“Everyone is born with two legs, but not everyone can dance.” —Gene Kelly
This has got to be one of my most favorite quotes by an actor I admire very much, Mr. Gene Kelly. The man was amazing, he could dance like nobody’s business. His performances were poetry in motion. Gene Kelly had a stage presence that was warm and inviting. The first time I read that quote I thought, yeah, a lot of things are like that, especially when it comes to creating graphics or writing, or coaching, or any number of things we have to do to keep our businesses going.
Think about it, anyone can buy a program, learn how to use it and create something.
The good news: People are making websites and publishing books more than ever before. The bad news: People are making websites and book more than ever before.
The market is flooded with designers and authors, all of them with varying skill levels from one end of the spectrum to the other and in order for your work to stand out above and beyond the rest, you have to have the skills to back up that talent.
Raw Talent Isn’t Enough
You may have a flair for art, you may tell a good story, you may have made a few tweaks to a website theme and had people compliment you on it, you may have written a great manuscript and attempted to publish, but you can’t quite put your finger on why it lacks that professional shine. People may not know why something doesn’t look right, they just know it’s not right.
The most obvious example of this is with self-published books. Everyone has an expectation what a “real” book should look like. The cover has to be attractive and compelling, the interior pages follow a specific format, we expect to see the front matter at the front, a title page, page one starting on page one, even numbers on the left, odd numbers on the right and so on.
When one of these conventions is out of place or missing, it shatters the viewer’s expectations and detracts from all the hard work you put into that manuscript. You may very well have the next bestseller there, but the blaring mistakes stand out. Agents and publishers, and even your potential fan base, won’t bother reading because the whole project just screams *gasp!* amateur.
Sad, but true.
This is where the skill comes into play. You need to build a foundation of understanding why certain things are done the way they’re done. Art, no matter what form it takes, is at the very root of it all, a discipline. Designers need to understand composition, they need to know how color works, aspiring publishers/production artists have to understand how a printer prints a book.
There are millions of little tips, tricks and techniques that go into making a professionally designed product.
Start With What You Have
Design programs are the tools of our trade in this online age. Whether it’s a program from the Adobe Creative Suite, Word, or an open source program like Gimp, anyone can acquire them and figure them out, but learning how to use them effectively for your particular project is what’s going to make you shine.
Wendi sometimes calls me an Adobe Snob. That’s because I will tell you, Word was not made for designing books. It lacks the flexibility for laying out a book or print project that InDesign has. Can you publish a book for print or digital with Word? Sure you can. It’ll just take more work and an understanding of how books are put together to begin with. Once you have that base knowledge, you can start experimenting with the limitations of the program to achieve the end results you want.
Any kind of design takes discipline. Learn how to use your tools first, work inside that box. Only after you’ve learned what it’s like inside the box can you begin thinking outside of it.
I’m sure that once Gene Kelly understood basic dancing technique, he was able to take that art to a whole other level. If he hadn’t had the proper technique to begin with, the technique that made his natural talent shine, he may never have been the legendary dancer he became.
Shall We Dance?
That phrase reminds me of another one of my favorite musicals, The King and I, and I would be very sad if I couldn’t tie it into this post as well. Anna was a teacher, hired by the King of Siam to teach his children the ways of the world outside the kingdom. The King never thought he’d get a few lessons from her, himself.
Sometimes we need a voice of experience to show us how things work from an insider’s (or should that be outsider’s?) point of view. A mentor has the ability to teach you things you won’t necessarily find in text books or tutorials. It’s like visiting a foreign country and taking a tour from a local as opposed to visiting all the cliché tourist traps. You learn things that the general public isn’t privy to.
Maybe you have Photoshop, or InDesign, or Illustrator and have been totally overwhelmed by the program each time you open it. I understand that. I felt the same way the first time I opened them. So many tools, so many things! It took me years of self-teaching to learn them. You can’t expect yourself to become a pro over night.
I don’t expect that of you either. I want to help. Blue Sun Studio is now offering private sessions in these programs to help give you a better understanding of how you can use these programs to create polished, professional looking graphics and books. Contact me today for a free consultation today and we’ll talk about how we can get you on your way with a solid technical foundation.
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