Design Lessons You Can Apply to Your Life

Last February 1, Ponggo & I, together with my sister attended the Graphika Manila 2014 and each time, we always come home refreshed and inspired with all the new lessons that we’ve learned from designers.  Graphika Manila is a yearly design convention.  As much as it is a “conference on creativity” where design processes are being discussed, I can’t help but think that the tips that are being imparted by the artists can also be applied to life in general.  We jotted down some notes for ya (as well as live tweeted as much as we can–check out #GM2014 on Twitter) because there’s just a looooot to be learned!

Googly Gooeys Design Lessons You Can Apply to Your Life

1. Sarah Blake – Sarah blake is a designer & illsutrator from New York City. She shares that passion & determination are more important than skill and gahh…aside from her effortless illustrations, she has sooo many self-explanatory quotable quotes such as:

“We are who we were when we were kids.”
“Take your weakness & make it a strength.”
“Separate the work you want to do for money.”
“Free yourself from anyone’s expectations from your own.”

…all of which, I realized, if I just recited every morning as soon as I woke up, would make me a bit more sane and less panicky about deadlines…and probably ease up a bit on being a self-loathing person doubting my place & purpose in the world. Hehe 😉

2. Isabel Gatuslao – Actually, my favorite lines from this homegrown graphic artist and branding expert Isabel Gatuslao is not the one in the comic (although that seemed to be the most shareable even when taken out of context).  My personal favorites, and probably also the crowd’s, are:

“I have a hard time eating at restaurants with bad fonts on the menu.”
“What’s the best thing about being a Filipino? Tinola.”

I was so happy to hear these!  While walking in the malls, I usually zone out & squint a bit trying to identify the fonts & where they probably got it. (At which point, I just usually “Okaaayy…” as a non-chalant answer). Aside from her project with Ascott which will definitely make you love the Philippines more, Isabel also shared the following:

“Being a well-balanced is for the normal person;  being obsessive is for the fun & neurotic.” “Indecision is the enemy of success.”
“Stick to your style.”
“Make the most of what you got & make it your own.”

That just probably answers all my life-long question about whether or not I should change my style.  However, no matter what I do, even if I start with black & white, I end up coloring things in!

Isabel was asked by Nike to design a shoe for Lebron James and even though she has never designed a pair of rubber shoes, she ended up sticking to her own black & white, clean & minimalist style and finally got to meet the basketball player himself.  I guess it’s the same thing in life.  If you’re too indecisive then you might already be eating up the time you should be spending on honing your craft.

3. Jessica Hische – If by any chance, you bump into those wonderfully lettered colorful covers with nothing but capital letters of Penguin books in your favorite bookstores, those are the works of Jessica Hische. I was checking online whether I should attend Graphika Manila this year.  Her work was the first one that popped on my screen & I ended up buying the tickets right away 🙂 Hehe.

Aside from everyone getting amused with the width tool she shared on Illustrator (which I suggest you should totally try if you’re trying to do calligraphy digitally & a bit tired of getting your hands soaked in black ink), Jessica also said

“Your sketches are sh*tty; they’re supposed to be”.

Now if someone only said this to me 2 decades ago, I would have sketched with pencil and paper more instead of going digital right away and paranoid about making mistakes.  I just always thought that everyone else’s sketches were just way too awesome and Instagrammable and mine were just forever cartoony, monotonous & blah.  Anyway, the bottom line is, we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves & that everyone needs to start somewhere.  Also, speaking of making mistakes,

“It can really get tragic if you don’t get f*ck up as often as before”.

If your drawing style, schedule, life (or even life life ❤) is getting more and more predictable, then, it just means it’s time to explore new things and change your routine!

4. Eugene Gauran – is a Filipino-born artist who currently works for The Mill, a post-production & visual effects company. One of the things he said that really struck me is

“When the opportunity comes, it’s up to you to seize it”.

I think the other thing that’s also important here is that whatever field you’re pursuing, it’s always important to open your eyes to and be able to identify something as an opportunity!

5. Ash Thorp – is a freelance designer, art director, illustrator & creative director based in California. He has worked on the likes of X-Men: First Class, The Amazing Spider-Man & Iron Man. Even his name sounds like a superhero. 🙂 Somewhere between being in awe of those visual effects and feeling unworthy to even call any of my work a “form of art”, here are some favorite lines of ours from his presentation:

“Never work for bad people.”
“If you’re ever find that you’re the most talented on the room, you need to find another room. Surround yourself with amazing people.” (by Austin Kleon)
“Through variety we thrive.”
“Always always always stay hungry & humble.” (Whole Earth Catalog, 1974)
“Be goal oriented.”

I guess in the end there’s just a healthy amount of being humble enough so as to cater to the client’s needs and gauging when it is healthy to say no. Years ago, I felt like I was in the business of selling sleep, weekends, holidays & my sanity. I ended up changing my design path because I no longer wanted to compromise time for the people I love and it always helps when someone else affirms those thoughts!

6. Dvein – Dvein always manages to combine unexpected elements together–mixing the real & unreal. For example, how do you actually combine old people, landscapes & paint? But, they still end up putting a piece together of some awesome work anyway. D-V-E-I-N is a play on words: These are the leftmost letters you will see when you translate “designers from hell” in Spanish. They love “playing God” in the sense that they create their own reality through live action and animation. Who can actually forget their line

“Son of a Pitch”?

They said they’ve always been pitching ideas for clients they might as well be called that. This is how I actually feel about this blog and other works that I end up submitting allover the world wide web. I might not have been able to catch that “Son of a Pitch” tee but it’s a good reminder that we should think like entrepreneurs, always exploring new things and risking something a little (i.e. time & talent and probably investment) with nothing but faith and a good sense that a certain idea will work.

You know what? I can go on and on talking about the things we’ve learned from Graphika Manila (and I might have just stated the obvious) but I strongly suggest that you visit each of the artists’ folios, ponder a bit on a quote or two and of course attend Graphika Manila next year! For the past couple of years, it is usually held during the first two months of the year.

Graphika Manila gm-300

Anyway, with that, see you in Graphika Manila next year & thank you to all the artists for generously sharing with us your enlightening thoughts on design! 🙂

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