For Design Newbies: Just Do It.
Disclaimer: Please note that this article is from our old blog site. This article was originally published on October 13th, 2020 and the original author of this article is Yunni Zhu.
I came to America when I was 14, and at that time, I couldn’t even form a complete sentence in English. I was so scared of speaking English because I was embarrassed of my accent. I didn’t have any friends, and I was the girl who always ended up alone when the teacher told us to work in groups. But deep down, I knew that I wanted to be the expressive person I used to be. I pushed myself to speak at least three sentences a day — even a “Hi” or “Bye” would count. When I got home, I would open up a TV show such as Friends, and I would read the English subtitles word by word and try to imitate their pronunciation. Overtime, I was able to make friends and express who I was in English.
Overcoming the challenge of learning a new language has always encouraged me to try out new things. When you think about it, design is its own language. Learning how to design is like mastering a new way to express ourselves; we can draw our feelings through lines and colors, and we can spread an important message through a well-designed website, poster, or logo.
When I joined Bits of Good in May 2020, I was tasked to design a logo for BoG Blog. I didn’t know what people expected of me; I was inexperienced with the entire design process. When I first opened Adobe Illustrator, I didn’t know where to start. I had a sense of déjà vu; this felt the same as learning a new language. Being an aspiring design newbie and passionate learner, I was both nervous and excited to work on this project.
When I learn a new language, I always start with the vocabulary, and it helps me to form complete and meaningful sentences later on. I applied the same mechanism to design. I wanted to be familiar with the software first. Though I had used Adobe Illustrator for some school projects before, I was not confident of my skills when it came to creating a logo. To start, I followed a series of youtube tutorials to create a simple sketch of a phone. Even though there was no deeper meaning behind the sketch, I enjoyed the process of tracing out the silhouette of the model. After getting comfortable with the basic tools, I was ready to dive into the logo itself.
Tip #1: Learning a new design software can be intimidating at first. To get started, you should play around with the different tools. Even though some functionalities might seem intuitive, you should still practice using them first-hand to get the best learning experience. For me, the hardest of all was getting a smooth edge around the phone. Though the curvature tool seemed easy to use during the video, it took me a number of practices to get an accurate curve.
Practice, Practice, Practice
I wanted to create a design that fit both the mission of Bits of Good, and served as a unique identity for BoG Blog. After a few iterations, I was able to create a couple of different mockups, which can be seen below.
After looking over the ideas I had again, I was still not satisfied with the results. Even though I was strictly following the color scheme of Bits of Good throughout the design process, it still made me feel that I was creating the design in my own language, rather than speaking in the brand’s voice.
Tip #2: Creating prototypes is an important part of the creative process because it helps the designers evaluate and explore design alternatives. By laying out the different combinations of the elements, it creates an opportunity for designers to solidify the color scheme, iconography, and the overall atmosphere created by the design itself. This part of the process becomes especially important if you are designing for an organization or someone else. These Lo-fi designs can assist both the designers and the client for clarifying the brand and testing the design.
After reading the Bits of Good brand guide meticulously, I realized that what I had designed did not match the organization’s aesthetics at all. You could easily tell how colorful and complicated they were compared to the minimalistic style of Bits of Good.
After feeling defeated, I decided to share my mockups with my friend, who is an experienced graphic and web designer. After looking at my prototypes, he immediately pointed out that there was too much going on in the logo. He was able to offer me genuine feedback and helpful advice. After talking to him, I was ready to rebuild a logo that accurately fits the brand.
Tip #3: When you are running into roadblocks during your design process, an easy tip is to have someone else look at your design. Getting other people’s perspective is always a crucial step in creating a successful design. The effectiveness of a design can be examined by how well it achieves its purpose, and you can see whether you have delivered the correct message by showing it to other people. These audiences can give you suggestions and help you to develop an eye for what works. This process is not a command about a “right” or “wrong” design, but more of a discussion about a “better” or “worse” design.
Adding The Accent
With the correct direction, I was able to narrow down the colors to use: yellow and black. I picked these two colors not only because they are the colors specified in the brand guide, but also because they are similar to the iconic colors on the Bits of Good logo. Using the same color scheme establishes a consistent brand outlook. To make my design more minimalistic and pleasing to the eyes, I reduced the number of icons and fixed the odd placement of letters. Instead of having a large icon, I decided to have the text itself to serve as the main part of the logo, along with a small but eye-catching spot on one of the letters. The minimalist style that I went with clearly emphasizes the essential meaning behind the logo.
Tip #4: A good design doesn’t have to be as complicated as you think; sometimes, a clean, simple piece can be more recognizable and effective. A minimalistic design creates a focal point for the fundamental content. A general approach to minimalistic design includes avoiding the overuse of colors and creating high contrast in your design.
After polishing up my final design, I was ready to present them to the Directors of Marketing, Chaebin and Sneha. As a new designer to this organization, I had very little ideas as to what to expect from the critique session. I was very nervous when the meeting was coming up, however, both Directors were very supportive of my design. They provided me with encouraging comments, and addressed the doubt I had.
Here is the final version of the BoG Blog logo:
The little yellow and black tip sticking out of the “o” of “Blog” has multiple meanings. At first, people will generally interpret it as a paper airplane, which is its primary function. In fact, the yellow tip was first sketched based on that idea. I see the paper plane as a representation of creativity. We, as BoG Blog, want to share our mission with engineers, designers, and people of all backgrounds; We want to be the symbol that embraces diversity, just like how a plane is the ultimate symbol of connectivity between cultures. This is why the paper airplane also has its tip sticking out from the “o” — it symbolizes our goal to break boundaries and reach outside of our circle.
The secondary meaning came about during the creation of the paper plane sketch. After staring at the sharp tip of the plane for a long time, I started to think of the tip of an ink pen. I soon fell in love with the idea of giving the logo a double meaning of a pen and a paper plane. To incorporate both ideas, I decided to break the plane into four separate components. When put together, they create a look that closely resembles both the tip of an ink pen and the shape of a paper plane.
Many also see the yellow and black tip as a cursor, which was unintentional, but adds an additional meaning that suits the platform well.
This process of adjusting and polishing each separate part could be frustrating sometimes, but I loved seeing the steady improvements that I was making throughout each phase. Being unfamiliar with design tools and processes was a challenge for me, but my desire to explore different functionalities and to generate the best outcome possible kept me entertained throughout the creation of the logo. It reminded me of the time when I was trying to learn English — nerve-racking but exciting.
Words of Encouragement
To everyone who is interested in design — just go for it! Don’t hesitate because you think you might not have the skill set or the appropriate judgment. Don’t let what you believe stop you from pursuing what you want. Ultimately, design is just like learning another language. In the beginning, it might feel unnatural, but if you learn with passion and practice, it will become second nature.
I would like to thank Chaeeun Park, Chaebin Park, Sneha Kadiyala, and the entirety of Bits of Good, for this amazing opportunity to learn a new skill set that adds to my already intense passion for design. I can’t wait to work on the new projects with Bits of Good, and see what I can achieve next.