As a visual designer the central problem you attempt to solve is one of communication. In writing a blog post the central problem you attempt to solve is one of communication. See the connection? Some might see visual design and blogging as having two different skill sets. Fundamentally though, each is the same thing.
Both designing and blogging are attempts to communicate using language. In one case the language uses visual grammar and in the other the language uses the grammar of the written word. Learning to write better will help you design better and learning to design better will help you write better, because both teach you to communicate better.
- Of or relating to written representation
- Of or relating to pictorial representation
I thought it would be interesting to take a look at writing as it connects to design. I hope to show you that becoming better at one helps you become better at the other. First I want to begin with a few thoughts about multi-tasking.
Multi-Tasking is Not What You Think it is
I’ve always thought that multi-tasking as most people think of it is an illusion. There are very few tasks you can really do at the same time. Waking and chewing gum come to mind as things you can do at the same time without either suffering.
On the other hand you really can’t text and walk down the street at the same time. Lot’s of people do, but they aren’t doing either skill as well as they could. You need to use your eyes for both and what you’re really doing is moving your attention back and forth between activities.
Here’s what happens when some people try to do both at the same time.
Multi-tasking as we think of it is really moving back and forth between multiple tasks. With tasks that don’t require concentration and focus that’s perfectly fine. For tasks that do need concentration and focus it’s another story.
I have a different view of multi-tasking which is to do one thing that serves multiple purposes. Blogging is a good example as it:
- makes you a better writer
- helps generate new ideas
- is a great way to market yourself and your business
- enhances critical thinking
- provides informational content for search engines and social media sites
- teaches you to communicate more effectively
The last one above is the most important where this post is concerned. If our goal as visual designers is to communicate doesn’t it make sense to do things that generally helps us become better at communicating?
The Connection Between Blogging and Design
I’ve mentioned it a couple of times already. The connection is that both are forms of communication. They simply communicate using a different language with a different syntax and grammar.
Visually we speak with objects, visual elements that we place in space on the page or screen. We structure these objects to form patterns and textures. We create sequences of objects to give the illusion of activity and develop relationships between elements to communicate additional meaning about them.
Design principles become our visual grammar for communication with design elements.
When writing we speak with pictorial representations of sounds that become letters and combinations of letters. We structure these letters into words and create sequences of words to form sentences and sequences of sentences to form paragraphs.
Writing has its own rules of grammar for communicating with the words we use.
We might even try to map the different elements to each other, though it’s far from a perfect comparison.
Writing will help you think more logically as you attempt to present an argument and then prove it. Logic will help you make better design choices to support the message your design wants to convey.
When writing we speak of voice. We develop rhythms to our writing that communicate something more than the words themselves. And we choose certain words among several that mean mostly the same thing to communicate different nuances. When these rhythms and word choices are consistent we’ve developed a voice that communicates additional information about the speaker.
In design we have a style. We choose shapes and textures that evoke certain feelings. We create rhythm and flow visually to communicate something more than the elements themselves convey. When these visual rhythms and choices in color and shapes are consistent we’ve developed a style that communicates additional meaning about the design.
The best writers practice writing in different voices. The best designers practice designing in different styles. Both choose the appropriate voice or style for the particular project.
Many. perhaps most of you already run a blog. This post isn’t trying to convince you to start one, but rather to see what you do when writing a little differently. See how what you write connects to how you design. Try to be more conscious how each makes you better at the other.
Instead of posting a quick tweet, take an extra second or two to craft it. Pick that right word or two that really gets your message across. See email as an art form and use them to practice the craft of writing. Maybe, not all email as you’d never get anything done, but some.
For years I’ve been emailing back and forth each night with a friend or two. In part it’s to say connected with a friend and in part it’s to practice and develop my skills as a writer. Again that multi-tasking thing.
Experiment with your writing. Try writing for another site and use a different voice than the one you naturally use. Write in different places, some where you need to be more formal and some where you can be less formal. Look for places ways to expand your skills as a writer with the understanding that it will expand your skills as a designer as well.
There’s a very strong connection between writing and visual designing. Both are about communication. They simply use different languages to do convey information.
While each naturally requires different skills in the particulars of the languages, syntax, and grammar used, the skills you learn in communicating with one directly translate to the other.
Learning to write more logically and learning to write with different voices will make you a better designer as it will teach you to communicate better and in a number of different ways.
If you liked this post, consider buying my book Design Fundamentals