Ok, so that heading may seem a bit skewed, and may seem like I'm chalking up other classes I took as rubbish (which they weren't), but what I'm getting at is that 2-D Design 101 (or whatever the course number was at Mott Community College) was the class that switched on a lightbulb in my mind and offered me something new. Other classes were more about assignments that forced you to practice or pushed your comfort zone, while for me, 2-D was about discovering new information.
In 2-D I learned a language for things I took for granted: contrast, focus, balance, color, value, negative space, etc...AND how to manipulate them to achieve a visual goal. In this example, we were assigned to take a layout of shapes, and with three different color harmonies and placements, design three very different images. In the orange one, I was going for a subtle vertical transition from darker reds to lighter oranges. The green and red was designed to split the image aggressively into a left and right (and make the zig zag line between them a focus). And lastly, in the violet & yellow one I wanted to bring out that yellow elbow shape as the focus.
Using contrast (of color, value, and texture) I was able to make the three images look (somewhat) different. With my inking on Mouse Guard, I still use this concept with patterned linework. One of the points of contrast is to make touching areas either leap off of each other (high contrast) or blend together (low contrast). So to separate mice from backgrounds or overlapping characters I vary the style, texture, pattern, and thickness of lines to create contrast. And that is before I ever bring color into the page. Shape, pattern, & contrast became the framework for what my drawings & subject matter needed to fit into.
In another assignment, we were to create a design on an equilateral triangle and through mirroring and repetition, create four different hexagonal designs. This assignment (as did most every assignment) also featured some color theory, but I want to focus on the pattern design aspect. While I was called out by the professor for a few shapes still being recognizable & in similar configurations (remember the assignment was to make 4 very different hexes.) overall the hexagons were satisfactorily different enough for a good grade though.
This lesson came back to me when in Mouse Guard it was time to cover the walls of Darkheather in tile patterns similar to Moorish tilework, but without their iconography, substituting weasel iconography instead. I drew a stylized heather flower bud and then put the 2-D skills to work and came up with a variety of tile patterns. And I could put my lesson's mistake to good use, I have a few designs there that are very similar, and a few that are more different. Depending on how much contrast I wanted in adjacent tile areas, I had a pattern to do the job.
Though computers were well infused in education and design when I was starting college, we did not use them for this class. So all these assignments were done by mixing paint to specific colors & values, then painting them evenly on paper so as to not leave visible brush strokes (though later we could when trying to implement texture). The paper was then carefully trimmed with xacto knives, and lastly glued down with rubber cement so that there was no trace of residue. I may have groaned at the time about "how much easier this would be to do on a computer" but I'm glad I didn't. I may have still learned the design concepts, but I wouldn't have learned the Mr. Miyagi-type lesson of craftsmanship: no fingerprints, name in the right place, no exposed glue, no visible brush strokes, etc. It was a big part of our grade (1/3 most of the time). I think about the idea of craftsmanship being 1/3 of the grade on every page I do.
2-D Design class got me onto the path of thinking about an image before I start it (or at least before I try and finish it). It was printmaking that fully forced me to really process what my end goals were for an image, and what techniques executed in what order would get me there. No coincidence, it was my 2-D design professor Sam Morello that also taught Printmaking.