Thu 19 Oct
September’s Illustrate Me comes from an unexpected source: Alissa Walker, design author extraordinaire and one-half of the tireless design reporting staff at Mediabistro’s Unbeige blog. It’s a gorgeously raw, hand-written illustration that really caught me off guard. You can see it for yourself now on September’s archive page.
I’ll be honest: I’ve always known Alissa as a terrific writer, first and foremost. I knew she had a background in art direction, but I’ve always thought of her as more of an author than a visual designer. When she asked if she could create September’s Illustrate Me illustration (“’Cause my birthday’s in September,” she said, so wish her a belated birthday), I figured she’d be likelier to come up with a really clever idea than she’d come up with a visual tour de force.
So I didn’t expect her to turn in as disarmingly great an illustration as this — it’s as uninhibited and engaging a piece as any that have been done for Illustrate Me so far; in fact, it’s got more visual wallop than some of its predecessors that were created by actual, money-earning visual designers, and it also happens to be one of the graphically strongest pieces yet. I dig it.
Where did you get the idea for this Illustrate Me?
I just got back from Spain where everything good about the world is crammed onto the tiny blackboards behind tapas bars. They’re these little temporary masterpieces — loaded up with information, then wiped clean every night. I wanted to create a menu of the freshest posts, like the specials of the day. I’m suddenly very hungry.
What I like about this piece is that it’s so unexpected, even more hand-drawn than any of the others, and it’s so informal. Is this the kind of design that you gravitate towards as design writer?
It depends. I’m a big crafter so I definitely admire anything created by hand. But I’m most fascinated by designers who have this beautiful stuff coming out of their computer and then say, “Oh, by the way, I can’t draw a thing.” Really? That’s impressive. I actually wanted to be an art director until I started learning the computer programs. I can thank QuarkXPress 3.3 for launching my writing career.
How much bearing do you think drawing skills have on a person’s ability to design? How much should they have?
I hate to answer anything that will make me sound like any kind of authority on design, which I’m certainly not. But I would think drawing is simply a way for you to better understand what you’re designing, and in that case, I’d also highly advocate writing. It doesn’t even have to be about your work: just get it down, and get it out there. It will change the way you absorb the world, and I can’t think of anything better for a designer than that. Except maybe eating tapas in Spain.