A couple of weeks ago I re-downloaded the original Angry Birds game on my iPhone. I was looking for a no-brainer game that I could just play on some hang-time, and since I haven’t really beaten the game yet, I thought about getting back to it. After all, it’s undeniably one of the best mobile games out there. A sort of a classic if you will.
And so during one of my Angry Birds sessions, it just so happened to dawn on me that some of the tactics I’m doing while playing the game can also be practiced in our line of work as graphic designers. I don’t know what I was going through at the time, but I must have been going through a lot of projects to be still thinking about work while playing the game. Thank goodness though, because we’re getting an article out of it, don’t you agree? On we go then, let’s fling ourselves through the lessons. Wolveriiiiiine!
Lesson Number 1: No Need to Get All Three Stars Now
Angry Bird comes with a simple enough reward system – get high enough points and you get three stars, perform otherwise and it’s either one or two stars only. The struggle began when I got obsessed with settling for nothing less than three stars. I would end up replaying a level over and over again if I don’t get the 3-star award. This only resulted with me getting exhausted though, and I found myself playing the game less and less.
Luckily, the solution for this is simple enough. A change in mindset was all that’s needed to move on even without the 3-star award. I may not bag it now, but I can always come back to it later. The same can happen to us graphic designers in our line of work. We start on a project, get the ball rolling on some designs, and on occasion get stuck on some areas. Similar to my mobile gaming experience, linger on this area too long and you’ll find yourself sapped of your creative juices. Best thing to do here is just skip this section for now. No need to come up with your 3-star design right away. Often times by skipping this part, you’ll end up accomplishing more than you would have if you stayed on it. So go ahead, fling past this area and don’t stress about it too much. You can always come back to it later.
Lesson Number 2: Try Out a Different Angle
Well, given it’s Angry Birds we’re talking about, this lesson kinda comes off for the game literally. Missed the hit with your last bird? A few adjustments on the angle of your next slingshot can fix that.
For us designers though, the same idea can happen. If you’re missing that one concept that will make your project, perhaps seeing the design from a different angle can fix it. If you’re used to using photographs in your website design, maybe using vector illustrations or a hybrid of both can get you somewhere. Try out hand-drawn logos instead of straight out vector objects. Handwritten fonts too, if you’re feeling extra creative.
Whatever it is, getting a fresh perspective is always a sure method of getting results. Take a break if you have to, get a new outlook and you’ll most likely land that design bird on your desired target.
Lesson Number 3: Even the Most Stupid Ideas Can Work When Properly Executed
What’s more stupid than birds plummeting towards pigs inside glass castles, in outer space??? Not much. Plants killing off zombies, perhaps. Either way, they’re both equally stupid. So stupid in fact, it’s brilliant. Rovio, the game developer, executed these so called “stupid ideas” so well, that the game became a number-one mobile game.
In graphic design, the same can be said about stupid ideas. With proper execution, even the most ridiculous concepts can work. Like I mentioned above, Plants vs Zombies is another ridiculous concept that was a hit. It also happened to be another number-one game during its time. The point is, execution is key when it comes to these kinds of ideas. You may have the most brilliant concept and originality, but without proper execution, they wouldn’t gather much traction. Outside graphic design, the iPad is another great example. Microsoft had the original idea, but Apple executed it better, thus becoming the number one tablet in the market.
So if you have a farfetched design idea and you’re worried it’s too unexpected, proper execution will give it some solid weight. Who knows, you might even start a trend.
Lesson Number 4: There is More Than One Way to Approach a Situation
Angry Birds come with various characters with unique talents. One can gain a burst of speed for stronger impact, another can drop an egg bomb above unsuspecting mammals. No matter how you want it, there’s more than one way to defeat a level. And in any case, the same is true for any design project.
The beauty with our line of work is it’s a mental interaction with our users. When you create something, how do your users respond to it? Do they get drawn to performing a certain task? Do they become aware of something you want them to see? When we are able to solve a problem–and create something cool at the same time–then we are truly designing. Best thing about this is, there’s a lot of ways to approach a design situation. From the traditional to the bizarre, we are only limited by our creativity and motivation to solve a certain situation. Either way, problem solving through functional design is always fun and rewarding–much like flinging mad birds toward green pigs.
Lesson Number 5: Stay Relevant
Whenever I hit pause on the game, Rovio shows the many other products associated with the Angry Birds franchise. From plush toys to animated cartoons (yes, cartoons) and many other variants of the game (such as Angry Birds Star Wars), Rovio has been busy with staying in the loop and compounding their major success, which is completely brilliant if you ask me.
The graphic design industry is also the same; it’s kind of like an organic matter that evolves with time, always changing to give people’s creative taste buds a treat. And if you’re in this industry, you know too well how important it is to be aware of the latest trends. If you’re still into designing heavy skeuomorphic (realistic) websites instead of flat, then you’re probably still trapped in the pre-2012 era, where HTML5 and CSS3 still weren’t rampant. And if you have no idea what those last two acronyms are about, then you probably need a lot of catching up to do. It may feel confronting (and old) at first, but you’re only doing yourself a great disservice by not diligently updating your skill-set and keeping up with the times. Take the Angry Birds for example, not only do they know how to fling themselves in the air, but they’ve also learned how to drive competitively in Angry Birds Go. See what I mean? If they can do it with tempers flaring, so can you.
Lessons and inspirations can be derived from places you least expect them to show up. Are there other odd sources like Angry Birds where graphic designers can learn lessons from? Or are there other fun parallels you can think of between Angry Birds and graphic design? Let us know in the comments, we can have a discussion!