I once took this class in my freshman year of college. It was called The Idea of Graphic Design. I had never taken a graphic design class before, so I had no idea of what to expect. One would think that this would be something like a history class, but it wasn’t. The class was taught by a guy named Tony. We didn’t really talk about history. I mean, we had a textbook that we read for homework, but we didn’t really talk about what we read in class. We just had these really abstract lectures that were more like conversations. We talked a lot about communication and symbols. I remember him showing us all these strange things that people on the internet had created to measure these abstract things, like music for example.

I remember not liking that class very much. It just didn’t seem to have a lot of structure. There was no lesson plan. We just showed up and talked, those of us who chose to, with the professor. We would talk about all these things that perhaps we never considered, like “What color is the universe?” He asked us that question once. I remember talking with a friend after class about how confused we both were. We just didn’t get how what we talked about in class related to graphic design, our chosen major. It scared the heck out of me, being the straight-A student that I was, that I couldn’t predict what class was going to be like or what the exams would cover.

We really were not required to study, just to be curious and ask questions. We once had a project where we had to design and create a model of our design process. That was really the only instruction that we were given, no other restrictions. So when the due date came up, we had some interesting project to say the least.

It’s only now that I realize how important a class like that was and still is. It was one of the few classes that I’ve taken, and I’ve taken many, that actually opened my mind. What Tony did was force us to think with our own minds in our own way, because everyone thinks differently. He gave us minimal directions and restrictions, which made someone like me uncomfortable, at the time. I was so accustomed to having rules imposed upon me that whenever I didn’t, I felt that something was wrong. Now however, I feel like most classes should be like that–more free form. It allows you to take your learning into areas you would have never thought of.

The thought of that class came up as I was thinking about how we, as designers and people, impose rules on ourselves and how we force ourselves to not even consider all of the possibilities out there in the world. Our brains play tricks on us by limiting our perceptions, which are not always accurate. The truth is that there are no rules, and our reality is simply what we create for ourselves, meaning that it’s changeable. It’s all changeable.

By the way, we concluded that the universe is in fact brown.