There is very little that is truly new in this world. Almost everything is just a later, better, updated, more sophisticated, seemingly new version of something that already exists in some manner. The same goes for graphic design. A critical look at all design shows it is just a re-arranged, revamped, updated, jigged around version of something already published in some way. This is not to say that all 'new' design is plagiarized. Far from it. What makes new designs refreshing and timely is a different viewpoint or interpretation. Plagiarizing others work is nothing more than petty theft, or grand larceny, however you look at it. I have been a victim of this myself and it saddens me to think the 'designer' was incapable of generating their own solutions. Classic design is still as enduring today as it was when it was created. Fad fashions dissappear as quickly as they are designed, only to be dragged out later and giggled over at parties and reunions (remember the 60's and 70's?).
Good designers by nature are forever in pursuit of that ever elusive perfect design. Which ironically is a necessity to remain a good designer. Any good designer will always look at a finished piece and concentrate on what could have made it better, not what makes it cool. Others will tell you how great it is... or perhaps not. But, the moment any designer sees one of their own pieces and thinks, "This is perfect, it couldn't have been any better" they will stagnate, never getting any better. They will have reached their own plateau destined to remain there forever. Reaching for perfection in a design sense is a totally illogical, unreachable goal, but a designer must always strive for it lest they dwell in the ranks of the mediocre.
BALANCE- that's all there is. ALL creativity revolves around balance, whether it be symmetric or assymetric. If a design has no balance, it is NOT good design. All the flair, creativity, and talent in the world is worthless without balance. Most of the time its not something you can teach or preach, its something you feel. You just know. Too many people are getting a computer, then with the aid of some cheap graphics program suddenly consider themselves graphic designers, yet they often lack any sense of balance and thus create bad designs. Simply because they can type in the right commands and click the right buttons does not mean they are designers. Admittedly some very creative people have suddenly found outlets within their new desktop computer, but these are very few. Having said that, the fact still remains that bad design reflects on the design community as a whole because it cheapens ALL design in the marketplace. We've all seen it, those ads and brochures where you think, "Eeewww, who designed THAT! Yuk!" Probably had no balance... or it could've just been plain ugly.
Computers are great... with reservations. Being old school I guess, computers are NOT design tools. They are production tools. Computers are too rigid to be of real use as a good design tool. Very few good designers, if any, start a design fresh on the computer. The vast majority still grab a pencil, pen or crayon and a piece of paper, pad, scrap or whatever and start scribbling. Ideas come a whole lot quicker the old fashioned way. You aren't bogged down by what the computer can and can't do. You are free to sketch and doodle until you come up with the ideas you want to develop. THEN... off to the computer we go to make those ideas work. It's usually much easier to make them work on the computer than it was when we had to do things by hand. Making an outline of a headline used to take close to two hours for a proper job. Now it's done in seconds with the right program, and the right knowledge.
Designing for Myself
As a designer, designing for myself is the hardest thing I ever do. And I do it constantly. Which is probably why I've had 15 different business cards over the years. And why I've been designing this web site for over two years. Just when I think, "Yeah this is great", I find a different way of doing one of the heads or graphics and I start all over. I guess this also falls under the Stagnation category above. Or maybe it's the same as a mechanic who has the worst car on the block, too busy fixing everyone else's cars. One day I will settle on the best image I can and actually get something printed....Naaaahhhh