Keepin’ it Classy: Graphic Design I

Last Wednesday (January 12) marked the first time I listened to a class lecture since August of 2008. A crazy mixture of feelings ran through me when I entered the classroom that morning:  anxiety, excitement, determination, doubt…  I have been in that computer lab probably hundreds, if not thousands of times before, and yet I felt like I was in a brand new place. They have done a complete overhaul of a remodel since I attended Lamar just barely 3 years ago, which included new floors, removal of the obnoxious yellow air conditioner vents from the ceiling and rows upon rows of shiny new brilliant iMacs.  YES, MACS. That ol’ computer lab used to be dominated by sluggish PC’s with only one measly row of Mac Mini’s, but now it’s literally MAC’D OUT. There is also a HUGE monitor towards the back of the classroom so that the students can watch what the professor is doing with ease (as opposed to how we used to have to watch this crappy old TV when I was there)…

Yes, the old dingy computer lab is now a shiny new one equipped with CS5 and other wonderful tools to help the graphic design program at Lamar flourish.  And I am ECSTATIC.

Since I missed the first day of class, I observed what the students had to do since Monday. They were required to do twenty or so sketches of a cube drawn from every possible angle, and then they had to choose what they thought were the “Top 3″ most interesting sketches of the twenty, and enlarge them to 3 separate 5 x 5” drawings. As a class, we all decided which sketches seemed the most accurate and interesting, and then we helped each individual student choose which of their cube sketches was the best of the 3. After the cubes were chosen, Crispin helped the students scan their cubes and he taught them how to place them into Adobe Illustrator (plus some other VERY basic things like telling them what some of the tools do, how to change document size, etc.), and he then proceeded to teach them how to use the pen tool in Illustrator and trace the cube that they had scanned. Since I consider myself to be an “advanced intermediate” Illustrator user, I went ahead and began creating a cube with the pen tool without a scanned image. Oh. Wow.

It was so frustrating! I’m pretty sure that I spent a good 40 minutes just trying to make a “perfect” cube with the pen tool, and let’s just say I felt completely inadequate. I was obviously a lot better off and further along than the other students in the class, but I was surprised at how difficult it was for me to SEE the imperfections of where I needed to make adjustments on the cube. I had to step back (a lot) and I had to step away so that I could look at the cube with “fresh” eyes every once in a while before I was finally happy enough to print it. I felt like I wasn’t seeing something, and I looked at it SO MUCH that I was making myself crazy…

Cube 1 is the one I printed; Cube 2 is the one I altered after Crispin's critique and I'm STILL not happy with them.

And that was EXACTLY the point Crispin wanted to make to the students. He enlightened me with this information after class when we spoke about how we could help each other for the remainder of the semester. There’s no way you CAN make anything perfect, but you can get really close. The BEST way to do that is to look at everything EXCESSIVELY (as time allows) from EVERY angle.   Look, look and look again. Analyze, study, SEE. Who knew that ONE super simple and BASIC exercise such as this would help me remember how to SEE. Especially since I’ve been working away from school, I’ve taken my ability to see things differently and in a unique way for granted, and I haven’t nourished that gift nearly enough. It’s a never ending, always changing gift that I NEED to help grow, or else I will lose it or it will never improve. This was just day 1, and I can already tell that this is going to be a great semester and learning experience.

It looks like I’ll also get to do the assignments at my discretion. Crispin wants me to “use the class to [my] full advantage,” and he seems to trust me enough to decide what I think I can take away from the class. I’m kind of relieved about that, and I’m kind of dreading I’ll disappoint myself by being lazy by not doing assignments I don’t think I “need” to do, but luckily, I HATE disappointing others (especially teachers or other authority figures) so I think I’ll get along alright. I intend to do my best to decide which assignments I’d like to actually DO, and I will DEFINITELY soak in everything that I possibly can to get the most out of this amazing opportunity. I truly feel so blessed…

For our next class, we will be using the cubes we created in Illustrator and we will somehow incorporate them with type. Crispin gave us all a handout that looked like this:

 

These are the only 12 fonts we will be allowed to use ALL. SEMESTER. LONG. I LOVE the fact that we’re starting from such very basic, classic fonts. I hope the students will appreciate these typefaces as much as I have learned to over the past couple of years because if you can create a dynamic design with these, you and typography will be great friends. Hooray for passion and learning! I CANNOT wait…

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