or study design at university; when I was freelancing, I outsourced almost all of the initial design work, preferring to handle the ‘easier’ aspects of the work such as the PHP, HTML, CSS and JavaScript. I was all about the production, not the inspiration and creation. Web Designer was simply the most convenient label for the niche I found myself in; I got into the web via programming and code, not through art and design.

Nowadays, of course, working for a multinational corporation in the era of the design system, there is little need for truly inventive design solutions. The problems we tackle are predictable, and understandable through research; the answers are rooted in tried and true patterns of human behaviour and methods of communication. Of course, there are a myriad large and small decisions to be made within each project, but the set of potential blocks from which to construct a solution is known, and mostly finite.

So I’ve never really needed to stretch myself too far outside my comfort zone. On those rare occasions when I do attempt something creatively daring, I inevitably get caught up in the left-brained minutiae of grid measurements and spacing, or the mathematical relationships between colours—unable to simply nudge things around the page until they ‘feel right’, or pick a few colours that ‘just work’. The result is always disappointing, and I find it incredibly hard. In the space between appreciating good design and the ability to create it oneself lies an Imposter Syndrome-triggering black hole of frustration.

In 2020, though, I’ve decided it’s about time that I do something about it. While it probably won’t replace three years of studying at art school, I’m hoping that a generous handful of courses via LinkedIn Learning, Coursera’s Graphic Design specialisation (offered by the California Institute of the Arts), plus a dash of regular practice, will help me quash that sinking feeling whenever someone asks me to “design something” … and fill the yawning gap in my skillset that has haunted me for too long.