It was a cold night, as cold as a frosted frog in fact, when I was born in the West Texas town of Pampa. Never heard of it? It’s a town of about 12,000 people on the widest spot of highway 60 east of Amarillo. It was there that I grew up and little did I know that my perspective on design would be shaped by the everyday happenings of that little town. You see, if you have never been to Texas, there is a way of giving advice that might sound a little peculiar, but if you listen closely, there are some valuable lessons to be learned.
- “West Texas is so flat you can see your dog running away for 3 days.”
Texas is big, so big in fact that El Paso, Texas is closer to Needles, California (516 miles) than it is to Dallas, Texas (571 miles). Growing up in the Texas Panhandle, if you wanted to go out for dinner (and that’s either the meal at noon or the one in the evening) you had to load up in the car and drive an hour to get to a restaurant, and believe me, there is nothing between towns except cotton fields, lots of cotton fields. Good design also has a lot of space and room for things to breathe. It doesn’t take much to clutter up a really good design and lose your message and audience. Good design allows the viewer the chance to take in your message at a glance and then pull them further into the details. You want to capture someone’s attention and tell a story, not scare him or her away.
- “Everything in Texas is broken ‘cause everybody is always fixin’ things.”
If good design is not cluttered and full of space, then you need to pay attention to the little details. This is where a concept goes from being “good” to being award winning. The sign of a good designer is one that is always busier than a one legged man in a butt-kicking contest fixin’ things. The subtle fixes that make a great design might not jump off the screen and slap you in the face, but those are the elements that make your concept relatable to your audience.
- “I never wet the bed, I always crawled up on the pillow.”
This one is straight out of the mouth of my great-grandfather. In speaking about how he was respectful to his mother, he always said that when he was little he never wet the bed; he always crawled up on the pillow. This was so that his mom wouldn’t have to get up and change his sheets in the middle of the night. It may sound a little crass at first, but this nugget of wisdom is some solid design advice. Good design typically isn’t the product of one person. It is a team effort and is the product of collaboration. There is nothing worse than watching a great concept fail miserably because the designer wasn’t willing to listen to the advice of those around him.