Formstorming – a daily exercise

The 36DYASOFTYPE challenge ended a few weeks ago. Designers, visual artists, and creatives from all fields come together in 36 days to celebrate typography and creativity around type and letterforms. It is essential for creative people to keep their creativity alive and to always be ready to take on new challenges. Problems must be approached from a fresh and unique perspective.

The 36DYASOFTYPE challenge is a great example of Formstorming which keeps your mind fresh when facing upcoming challenges.


36 days of type - Milad Rezaee36 days of type - Milad Rezaee

But what is formstorming?

In a world where nearly every designer has instant access to huge image databases and online search sites, there’s little wonder why the landscape of up-to-date graphic style is involved in mediocre solutions that take advantage of convenience. Several designers aren’t accustomed to the type of rigorous processes that may result in higher levels of formal and abstract innovation.

According to Ellen Lupton and Jennifer Cole Phillips in Graphic Design: The New Basics, formstorming is an act of visual thinking, In chapter one, formstorming is defined as “an act of visual thinking that designers can use to unlock and deepen solutions to basic design problems.”

Every day the designer takes one visual idea and one exercise and develops a new plan or technique that becomes a key element of his or her visual vocabulary. If the designer were a jazz musician, it would be like mastering a new phrase over a set of common chord changes—in all keys—ready to deploy at will in the heat of an improvised solo.

A formstorming session guides the creative artist over “automatic, simply planned notions…to recognizable-yet-nuanced ideas,” towards stunning results that inspire their fellow designers. The endurance needed to stay with a topic through iteration, dissection, synthesis, revision, and illustration takes discipline and drive. However, this level of immersion yields a surprising and profound return on the artistic investment.”

Designers can use formstorming to inspire creativity by coming up with different forms and compositions of objects based on their own imagination. In my own career, formstorming has proven to be extremely effective in my approach to design and it has enabled me to uncover very hidden gems in the depths of my mind. There are different ways to find ideas like mind mapping or brainstorming. But for me, formstorming is a way to fill my creative tank before I hit the road of design. And no matter what problem I am going to solve. I have a huge reserve of ideas that could work in every situation.

No man burns with design skill. Skill is what you develop over many years of working and experiencing. Formstorming, especially for young designers, is a key to unlocking their creativity and triggering options and ideas that help them to stand out and think beyond the familiar and prompting designs.

The opposite is also true, you may find nothing after many hours of exploration. but the point is now you know what not to do and there is no way you have not tried.

A Plus - Yingxi Zhou

How to do formstorming?

You can practice visual thinking regardless of whether you are a graphic designer, photographer, or musician. One of the most common exercises is One Hundred Iteration. In this method, the designer generates multiple iterations of one subject to dig deeper into it. You should take one subject and try to interpret it visually in one hundred ways. You will eventually have many nuggets in your hand and very small signs leading you in the right direction regardless of the result.
Here is a project by Zhen Lu:
“100 iteration is an image making project. In this project, different image making skills were practiced to create one animal: panda. The final product is a booklet consisted of 100 works and a designed book cover.”

Panda images
Panda by Zhen Lu
Panda book cover
Panda book cover - Zhen Lu

You can read more about formstorming in the book “Graphic Design: The New Basics” by Ellen Lupton, Jennifer Cole Phillips

You can check my formstorming on 36DAYSOFTYPE 09

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    Milad Rezaee
    Milad Rezaee
    I am Milad Rezaee, Logo and Brand Identity Designer. At least 10 years of experience through working on different projects with clients all around the globe helped me to learn a lot and I want to share them with you.


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