Review: Critiqued

I love reading about design process, but ironically I dread the process of reading and writing reviews that drag on so I'm going to try something different. I'll post my personal reviews of recommended publications that can't take more than 45 minutes to write, shoot and post, and it can't take more than 7 minutes to read my report. (I blew this first one, but I was testing image sizes to set as a there!)

My first is for "Critiqued: Inside the Minds of 23 Leaders of Design" by Christina Beard (Peachpit). A compelling book, as the author/designer initiates an experiment to design a poster encouraging handwashing in the restroom and proceeds to take the reader through 23 iterations of it, following the design feedback from various mentors while continually reinventing the design and communications emphasis. Initially, it sounded like a recipe for disaster (sometimes it was, considering certain feedback) and perhaps even futile as it seemed to be leading her through a wild goose chase of design.

First couple pages in, I lamented the sparseness of design inspiration and process work (visuals are tiny and limited). However by the 4th designer, Jessica Helfand, it was clear. What each designer had to contribute in terms of critique rationale and thought process—through words & context—was utterly vital and far more compelling than the perceived journey. You also learn how each design mentor thinks or feels strongly in his or her approach to creative process (one focuses on audience behavior while another considers objective goals), so you don't feel the comments are impulsive or personal whimsy (albeit a few WTH moments). Perhaps that is why design criticism is equally celebrated and scrutinized by those outside of the field (e.g. accounting) where solutions aren't so cut and dry (i.e. subjective) and where we are often tasked to think about many factors all at once.

A good message for design students and professional designers to keep top of mind: design process MUST involve applicable thought and rationale. Otherwise it truly falls victim to form over function, or style over substance, which are collectively the key elements of communication design.

4/5 STARS - The journey was far greater than the final destination...although the traveller was changed for the better upon arrival.

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