I can vividly recall the moment I decided I wanted to be a graphic designer. It was year 10, and everyone was going on work experience. All my friends already had their shit together and knew what they wanted to do with their lives. I sat at the computer looking up jobs that you can get with a degree in visual arts... Nothing... Nothing? OH LOOK, GRAPHIC DESIGN!

I’ve always had a passion for creating beautiful things, and enjoyed the praise that came with it. What I struggle with, however, is putting meaning behind my work. Take my HSC piece for visual arts as an example. It was terrible, because as a 17 year old, creating art with ‘layers of meaning’, more often than not is going to be some depressing piece on the ‘loss of innocence in the children of today’.

Yes, that’s what I did. It was tacky and the only reason I took it home after graduation was so that no one else could look at it. When I’m asked to create something with meaning behind it , without clear directions, I struggle relentlessly. I overthink things. I’m a person that needs to be told exactly what to do before I can start experimenting with my work.

The whole, “here’s a theme, go crazy” thing doesn’t work for me. In an ideal world, clients would always give perfect briefs. Of course when it comes to design in the real world, this is almost never the case. (yay!) So how do we deal with these situations?

You take what you’ve been given and you deconstruct it. When the client says “It just needs more... pop”, you look at their brand, what they are trying to achieve, take it apart and find new ways of addressing the problem.

Take a power point adapter for example. Almost all of us will use one every single day. It’s boring and ugly, and serves a single purpose. Take this adapter and pull it apart. Every single little wire and screw until you’ve made a really big mess, and have finally realised that there’s no way in hell that you can put this back together.

In fact you’ve probably broken it entirely.

But look at it again. What do you have? New materials to create something beautiful, and a much better appreciation for the guy who was patient enough to actually assemble such a thing.

Now try this with a brief. Take “We would like you to make this blue thing kinda yellowish with a hint of lemon meringue pie and throw in some industrial glam!”, and deconstruct.

Blue is bad, yellow is good. Someone really likes pie and there’s a weird hipster who works here. Now you have something fun to work with.

This article first appeared in Ligature Journal issue zero. Find out more about this issue here and buy a copy here.