I recently gave a talk at the WAURISA annual conference in Lynnwood, WA for the “Making Beautiful Maps” workshop. The talk was specific to Adobe Illustrator techniques but I started things off with a touch of what design is to me and why I think maps are attractive.
The idea of this workshop was to bring the mind of the designer to the audience, as well as the tools used by the designer. The intention was to learn how beautiful products are made. My thoughts about this are varied. To me, what makes a good designer and what makes a great design is not the set of tools used but the experience and environment in which the map is made. My design inspiration comes from something much greater than a tool in Illustrator, which makes teaching how to make a “beautiful map” all the more difficult.
Nonetheless the talk incorporated both subjective ideas and objective tools to make for a well-rounded workshop. I have posted the slides on my website for anyone to read through. There is also an Illustrator file (CS6 or CS5) but that was more appropriately used _during _the actual talk. Take a look at my brief ideas on design and what makes an attractive product. There are a few tools listed in there that I suggest you research and play around with in Illustrator. These tools exemplify my idea of great design, which is based on experiments and trial & error. There is no clear-cut way of making a unique design. If there was, it would no longer be unique. So I urge everybody to be comfortable with removing what you have done, clearing your art-board, and taking a look at the same project from a new perspective.
Design is a process.