When learning to play the snare drum, you start by memorizing the rudiments. Once you've internalized single- and double-stroke rolls, paradiddles, and flams, you can being to weave those ingredients together into pleasing rhythms. A similar underlying logic applies to how we improve at constructing design layouts.
We have a controlled vocabulary bequeathed to us from Euclidean geometry: lines, squares, circles, triangles. In the hands of masterful designers, these basic forms are submerged beneath dazzling surfaces, working in concert with their own (oft mathematical) inner workings.
So, where's the best place to start when looking to acquire deeper skill in manipulating these forms for artistic effect? Let's try a 15-minute challenge derived from the Bauhaus design school, with a collaborative twist.
Gather together a group of two or more designers (or non-designers!). In 10 minutes, each of you should create a layout that consists of a circle, a triangle, and a square on a piece of paper. The shapes should be cut from construction paper, then adhered to your master sheet with tape or glue. The size, color, and visual interplay between your three shapes—as well as your use of positive/negative space and foreground/background relationships—are all important.
Once everyone has finished, pass your completed artwork to the right. In 5 minutes, you have to inscribe on the page a headline that provides an extra layer of meaning and nuance to the original work.
In the above example, Seattle-based designer Claire Kohler pokes some fun at the (very serious) history of the Bauhaus. Perhaps this should pave the way to an @AngryWalterGropius Twitter feed?
Want to try your hand at more design challenges like this one? Check out my book Creative Workshop: 80 Challenges to Sharpen Your Design Skills, which has just been released from HOW Design Press.