Design 101

Composed by Rivers with Kitten, Rutger and Addiction

Design is a huge element in our community and there are so many people branching out and trying to get started. I only started about a year ago so I still consider myself a new designer. I have definitely been taught some amazing tricks by some amazing friends but starting out was hard. Anybody else beat their heads against the wall erasing? Anybody? No? How about ghost people? No? Don’t lie. I know what you did.

In the last few months I’ve been brave enough to start asking people how they did what they did. Some people have been cool enough to screen share with me and give me step by steps and some had tutorials that they sent me. I got over the fear of asking ‘stupid questions’ (for the record, I totally just asked kitten a stupid question YESTERDAY) and I got over the fear of having my work critiqued (anybody ever have Addiction put their av on his big screen? fml) and I started really paying attention to artists that have a style that speaks to me (Rutger is always hearing me gush on his work!). What I realized in getting ‘brave’ and talking to people in the design community is that I should have done this a LONG time ago. I could have saved myself so much frustration. I could be further along than I am. I realized also that the resources out there for new designers are ABUNDANT. Don’t know how to use them? Its cool – there are so many people that are willing to help.

I get the fear but I wanted to help break the ice for new designers because as much as I get the fear – I really get the pain of trying to navigate that software blindly and the thrill and frustration of finally being told or shown something that you needed to know months ago. So my idea here was to get together with some of my favorite designers, each with very different styles and approaches, and to ask them a few questions geared towards beginners for advice to help those getting started go on and start!

Here. We. Go!

[1] What is the most essential skill that people new to design should master when starting out?

Addiction: This one is tough, but for me, I think its masking. Some still erase. Or completely cut out, but there’s something about learning to put images together smoothly and making a transition that masking really helps. Its the foundation of it all, and its really easy to undo.

Rutger: I know this sounds funnny but I’ve learned to examine my images from all sides of my screen as I am doing them. That way theres no excess shit everyone can see that you haven’t meant to be on the image. I don’t know if thats a skill.

Kitten: Accept criticim. not everyone is going to like your work, and someone is always going to have a “suggestion”. You can either take it for what it is, sometimes it’s great information from people who know what they’re talking about, or it’s bullshit from people who don’t. It’s up to you in how you interpret it, but you need to be able to take it and not freak out. Even some of the greatest artists in the world started out drawing stick figures.

[2] What are resources that every designer needs to have in their arsenal?

Addiction: Textures. Fonts. Styles. You need em all, but don’t have to go crazy. Most I know have thousands of everything but only use a few. That’s ok, it happens.

Rutger: I was lucky enough to acquire the Nix collection when google was still giving it away for free. Also good quality stock and textures. There’s a ton of great artists on Revo, and DCD and TAG that offer up some great ones. Also a resource I guess would be a good design community with the exchange of ideas and resources.

Kitten: A solid folder of stock images or textures. And an understanding of how to use them. Colorings can come at a later time but you’re building your graphics with your images first.

[3] What are the best ways for new designers to expand and improve their skills?

Addiction: Practice, practice, practice. Talk with others. Do tutorials. Get feedback. Be open to constructive criticism. Also – don’t cut yourself off from unfamiliar territory. Don’t turn down design requests. Try everything.

Rutger: I found that doing tutorials helped. Not only teaching new styles and ways of making the image beyond that it proved to help in learning the program itself. Also sometimes I just fuck around with images in PS until I have some kind if blend that I like. Remember if you like it who gives a fuck what anyone else thinks of it.

Kitten: Find designers you like and talk to them about their work. Study their work, do they use a lot of textures? Is there a specific gradient they lean towards? How is their composition differ from this designer? Check out tutorials on design board and deviantart and youtube. Play around in photoshop. If you see someone wearing a design you’re interested in, ask them about it… basically just start a dialogue.

[4] What are the most common mistakes you see from new designers?

Addiction: Erasing/masking. Everyone has their own way and art is subjective, but a lot of times you see a model that’s not cropped or cut out very well, has thick lines around it, and it just looks really off. Also, fonting, but that’s not something relative to new designers, hell I still mess that up too.

Rutger: I think one of the more common mistakes I see is people using bad quality pictures, rather they already are bad quality or were too small and streetched and pixelated. a bad quality model will kill an av

Kitten: Trusting your buddies to give you an honest opinion. I’m sorry honey. But odds are they’re blowing smoke up your ass when they’re gushing over your latest work when you’re first starting out. So you’re gonna be handing out designs with textures that make your model look like a burn victim, the pose is going to be centered in a way that the model doesn’t look sexy but rather like she’s constipated and trying to squat and get it out.. and they’re just really excited and happy for you and it’s the best EVER!!!!!hearts and flowers and rainbows If you’re that friend and you’re reading this. Don’t be that friend. You’re a jerk. Be honest and tell them that they need to get advice from someone that’s not bias.

[5] What key advice would you give to people just getting started?

Addiction: Don’t give up. Its frustrating, and don’t beat yourself up comparing yourself to others. Its for fun and enjoyment. Ask questions. Google. Look stuff up. Don’t be afraid of making something you might think is ‘bad’ its the only way to get better.

Rutger: Don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s cool that you’re trying to learn and don’t be afraid to ask someone you don’t know even if you think it’s too easy.

Kitten: Hey look it’s gonna be a repeating thing here… Don’t give up.. don’t be hard on yourself.. we all struggled in the beginning. We all struggle now. There’s shit I see designers do that I’m like “you asshole.. how the fuck did you do that?” but it’s all about keep on learning. No one is the best. No one knows everything. We’re all learning and we’re all here to help. If you have questions, just ask. If the person doesn’t want to answer.. fuck them and ask someone else.

There you have it! A big shout out and thank you to Addiction, Rutger and Kitten for helping me out with this. I hope it was helpful to somebody out there.

I’d love to hear some feedback on other common struggles when designing and other help for those getting started. Reply below!