This is a reminder for myself and for other designers who may struggle with feeling discouraged about their work. I want to remind us where we’ve been, that the process is much greater than the result, and that it’s important to keep practicing–keep working that craft, sharpening that knife.
Design is hard. I’m sure even Jony Ive would agree and he’s setting worldwide trends at Apple. Technology is changing so fast, new tools or software is created pretty often, new demands and assumptions are made by clients and our peers, design aesthetics shift a lot, and other designers always seem to be better. When these challenges or discouraging thoughts come up it’s important to remember where we’ve been. I try to imagine some design project I worked on years ago, maybe the first design I ever created if I really want to have a good laugh. What did it look like? What tools did I use to create it? How would I make the same thing knowing what I know today? That moment when I compare that work with today is a good one and it’s a great motivator. “Oh yeah, that design was total crap. No way I’d make that today! Maybe I’m not such a poser after all.”
It’s all about the process. Remember that the process is always longer than the result in any scenario. For example: It takes longer to watch a movie than it does to see the end. Or, it takes longer to drive to work than it does to be there. And in the same vein: it takes longer to create a design than it does to have created it. Therefore, I think it’s best to focus energy on the present rather than thinking about the final result because it’s so fleeting. But I fall off the wagon all the time, wanting to be somewhere else, wanting to be finished, wanting to get somewhere, wanting to be a better designer. I have to remember to know that the process of creating something is how something is created. No shit, right? But think about that for a second… The process of making something is where creation happens, not at the end, and knowing that encourages me to explore, to make something new and to enjoy the ride. If the design bombs at the end, at least I had fun playing.
Keep practicing! Keep sharpening that knife. Look over the shoulders of designers you admire. Get on Dribbble for some inspiration. Find a few mentors to give you candid feedback on your work so you can grow. I had an art teacher once tell me to copy the pros, for example: go paint Starry Night by Van Gogh and see what it takes to make a masterpiece. Keep running toward that place you think you’ll never reach. And don’t forget to stop and look around once in a while.