Design – a plan, blueprint, drawing, map, depiction or model.

Great, fantastic, but there’s a whole world hidden behind those descriptors that go into and support design – a world that can really help your work rise to your expectations to be supremely successful, rather than just ho-hum.

And understanding those component parts is essential to harmonise and unify your design to create something that has the power to draw attention or tell a story – especially when working with textiles – otherwise, it may just look like unconnected, unrelated elements.

It all starts with intention – you are deliberately, purposefully and consciously creating.  Simple – but this’s also where you determine how the work will be used or displayed – and it’s essential at this point, as these factors can determine your choice of materials and technique.  Thought should also be given to cleaning, especially if the work is going to be worn or used frequently.

Ok, fairly simple so far – and design isn’t difficult, but it can be daunting, which is why there’s a structure available (more on that later) to support your concept – but now we get into the language of design.  Take a deep breath and let’s quickly go through this language:

  • concept simply relates to the idea you want to build your design around
  • content refers to the elements you use to express those ideas gleaned from research and drawing
  • process is our ability to be flexible, hone our problem-solving skills, technical skills and originality as well as understanding how we work best and creating systems to help achieve that concept efficiently and effectively
  • visual language is communicating visually so your concept is easily understood
  • your unique style means understanding the marks you tend to make, the colours you use frequently, the techniques you prefer

So a fairly simple outline for the design process could look like this:

  • concept
  • raison d’être or reason for being
  • research – books, literature, photos
  • drawing, sketching, painting, collage
  • materials and technique
  • sampling
  • finishing
  • additional requirements for display

Just remember, none of this is set in concrete, it’s simply a guide, but it shows you, step-by-step, how to work through the design process.  And as you work through, you may find as you research or begin to draw, your concept changes or expands – and that’s quite normal.  This is not a straight line, so expect to meander and go down some extremely gratifying and informativel rabbit-holes.

Now finally, the structure that supports any design – the elements and principles of design.  Sounds simple, but do you know how to actually apply them in your design work?  I knew the words, but until I created my own design resource, a journal outlining all the above, I didn’t fully understand the concepts – or how greatly they interacted and impacted upon each other.

If you’d like to see me go through these concepts more fully, head on over to my YouTube channel and my What Is Design? episode.

These are simple tools that have the ability to lift any work from hum-drum to amazing, but only if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, and when you do and can step back and look at your completed work with satisfaction, that’s a pretty amazing feeling – and it’s all your own work.  That’s special.

cathy jack coupland