The easiest way to learn design is:
a) Go to school for that
b) Consume all the information available on the Internet and try to figure out the basics of the mess of data you have in your brain
c) Pay ludicrous amounts of money on boot camps, courses, etc.
The easiest way to learn anything is to watch an expert doing what you want to learn.
Basically, you steal his ability by looking at him.
How does this work? Because if I show you a video with DaVinci and tell you to “look”, there is little chance you will spot what you need to spot.
You need to know what you are looking for when you watch an expert.
And the school system does a very poor job at teaching kids how to observe a master. Generally, in school, you stare at a page, whether it’s blank or full of worthless details.
The school trains you to look for details. So when I show you a secret footage with DaVinci drawing, you will look for things like how he holds the pencil, how long does he take to draw a simple line, how many lines, etc.
And don’t get me wrong, technicalities are not insignificant, but I don’t think that you learn technicalities, I think you pick up on them while you are slowly advancing in your craft.
So when I’m showing you a footage with, say, Saul Bass, you will study his technicalities too. How he holds the pencil, how he stares at the window from time to time. And that is not what you should be looking at.
What you should be looking at is rhythm.
Rhythm, in this context, is synonym with the vibe, or feeling, or pacing, but I feel that rhythm does the best job at encompassing the next things you need to observe form an expert doing his job:
- Speed and agility of movement. How fast he is. How agile he is. How much time does he allocate for a certain task, however small it might be. What he leaves out.
- How he thinks. Without a camera on him, it’s unlikely he will start to babble whatever the next step might be. However, if you look closely enough to observe the rhythm, you will start to spot patterns in his movements, that betray the way he thinks. This is important because some people are strategic and analytical, others are more spontaneous and instinctive. It’s important to see an expert’s thinking at play to understand how to adapt your own personality and thought at the craft.
- And finally, you have to learn what is important, what is not important, and the gradations of the items on the importance scale. And this, this last thing, is what almost no one, in the beginning, knows because the problem is the very subjective nature of a field as design. The school you learn from will give you a bunch of tools but never rank or compare them. So in your mind, there is a soup of concepts like composition, layouts, alignment, and grid, which, because you’ve never seen someone implement professionally, you think they are all arbitrary. Sometimes you can leave things out, sometimes you can look the other way when the typography sucks.
And the thing about rhythm is: it’s very hard to be taught by amateurs. This is why most of your school teachers will teach you technicalities exclusively. They don’t understand rhythm. They don’t really practice the craft to become great. Most of them are amateurs.
And by association with people who don’t practice what they try to teach, you fall in the same trap: when the client calls or when the opportunity presents itself, you will be stuck on technicalities. You will agonize over petty details and get stuck in your head for the most mundane of things.