If you searched the definition of cooking, you would find “the practice or skill of preparing food by combining, mixing, and heating ingredients.” If we were to switch the word “food” with “design” or art”, doesn’t that definition still seemed applicable? To me, I find the art of cooking not so different from art and design. Both realms worked in a similar fashion of creating something pleasant be it through how it looks or how it tastes. Hence, we can view the process of cooking as an analogy to the process of how we create art and design. With the framework of seeing the final result of a visual design as a “dish” and the act of cooking as the “process”, we can have a better mental model of creating fantastic visuals. To do so, we need to define the main components of cooking and how it relates to design.
Keywords: cooking, terminology
They are your inspirations, sources, they could be a fine art painting, the aesthetics of your favorite designers, music, or it could even the life experience of traveling. There is no fixed definition of what your visual ingredient is; it is simply the fuel that helps you create a creative project. The more ingredients you have, the more options or combinations you have to create a variety of dishes.
Having understood that, we also need to know about common or popular ingredients that we all have access to such as Pinterest or the Google Search Engine. While they are wonderful tools to gather visual inspirations, you need to know that many would use them as inspiration or reference due to its convenience of providing you with images. These “common” ingredients, however, means that the chances of you cooking a dish similar to your peer is rather high. So how can your cooking stand out then?
What you want to do is to find “exotic” ingredients, things that only you or limited people have access to. It could be looking at arabesque patterns in a library book, or watching non-digital media work just as industrial design, or watching a documentary. The key is to be conscious that you have to “hunt” down your ingredients by yourself; instead of letting the internet do everything for you. You are the one who controls what you put in your cooking.
Cooking — Tools and skills
There are a plethora of tools in the kitchen from a knife, to a frying pan, to a crockpot; there is always something out there that can help you cook better and more efficiently. In a way, they are kinda like digital softwares like Adobe Creative Cloud, 3D software like Cinema 4D, or traditional skills like drawing or painting. It is good to learn a variety of tools to add into your toolbox so that you can best wield the best tool for the right occasion. Learning to wield and apply these tools involves knowledge which you can get from tutorials, books, learning from your peers or teachers. The more practice with your tools the better you get.
These are online tutorials, books, guidance and instructions from peers, teachers or mentors. Whether you want to follow a recipe step-by-step or adapt to your own cooking is entirely up to you. However do know that, one day you need to be creating your own recipes; you have got to translate the amalgamation of your skills, knowledge, and experiences into a formula that can be deemed yours.
To quote Johannes Itten, a swiss painter associated with Bauhaus, “Learning from books and teachers is like traveling by carriage, so we are told in the Veda. But, the carriage will serve only while one is on the highroad. He who reaches the end of the highroad will leave the carriage and walk afoot.” One day, you will reach a stage where you have enough skills and knowledge to complete the task that is given to you, but beyond that you have to forge your path and convey something that you think is relevant to the world, to reach a higher level of existence in this creative practice.
Finally, we have Taste. Taste can be equated to the aesthetics of a visual; how beautiful an image looks to the beholder. However, it is important to know that people have different taste and definitions of what is beautiful or good to them. An example I often give is that if I like to cook Japanese food to someone to someone who prefers Indian food, they may not necessarily enjoy it . Translate that to designer-client relationship, my preferred visual solutions, no matter how awesome it is rendered or animated, may not be what the clients want to use to communicate their products. Hence, the two of us might not get along but it’s not personal; it is simply not their cup of tea.
Great food is a fine balance of the ingredients you procured, the tools and means on how you cook them, and presentation which ultimately bring forth the great taste. How you grow as a designer is not to make an exciting intense flavourful dish, but it is the sensitivities to taste the subtleties in food, analyze them so you can apply it to your cooking, and control the sensitivities of taste that brings forth the best taste.
Using the cooking framework, hopefully you can better understand what sort of taste you want to create with your food and how you grow as a designer by finding “ingredients” and developing “skills and tools” to cook them.
When I first began my journey into art and design (visual effects actually), I was completely new to everything be it the software used, the ideation process or the professional pipeline to produce a film. Due to my inexperience, I simply did not understand the “design” world. However if we were to compare the process to a relatable activity that most of participate in such as cooking, perhaps we can better understand things.
There are many ways to understand how design makes sense to you, this is just my way of making sense of art and design, so you should develop your own too. In the book, A Technique for Producing Ideas by James Webb Young, he describes the process producing ideas creative process like a kaleidoscope. The more pieces of glass you have, the more beautiful the result is.
“The kaleidoscope, as you know, is an instrument which designers sometimes use in searching for new patterns. It has little pieces of colored glass in it, and when these are viewed through a prism they reveal all sorts of geometrical designs. Every turn of its crank shifts these bits of glass into a new relationship and reveals a new pattern. The mathematical possibilities of such new combinations in the kaleidoscope are enormous, and the greater the number of pieces of glass in it the greater become the possibilities for new and striking combinations.” Link
Here are some supplemental media about cooking that I personally feel is associated with art and design. Have a watch!
Netflix’s Chef's Table: Pastry Episode 4 Will Goldfarb