Designer

5 Things Every Designer Should Probably Stop Doing

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Hello world.


I think the title explains what you can expect from the write up below. Stereotypes exist for a reason, patterns exist for a reason, typecast exists for a reason. At times, it's a safe place for us designers, knowing what to expect, and how to approach a certain problem. But at times, in our pursuit to fit in, we confine ourselves too much into these stereotypes and lose our creativity and ourselves in the process. True creativity only fosters in an environment where patterns don't exist. Below points are just a fellow designer’s observations, and needn’t be politically correct or applicable to everyone (Pray thee, don't bring out your pitchforks, just yet). Even if you do not agree with these points, I do sincerely hope you enjoy reading it with an occasional smile and a nod!

Stop being the machinist

One thing that we all designers do, is spend a lot of time in front of our machines. Given that a majority of our output comes from our machines, are we forgetting that there were designers (in fact most design pioneers), even before the advent of machines? In fact, world's best design works haven't come from machines. What was intended to be a tool of craft has now become a medium of thought- a dependency. It's no longer just our software that we have access to when we power it on - We have social media, email, cute cat videos and a ton of other distractions.

Such availability can at times restrict our imagination. A virtual world throwing light on your face and sculpting your mind - telling you how to think! Resolutions, colours and pixels are just numbers after all. (All you math-hater-designers, take note!)

This is exactly what happens when you feel bound. Remember the Terminator movies? That's really dystopian but you get the idea.

When you started off as a designer, remember the immense freedom of thought and creativity you had? Remember the countless ideas of yours that were shot down? Remember the numerous times you scribbled on your notebook and scratched your head trying to engage in a creative process?

And finally, remember the revelation you had, that one idea deep within yourself - just waiting to be discovered which turned things around and suddenly, everything felt easy, as it was already there? Yes, It’s about time to turn off those mean machines and head back to your roots.

Once you have freed yourself and your mind and figured out the pathway,  come back to your to computer. And only then, you'll finally be able consider it to be just a tool, nothing more.

Go,

Sketch more. Sketch your brains out. Sketching is etching. 

Stop flocking. Flocking is locking. 

Bird of a feather flock together. And designers do too. It is an amazing feeling to find someone who understands and contributes to your metaphorical rocket building and revolutionising ideas. It makes you feel ecstatic and motivated - sometimes only briefly so. On the flipside it stunts your growth beyond the "designer spectrum".

Being with people who are like you is no crime. But when you are with the same kind of people, you get comfortable within that mind space and slowly sink into the 'comfort zone' - unfortunately it is also the place where creation ends. When things are comfortable, need to improve or grow gets nullified.

That's exactly what happens when you surround yourself with your flock, i.e, designers. Now you might argue saying that if you wanna improve, you gotta talk to the people you aspire to be - or the ones who can help you brainstorm. I agree that talking to other designers will help you arrive at better solutions. But talking to people who aren't designers will help you understand problems better. And to solve one, you need to step into the shoes of the one’s who faces it.

They are the ones who will help you truly innovate, as a problem solver, they will help you to better understand the scenario and derive possible solutions. A user can only tell you what their difficulty is, but understanding their psychology will tell you why. And to understand, you need to become one of them (briefly, to some extent) 

Stop looking for inspiration. (Seriously!)

Did you know that 'Inspiration' also means drawing air into your lungs? For a lot of us, modern designers, it might mean stuff like Pinterest, Abduzeedo, Muzli or Behance. This has become our air now. We breathe it in, and let it define our creativity within the boundary it creates. And with it, we exhale our precious creativity.

Seems we have got this tad wrong. Looking at other work makes us aspired - not inspired. That's when we try to match up. Problem solving turns into some sort of a competition with no winners. In short - it could be destructive. Looking at how other people have solved a problem doesn't give us ideas to start, it gives us new defaults - or new fundamentals to understanding a solution - that's all. And that’s when we start limiting our possibilities.

When was the last time you had an original idea, which was not inspired or aspired? If it was recently, pat yourself and stay on it. If not, my friend, it's time to bring some change.

Realise that engaging in a pure creative process is an exercise - meaning, it needn't be situational. Do it to train your mind. Sharpen your craft. Get better and one day, it will come to you naturally. When you hit a creative block, your mind starts looking at things like what you want to achieve as a defense mechanism, to deal with the fear of failing. This pushes our logical minds to start foraging ideas. And there's the catch.

Real ideas cannot be foraged - they need to be created. More often than not, they're buried deep within you - behind that creative block, waiting to be discovered. All you need to do is keep looking within yourself. 

Start defining, stop confining.

No, I'm not giving one of those pep talks asking you to embark on a mission to change the world. Well, in a way I am, but I'll try to break it down better.

To follow - which is good. But we aren’t here to follow standards. We're here to go beyond them. Think of these standards like checkpoints in a sprint race. It's just an indicator of how much progress you've made - but also telling you that you gotta move ahead.

Many of us look upto design pioneers like Apple and Google for their outstanding contributions in the design world. I've used the word 'contribution' because it's just a standard. They aren't limiting themselves either. It’s something they’ve done and want to share with the world. For us, it becomes a standard tAnd competitively so.

I'm not saying you should not consider these standards - that would be futile, as they have done their research and tested what works for most people. I'm asking you to re-define, not define.

Think about it - somebody one day at Google would've thought "What if?" and that would've given birth to the design we admire today. You needn't start afresh like them, but take what you see and Re-imagine. Re-think. Re-define. Go ahead, make your contribution. Leave your mark.

And then one day, you’ll find yourself in a place which you’d never even have imagined. If you find me there, buy me a coffee :P


Stop trying to be perfect. 

I know what you’re thinking - a designer who doesn't want to be perfect is purposeless. I mean, our lives revolve around ‘fixing’ things right? Then why would anyone not want to make things right a.k.a perfect?

We live in an imperfect world. The problems we are faced with, occur in imperfect conditions. Our users are imperfect. Scenarios are imperfect. Then how on earth will our solutions be perfect!?

You cannot save the whole world. Even Batman cannot. Understand your limitations when you work and work around them. But since we have already turned our compass needles towards perfectionism, I’ll try to explain what it does to us.

When we try to be fix everything - we focus on the minor details so much that we lose track of the main problem. Our thinking becomes convergent. We forget to prioritise and our vision slowly fades. And quite often we get sucked into what I call the ‘deadline anxiety’.

In fact - what we’re really afraid of aren’t deadlines, but the fear we won’t meet them. This leads to overthinking and all other sorts of mental distress. This fear is caused by the perfectionism monster (it’s a perfect circle in shape). It likes to feed on your confidence while blinding your logical thinking. It’s intuitive in nature - it just follows what comes to its heart. Instant gratification is its prime need. Elucidation below 

NORMAL DESIGNER

“Gosh, I gotta adjust those two lines - they aren’t parallel to the page border”

ANOTHER NORMAL DESIGNER

“OMG why is this blue so dark. I think I’ll dig through the Pantone colour library to find the perfect blue”

PERFECTIONIST DESIGNER

“OMG these blacks aren’t black enough-OMG this red isn’t the red I saw yesterday-I need to find them- WHY ARE THESE IMAGES SO WEIRD-I DON’T LIKE THIS BOX-OMG I - I need to-”

*dies

*perfectionism monster rises out of the ashes

 

 

Sounds familiar? I certainly hope not.

I understand that you need to fix a lot of things. But here’s something you can do - fix one thing at a time. If you’re someone whose brain tingles at the sight of some inaccurate colours or slightly tilted images or something small - write them down somewhere. Just write down all the issues that you see. Then prioritize according to their importance. It will help you organise and get some closure.

This way, you’ll fix everything, but gradually.

No more Messiah complex = No panic = PROFIT! 

 

Yours truly,

Just Another Designer 

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