Matt Greenwood: “Elements of Design” Interview
Toronto motion veteran Matt Greenwood recently published his personal homage to design, “because even though I have been working as a designer for many years, I still love the process.”
STASH: After carefully laying out the elements of design you end with the advice to “just move things around until they feel right.” Was this intentionally contradictory or cheeky?
Matt Greenwood: The line “Just move things around until it feels right” (with a subtle emphasis on “feels”) was intended to suggest that learning the rules is important, but for me at least, using intuition is essential. I also wanted to hint at breaking these rules shouldn’t be off the table.
It may come across as dismissive, but it was intended to be more of a encouragement to not get caught up worrying if the established formula is correct, because I think visual aesthetics can be subjective.
Like many disciplines, anyone can learn the techniques and theory, but I wanted to inspire people to tap into the less tangible concept of how a design feels. It’s an important aspect of my process and I think it should be encouraged.
I’d go further to suggest that tapping into how design feels separates good designers from really good designers.
When I work with clients I ask questions to try and establish the tone of the piece because the word “tone” encourages non-visual descriptions which I can interpret in many ways. When clients describe how it should look, they are typically referencing something they have already seen.
I like working with people who are open to approaching a project from a different angle so I have a chance to create something unique and this kind of work requires intuition because it’s an exploration into new territory.
A recent online review of the piece called your advice “baffling and a little troubling.” How would you respond to that conclusion?
MG: It appears the main critique comes from the presumption that the piece is aimed at students new to design, and his teaching methods seem to discourage this kind of intuitive creative freedom early on.
I came from a fine arts background, and learned the “rules” of design along the way so I like to question these boundaries. The kind of design that usually catches my eye stands out because it’s unconventional.
I fully agree with the statement “while you’re making design decisions, intuition can be an excellent guiding force, but only if you’ve already internalized what constitutes successful design” and I could argue that my film illustrates this.
First and foremost I think that design should effectively communicate a message, but I hope there is still room to question the rules.