By Jason Moore
In my last post about typography I talked about taking in all of the interesting design elements that can be found all around us in this visual world of ours and incorporate that inspiration into our own work.
I still stand by that idea, but I think it may need to come with a disclaimer of sorts. Definitely observe, examine, reproduce and modify some of the excellent design concepts to keep your products fresh and relevant in an ever-changing marketing environment. But know your limits.
Don't go overboard
It is important to remember that you can't incorporate everything into one idea and, unless you are a full-time professional designer, it is very easy to go overboard trying to combine different styles into one piece, putting you at risk for losing your content in the design.
Building off of that, you may have some nice new software that has so many great tools and features to play with. You want to use a new look you saw on a movie poster, commercial or direct-mail ad and you think that with this new application you'll finally be able to do it.
After completing your first draft of the project ask yourself, does it really work? Am I trying to do too much?
The main point of any design project is to convey information in a visually compelling way. It needs to serve the message you're trying to send. If you're trying too hard to imitate a look and feel that is out of your reach you run the risk of looking unprofessional and even losing the message you are trying to share.
Fancy software doesn't make you a designer
Just because you have some hot piece of software doesn't mean you'll immediately be able to produce what Hollywood studios or NYC marketing firms put out every day. Like my dad said many times, "Having a lawn mower doesn't make you a landscape architect."
With that said, though, perfect practice makes perfect. We should always challenge ourselves and strive to make each design better than the last. So go out there and try something new, take a risk and see if it works. But know your limits. Recognize when it just doesn't quite work and if the design is getting in the way of the bigger picture, change course so you can keep the main thing the main thing.
Jason Moore is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop CS3 and manages the Photoshop Blog, "Jason D. Moore Photography."