Tough Skills: Describing Design

Seeing Nepomuk use the word “polarising” to describe their design work struck me good. It reminded me how important it is to have a working vocabulary, especially as a designer. I liked how the word sounded and the powerful feeling it evoked. It was a bit abstract, and not too unusual that an average non-designer wouldn’t know what it means. From it I could presume that their work is controversial in that they address more than one POV, if only two.

Polarizing: To repel to opposite ends, to contradict, to divide into sharply opposing factions, cause to concentrate about two conflicting or contrasting positions [ref:]. Sounds interesting, no?

I remember the last time an adjective affected me like so. Sitting in my Pattern, Form and Surface class with Professor Danh Nguyen, taking notes during critique because I was particularly impressed with the words he used to describe a texture, a feeling, a moment. Every word made me go “Yeeeah…. that’s exactly how to describe it. How did he DO that? Yeaaaah!”. I have to find those notes somewhere… best darn class I ever took.

I believe that being able to talk about design is an extremely difficult yet enormously necessary part of the design process, and that if you can achieve a mastery level of your design vocabulary then you practically write yourself an invitation to the Big Boys Club.. You’ll need several scales of words to be able to communicate your ideas to clients, critique the work of your peers, or to just describe why something you saw is “soOooO cool” to your friend.

Some other people who are good at describing design:

Paul Rand
A grand slew of articles by the famous American Modernist

Khoi Vinh – NYTimes Design Director
One of his many projects, his website: Subtraction

1 comment
  1. jl said:

    oh how i miss this place already.

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