It is hard to live in Australia and miss the word "Walkabout" especially since it is more of a sentiment and refers to an Aboriginal rite of passage for young adolescent males. They spend a few months in the wilderness, living in harmony with nature, discovering their land on their journey to adulthood. A "Design Walkabout" is an exercise in discovering and honing new design skills in a journey of your own making, a journey towards bettering yourself and growing as a designer and creative. After reading about the true history and meaning of a walkabout and hearing John Locke mention it for the upteenth time in Lost, I decided to go on a walkabout of my own. It was meant to be a virtual walkabout, synonymous with the real one, but something that I could do in the comfort of my home. So, a few months ago, I went on a design walkabout and the journey was amazing and full of valuable lessons learnt, that I have now made it a habit to do it once in a couple of months.
Understanding the Meaning, Process And Value of a Design Walkabout
WHAT IS A DESIGN WALKABOUT?
As designers and as freelancers, we learn a lot on the job. Many of us [like me] don’t have a design degree, but yet here we are, creating pretty things for people to use. Once your initial struggling phase as a freelancer or blogger is behind you, you will find yourself extremely busy with projects galore. So you trudge along bravely, adapting and evolving and learning something new everyday.
A design walkabout is a project you create for yourself, when there is no client and no deadlines to stress over. It involves sitting down with yourself and evaluating the kind of new skills that you would want to acquire or new processes that you would want to learn. You then assign yourself to researching and designing purely in theory, that very task. Because the exercise you are indulging in is new to you and you are in unknown territory, you will discover obstacles and invent means to overcome them. You will walk yourself through the entire task, surviving and coming out of it as a new, more knowledgeable and skilled designer. Thus you would have successfully completed a design walkabout.
WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS? – THE FICTITIOUS PROJECT APPROACH
This is the fun part. What you want to learn and discover is completely up to you. The key is to step out of your comfort zone and deal with something you would have not normally undertaken or have yet to experience. A couple of years ago, I was stuck in a rut. I had a lot of work on my hands and I took comfort in the same kind kind of work and projects over and over again. Although I learnt new techniques, my overall vision and skill set became very limited and mundane. I started looking around a lot then, poring through design magazines, books, online blogs and articles. Whenever I saw something that blew me away with its creativity and spiked my interest, I put it on my list of things to learn. Every now and then, when I finished a big project and had some time to spare, I would bring out that list and strive to tackle one item from it.
It is much easier for logo designers to create practice logos than it is for web designers to create practice websites because of the sheer difference in size for both projects. But a design walkabout is not about actually, physically creating designs. It is about understanding the design and what goes into it. It is a walk through the "pros" and "cons" of the project. It is about grasping the purpose of the project and the effect it will have on the product or community. It is about trying to gauge what will work and what won’t. Strictly in theory. If you have never built a shopping website, then try your hand at designing it from scratch in theory. Understanding the requirements, implementing the functionalities and foreseeing the problems are very vital to any design process and a "theoretical" approach to a design project will teach you volumes.
WHAT ARE YOUR ALTERNATIVES? – THE DECONSTRUCTION APPROACH
Creating a fictitious project is a lot of work and a lot of fun as well. But deconstructing an existing project is even more fun. Your design walkabout doesn’t have to be about inventing a new purpose for you to learn from. There are a million instances of completed "projects" and "designs" all around us. Why not deconstruct one of those and try this new approach?
The deconstruction approach teaches you something more than the fictitious project approach. It teaches you how to objectively critique a design. Because it is not your creation, you are more likely to look at the design process you are studying from an unbiased perspective. This helps you to identify loopholes and applaud perfection with a profoundness you didn’t realize you had. Deconstructing a design allows you to enter the mind of the designer and try to understand what went on there before the design took shape. And there in you will find an immense wealth of knowledge that wouldn’t have dawned on you if you would have just thought within your own head.
3 EXCITING DESIGN WALKABOUT IDEAS
Illustration Piece From Andre Gordeev’s Portfolio on Behance
- Take a complex illustrator vector piece designed by an experienced artist. Try to gain an understanding of the color palette used in accordance with the subject of the piece. Spot "techniques" you still don’t know and search online for tutorials that will teach you those techniques. Chalk down the purpose and message of the piece according to your understanding and try to analyze whether the artist has succeeded in conveying both. If not, try to figure out how you would do things differently.
Opening Credits of the film "Juno"
- Loved the opening credits of a movie you watched recently? Have no clue what technology is used to create credits? Hop onto the internet and research it. Research softwares use to produce motion credits for movies. Create a loose script for a movie and try to sketch several storyboards for the opening credits that would do justice to the mood and topic of the movie. What kind of font would suit best? Would you have music or plain sound effects? Would the credits summarize the gist of the movie or leave the viewer clueless? There are a lot of fun, exciting and endless possibilities in this learning exercise.
Redesign The Google Home Page
- Try your hand at theoretically redesigning a website you visit daily. Google, for example. If you were handed the task of redesigning the famous Google home page with new features while still retaining the minimal design, how would you do it? What effect would your proposed new design have on the browsing habits of the masses?
DESIGN WALKABOUT RESOURCES
- A Look At The New MSN Website
- How To Scan, Absorb And Process Information
- Design And Code A Cool iPhone App Website in HTML5
- 15 Fresh Logo Design Processes That Teach Volumes
- How To Create A Vector Optical Illustration
- Developing A Storyboard
- The Art Of Creating A Fictional Brand
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