I think one of the most important qualities that designers must have in their work is the ability to maintain a balance between "the natural" and "the calculated" in a composition. What makes the great designers so great is that they are able to achieve this balance while making it essentially invisible to the viewer. Nothing should stand out as awkward or forced placement — just perfect design. Examples of such types of design and illustration, including Elaan Ventura Bourn's pieces above, are...
And the master, Stefan Sagmeister (have you heard of him?)
These designs have structure but nothing seems forced. There is balance, order, and a sophistication in their compositions but it appears so effortless and sits together so naturally. *Sigh*
Because I admire these designs so much and can acknowledge what makes them so meaningful, I have tried improving my own design habits and over the past year or so, I have been trying to address an area of focus in my own work. It's an issue that, to some extent, I think carries on into my personal and professional life as well. The issue is that I try to make everything too "clean". By this I mean a desire to keep things organized, in order, and uncluttered, which results in me feeling a bit too tightly wound. I see this as both a blessing and a curse because you need to have some level of perfectionism in design (alignment, measurements, grammar, etc.) but I would like to develop a more loose quality in my work that a lot of great designers use to their advantage (with flawless results).
I've been trying to work on this little personal pet peeve and have been gradually collecting moments in my design process where something happens accidentally and kind of throws me off. At times, these "mistakes" end up actually improving the piece or, more often, just remind me to loosen up. I was unaware of my growing collection of serendipitous moments in my process until I actually scanned through all the screenshots I'd accumulated over the past year. Most of these moments were caused by technical malfunctions (screen freezing) but they've helped me step back and evaluate what I'm doing by giving me a completely new perspective. I'm not saying any of the following images are bringing me any closer to Sagmeister status but they are helping me find my own equilibrium between "natural" and "calculated".
I recently submitted a piece to the Silver Screen Society (a neat website in which designers and illustrators visually interpret a different movie every month) and while I was working on it, I was struck by how interesting the image looked when the text was highlighted and the colours in the background illustration were inverted. I mean, this wasn't a huge "eureka!" moment in the design but it might be something that comes in handy in a future project.
The same thing happened in this screenshot from 2010. It made me realize how stunning these accidental colour combinations are, and funnily enough, it's actually pretty similar to my colour palette in the "Forbidden Planet" piece above, so it ended up coming in handy after all!
This screenshot from last fall is not revolutionary nor really helpful to any potential future project as far as I know, but I thought that my screen freezing as I tried scrolling down my Illustrator file resulted in something interesting enough.
The same thing happened here, with a less eye-catching aftermath (EYE-catching, eh? Eh?) but formed an interesting geometric pattern that I thought were worthy enough for a screenshot.
This image is from a piece of my solo exhibition's poster, in which I had highlighted certain shapes in a layer that was colour-coded blueish-purple in the Illustrator file.
I liked how having these specific shapes highlighted abstracted the piece even more and pushed it into a direction I wasn't going to pursue, but was still interesting to see
This is a screenshot from January of an early version of a concept for the NSCAD Grad Catalogue. In it, the screen froze or something glitchy happened in Photoshop that made some of the type split and repeat, which I really loved. I actually used this effect in some of the iterations for the cover concept and though it didn't end up being the final design, it was interesting to explore and push a bit further.
My most recent happy accident was the other day at work, when I was designing some border graphics for a book cover (I blurred out the book design in the image because it contains unreleased artwork).
Sometimes the neatest part of a design file is what you find discarded outside the actual artboard. These shapes were just pushed to the side to get out of my way and only when I was closing my file did I take a look at it and kind of notice how interesting shapes can look when I'm not forcing them into position or finding the perfect composition. I'm not saying these shapes are perfect and their positions brilliant, but again, it acted as a nice reminder to loosen up every once and a while and see what happens when I don't try to make things look good.
I don't plan on ending the clean aesthetic that I've established in my work but I see the value in having designs look less calculated. My happy accidents have helped remind me that though there should always be an order, it should not always be so visually explicit. I'll continue this collection of accidental design and hopefully I'll put more of them to good use soon!