This is totally relevant to graphic design.
Back in the day (I was like 17), I was
not very popular on the “iconing” circuit. Iconing is the term — among many in that corner of the internets — for making little 100 x 100 pixel squares containing artfully cropped and manipulated Live Journal user icons. I did a lot of it…and I mean A LOT, I still have about a gigs worth of icons backed up on one of my hard drives.
…And I had a lot of fun doing it, regardless that I didn’t have as big a following as some. But whatever, popularity, amirite? The lesson learned is that iconing, goofy as it might be in retrospect, exposed me to a quasi-design world where what I am learning to do now professionally was in practice on a tiny scale in my internet subculture. People laugh at fangirl culture, but a lot of those gals know their shit when it comes to technical stuff. They’re always trying to find the most efficient way to batch capture stills of their favorite actors in TV shows, or convert footage so that they can edit it to an Avril Lavigne song, etc. And it’s not all girls, don’t get me wrong. …but mostly it is.
Smart Fangirl-type in randomly Googled picture thinks of new ways to artfully represent the Olivia/Peter relationship on Fringe in a small but bold visual format. (this chick actually looks like she’s from the Disney Channel. I bet she is, isn’t she.)
There would be icon requests and challenges where people would vote and you’d get “awards” and all that sort of thing. Veteran (heh) iconers would post tutorials or get requests for custom designs and artwork. It wasn’t all goofy, this was actually pretty legitimate stuff. I learned to understand tags and terminology in CSS stylesheets because of countless hours lost redesigning the theme of my Live Journal page. I learned the basic concepts of editing films by making crappy little music videos for my favorite TV shows with the only program available to me at the time — Windows Movie Maker.
I never really suspected that what I was doing was anything near actual graphic design or film or whatever, but looking back now, I realize that it was my training for things to come. Iconing is why I breezed through my software classes while studying for my Associates. It’s why I knew to experiment fearlessly with blending modes and textures and type and other scary things like that. It’s how I learned to vaguely understand coding. It’s why I love film editing.
It’s why I’m such a damn fangirl.
But to pick up this post at it’s core thesis, iconing taught me what kind of style I liked the most. The icon designers whom I kept track of were a specific few who inspired the way I tackled my own icon design, and who really still inspire me. To go down the list chronologically, from iconer to “real” designer, these are the people whose work I always look at with a mixture of awe and envy and wish I could design like them. Continue reading