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A few weeks ago I had the privileged to contribute a blog post, entitled “6 Lessons I Learned in Design School That I Still Use Today”, to the Just Creative blog. I loved sharing my design insights and after a bit of thought realized and had a few more lessons learned to share.  I hope you find them helpful!


1) Layers in your art add depth to its story.

This also came out of a digital imaging class. Adding subtle layers of color or texture can add mood, tone and subtle complexity to you images were the mantra we learned. The idea was to layer the light a bit but to not overdo it (See number 4).

How do I still use this?

I use it in my Photoshop/imaging work, but also in any project, regardless of how simple it might. The addition of a slight element here or there will sometimes elevate the project as a whole.


2) Take pride in the little things, they make the big things better.

I know this sounds very existential but it’s grounded on specific events. Our photography professor that semester wanted us to mat and frame our work for our final grade. The catch was that we had to cut the mats ourselves and he was a stickler. We each had to buy a bevel edge mat cutter and you COULD NOT over cut on the corners. If you’ve never tried this, it is unbelievable tedious and one slight shake of the wrist creates a warp in the line cut. This became my Mr. Miyagi, wax on, wax off moment. I went through more boards than I care to admit to, but in the end I realized that the subtle details in how ran the blade across the mat to make each cut made a huge difference in the final product. And I took a lot of pride in how perfectly straight those mats were cut; to this day I still notice the difference between a straight cut and a wobbly one.

How do I use this?

By taking pride in all the small details of the projects I work on, knowing they’ll make the difference between a good job and a great job.


3) The structure of it matters.

We had this one crazy project in the 3D design class that required you to build a protective enclosure for an egg made out of toothpicks and rubber joints. You would insert the egg into your protective bubble, drop it from a second story height and see if the egg made it. It was obviously a pass or fail scenario. After A LOT of trial and error, I figured out that certain structures were stronger than others regardless of the amount of toothpicks you used. Using triangles as the basis of the structured proved to make the strongest enclosures of all.

How do I still use this?

Structure doesn’t just take form in a physical sense. A proper outline before writing, a well developed and thought out flowchart before designing a webpage or a keenly drawn out thumbnail of a brochure created before putting mouse to pixel make all the difference in the outcome of you projects.


4) It‘s all in the story.

This came from a creative writing class. The pacing, cadence and format make all the difference in how your story is perceived. You need to be an effective storyteller.

How do I still use this?

Regardless of what type of design or creative work you do, we’re all still just storytellers using words and imagery to create compelling stories that engage, enthrall, titillate and hopefully make you a dollar or two in the process. When your tools are honed and become second nature to you then, it truly is about the story you tell and how well you tell it.


That’s it (for now)! As I’d mentioned earlier, I hope you find them useful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comments section below.