For the past year and a half I have been studying design under my mentor along with a few other seasoned designers on the team. Prior, my design education consisted of various art histories, color and design theory, and practical courses in design related programs such as the Adobe suite. Limiting my review scope, I want to look at the last year and a half. Throughout this time I followed a curriculum set by my mentor learning the basics from typography, grid, hierarchy, and UX principles. Outside of his set curriculum, I read and researched things that I felt I needed to learn in order to boost my personal growth as a professional designer and well-rounded human being.
Can I say that this was really, really hard? I worked a full-time schedule learning and doing, and on the weekends, and after school at night (yes, I was an active student and full-time employee) I was still in it. I was serious about becoming at least negligibly good, in hopes of maybe understanding a little bit of what it means to be a designer. My goal was not to get praise from other designers, although when that began happening I felt complete relief, but it was to be earnest in learning something to the best of my ability.
I had heard this phrase said occasionally throughout this time, but didn’t worry about it because I was so busy in the student-state-of-mind. But now as someone who is actively in it, I can sympathize with bearing the pain of the words that make me want to yell at someone.
“Making it pretty” is a phrase that most designers will cringe at. After learning about our craft and it’s historical foundations such as in the De Stijl school of thought, or the more broadly known Bauhaus school; to modern day research on eye movement on printed or web-displayed typography, I can’t deny this phrase implies that the speaker is making an uninformed observation.
To me as the designer, I hear this phrase as being belittling and how the underlying motive behind saying it is, “You just care about arranging items to be aesthetically pleasing. You don’t understand the importance of a message. You don’t understand the importance of making money for our business. You just care about type, color, and having too much of an opinion on what images we use.”
Can I repurpose this last sentence?
We care about type, color, the images we use, the placement of those images, the message, the content, the voice and tone of the content, the profitability of our decisions, because we care about the historical context and modern day implications of user research and being relevant in whatever industry we find ourselves working in. We care about it a lot. The difference is that we make informed decisions. These decisions are not arbitrary. These decisions are not made because we want to “make it pretty.”