There are many reasons why I'm glad I studied graphic design in college. Even though I spent years dreaming of quitting my design work and making pots full-time. The fact is my education comes in handy, on a daily basis, for my pottery work too.
The obvious advantage is my grasp of the term branding
, which means I can choose how I want others to perceive my business (this might be the topic of a future blog post). But this post is about something more important ... a bedrock-level way of thinking that I learned in college and have been using everyday since ... the design process.
The design process means that the first time you execute a new idea is just the first draft. A finished design requires cycles of revision and refinement. There are too many details and decisions to get them all right on the first draft. You must be willing to see the process through. Every successful potter I've met understands this. I've also met plenty of wannabes who don't.
I always give credit for good ideas. Last year, my dinnerware design consisted of a square dinner plate, a round salad plate, and a flower-shaped dipping bowl. Phyllis Castells, owner of Heart of the Home
in New Hope, PA, said that she'd rather have me offer two different sets ... all squares and all circles. I knew immediately that she was right. A year later, I finally finished the design of the all-squares set, which actually evolved into rectangles. I'm hoping to finish the all-circles set by next year.
This is something I've never liked about my square plates. When I drape a square slab over a mold, the clay bunches up in the corners, and a protruding lobe develops. It doesn't bother me that much, just a little. Enough that I decided I wanted to eliminate the lobe.
I thought the answer was to cut a slab with a rounded corner. Wrong. It still made a protruding lobe, only now it was shaped like a duck's bill.
I realized I needed to shave clay off of the corners, but still maintain a point. Here comes another benefit from my design background ... I can use softwares like Adobe Illustrator to draw precise shapes and curves. The three orange lines represent my first three attempts to figure out the correct curves and angles. They were duds, resulting in weird lobes in other places. Ugh! Every time I turned them over from their molds, I felt defeated. I thought "hey the lobes in the original design aren't so bad. I can live with them." But then I would wake up the next day realizing I was not satisfied, and I was ready to give it another shot.
On the fourth try (the black line in the above image), it worked.
Here's another benefit I took from my design office ... the perfect material for making the final cutting templates. These have a glossy surface that can withstand getting a little wet. I have a stack of these that I haven't needed in a while.
Now I'm satisfied.