Design is Difficult: An Inner Dialogue between a Few Communicators

I’ve been a little overwhelmed the last few days with a lot of things to do. It’s not even so much the amount of things, but rather the moments of time I have to work. It’s just enough time to get into the zone, and then be ripped out of it too early. I’ve been dancing around this question in the majority of my blogs, but I’ll just come right out and tell you the answer: Art is definitely a science. Knowing how to balance elements, picking the right colors to effectively communicate an idea – there’s a lot of thought, experimentation, and revisions that go into it. Design (and Art) is not just coloring in a coloring book.

Don’t get me wrong: I went into this field because it is certainly a passion. Or, I should clarify: I didn’t pick being an artist, it chose me. And as much as I fight breaking away from it, the more clear it becomes that this is a lifestyle I need to survive. It’s not just a career choice.

I’ve spent enough time on the boat now to finally get into a routine, even if it is totally different than the one I’ve become accustomed to on land. But now when there are changes to this new routine, I feel even more thrown off. There are always distractions. And unless they are designers/artists themselves, I’m not sure people will ever understand how challenging design can be.

I notice myself spacing out during meal times, not to be rude, but because it’s my only time to think – or not think. Katin noticed my spacing out the other day as well. “This is hard,” I said with a sigh. “What, so you can’t just turn your creativity on like that?” she joked with a snap of her fingers. “Turing it on is never the problem. It’s being forced to shut it off that’s the issue,” I admitted.

I went down to the cabin to work on the animation because I figured it was the one spot I could go undisturbed for a few hours. When I finished, I walked back to the Education Officers space to find Jean-Luc and Susan in a conversation detailing their frustrations with formatting some worksheets. “the thought that goes into it,” Jean-Luc said, “it’s just incredible.”

“The amount of time it takes to just get something on the actual page…and then…knowing how to make it look good!” Susan agreed while shaking her head in frustration. “People spend their whole lives working with companies because of the importance of a logo……incredible.” Jean-Luc continued. I laughed and said, “Welcome to my world. That’s my day-job.”

It was kind of nice to walk in on that conversation. One I had been having with myself in my own head for a few days. It also became clear that people may not realize how much time and effort go into making things when Andrew, another scientist, made a comment about making a pinata for Alden’s birthday. Naomi looked at him and then pointed at me, “Talk to Nicole. She’s our artist-in-residence.” I groaned. It was definitely an awesome idea, but deciding to make a pinata, and actually making one are two completely different things.

“Oh, that’d be awesome!” he said. “We can do it tonight! I’m guessing we just need paper mache…wait..what actually goes into paper mache?”

“When do you need it by?” I asked.

“His birthday is tomorrow.”

“Not enough time for that. It will never dry in time. We’ll use a box. What shape do you want?”

“Uh…I don’t know…?” he answered.

“OK, well how big?” I asked hoping that would spark an idea for him.

“Mmmm…Not sure.”

“…OK…well what do we have to put in it?”

“Uh, I hadn’t thought about it,” he said with a nervous laugh.

We got something together, and I was happy in the end. It was a really sweet idea. But I think the process definitely opened Andrew’s eyes to how much work is involved with what artists do. It’s never just talking photos. It’s composing a shot, directing people where to stand and how to look, it’s communicating effectively to many different types of people and knowing enough to get the most out of them. We aren’t lazy screw-ups. We’re hard-working, slightly obsessive, sensitive, thoughtful (to a fault at times) people who can’t shut off their brains and that can sometimes keep us up until 3 in the morning. It can be exhausting, but also extremely rewarding.

But sorry folks, we can’t just flip it on and off…even if many of us are constantly trying to figure out how.


And now a shout out to Jon Snow’s wife – a fellow artist. Thanks for your kind words!

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