Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Improve your work by thinking like a designer

On his blog Presentation Zen, Garr Reynolds shares some advice from his experience as a designer that he feels is useful to people in all professions. Here's my editor's take on some of his tips:

"Embrace constraints." For editors, this could mean sticking to issue themes, for example. When your options are unlimited, sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. Limitations force you to focus and come up with fresh solutions.

"Practice restraint." You can't fit every idea into one article. Choose the best and perfect it. If the story is an evergreen topic, save your other ideas for next time.

"Adopt the beginner's mind." Take a step back and look at your magazine and your workflow with fresh eyes every once in awhile. Maybe that column isn't working as well as you think it is. Maybe there's a more efficient way to do things. And if you happen to have a new staff member, take advantage of it and get his/her opinion.

"Check your ego at the door. This is not about you, it's about them (your audience, customer, patient, student, etc.)." For us, it's all about our readers. Never forget this. You may love a story idea, but does it make sense for your readers?

"Focus on the experience of the design." Reynolds points out that much of design has an emotional component; how people respond to and interact with design is immensely important. Likewise, readers have an emotional attachment to "their" magazines. Nurture it. Use it to your advantage.

"Become a master storyteller." Well, that's an obvious one. But Reynolds actually concisely outlines a structure that works for many stories: "Start with the general, zoom in to the detail, pull out again to remind us of the theme or key concept, then zoom back in to illuminate more of the detail."

"Obsess about ideas, not tools." Blogs, podcasts, Twitter feeds — use them to get your content and brand out there, but remember that a cool tool is useless if it's carrying useless information.

"Learn all the 'rules' and know when and why to break them." Now is a good time to start breaking the rules. Magazines are changing, and they're changing fast. Instead of fretting about the impending doomsday of the industry, blue sky it. Are magazines still just ink on paper? Presume that they're not and start thinking about all the possibilities. This is exciting. Be excited!

Here is Reynolds' complete slideshow on how to think like a designer (click on "Full" to be able to read the notes under each slide):

Found through The Artful Manager.
- Corinna vanGerwen
About Me
Corinna vanGerwen


Corinna vanGerwen is a freelance editor and writer. She has worked as senior editor at Style at Home, senior design editor at Cottage Life and is the former Canadian Director of Ed2010. She has also held the position of operations manager at a boutique PR agency, where she handled strategic planning and daily operations.

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