Sometime in the past year, thanks to Pinterest (my vice and savior), I discovered the drawings and writings of Brian Andreas and fell in love. His stories are like abbreviated poems and always, without fail, make me think.
Most recently, I opened one of the collections of his work at random to this snippet:
Now, I can’t say I have a particular affinity for geography. In fact, I’m fairly lousy at it, and through a number of chance happenings, somehow missed ever having to take World Geography at all. (Which, of course, means I’ll never win Trivial Pursuit.)
However, these words struck a chord with me, namely the final sentence: Pay no attention to the boundaries. Now that is a philosophy I can get behind.
I’ve always been fascinated by famous, successful people. But not just who they are today or how they live once they are famous. I like to read the life story, from the very beginning, how they went from being just another baby born to someone who made it. And you know what stands out to me about nearly every person who has done something extraordinary? They all, without exception, paid no attention to the boundaries. Either because of a lack of knowledge of accepted boundaries or often a knowledgeable and deliberate snub of them, people who succeed simply don’t let themselves get boxed in by what is expected.
What does this have to do with design, you might ask. A couple of years ago, I decided to return to school in pursuit of a second bachelor’s degree in graphic design. I was excited, especially my first semester, when I was pushed to think outside the box in my design foundations classes. My second and third semesters, I finally got to take some actual graphic design classes and I was so looking forward to them. Until, that is, I starting being told what not to do. Don’t do this, don’t do that, don’t ever, ever, under any circumstances, do this. Very rarely was there an explanation why certain things were frowned upon in design, and even when there was, it was vague at best.
Even better was the fact that the instructors would spend the first half of the class explaining to us the importance of getting an education in design but then turn around and show us examples of what “good” design that had been created by people who in some cases had never set foot in a classroom and whose designs very often broke the very rules the instructor had just laid out for us.
What a paradox.
When one thinks of all the innovators, in any profession, who are immortalized for making strides and discoveries and taking risks – wait. Innovators? Doesn’t that mean they did something new? That they bent, or perhaps even broke, what was consider the “rule”? How do you make strides by doing what everyone else is? How can you create a brilliant design if yours fits into the same box of guidelines every other design follows?
Why, indeed, do I need them at all? Them telling me how to do things. Maybe I can figure out what doesn’t work by just trying it. And if it doesn’t work, I’ll try something else, and keep trying until something does work. And maybe some of the things I’ll discover will prove to me that some boundaries are there for a reason. But maybe I will create something amazing the no one else could, because everyone else is confining themselves to the boundaries someone, somewhere, in some other time, in some other place, set for them.