Archive for February, 2011

Destruction and Design

Posted by pcollier under Creativity, Design Brief, Work

Destruction

Sometimes things have to be cut loose to save ourselves more pain down the line. The same is true of design. Through the process of destruction new ideas can often have a greater chance of flourishing. So although it may seem contradictory to our creative cause, our willingness to destroy is also vital.

Often we can be so bogged down in trying to get something to work that it can give us tunnel vision. We can be so fixated on the details that we lose sight of the bigger picture and our overall design goals. Becoming overly obsessive on the details can lead us down intricate, diversionary tangents and ultimately to a skewed design. It can be a neat trick as you become a more experienced designer to catch yourself doing this and learn to cut off where you started to run astray. We’re all guilty of getting carried away, become an expert at reining it in and cutting loose and I don’t mean in the free spirited way!

Sometimes it pays to turn the destructive eye to the whole design. In the past I’ve found myself much more capable of this after a break when I’ve rediscovered my objectivity. It is painful to throw away hard work but sometimes (as the film ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ demonstrated) you have to crawl through a river of shit to come clean out the other side. Every time I’ve decided to throw away work in the past it has subsequently lead to a stronger design. I hated doing it at the time but was always thankful after for having the courage to not be precious. It is just a process of refinement and iteration.

At any rate the aftermath of destruction is an interesting place. Taking a torch to your design will in turn give you the sturdy green shoots poking out of the blackened ashes. These survivors are the design elements that can be your winners and keepers.  This is why ‘create and burn’ can be a healthy design process. If we are aggressive and even-handed in our destruction and an idea still resolutely remains, then maybe it deserves to stay.

As you move forward with your design it will have a strong backbone of survivors. The ideas that you carried forward will help deliver more focus down the line and have the room to flourish. I guess all this leads us to my final piece of advice at this juncture. After all this talk of destruction, which let’s face it, us humans love, I really should support it with more fiery gusto whilst I have the chance, so here goes: Don’t be afraid to be a cold merciless bastard of an overlord. Design elements and ideas are in your dominion and should be scared shitless of your wrath. If they are not there to serve your cause, then quite frankly, they deserve to die. There you have it. Try not to cling onto something just because you created it. Creation is not always beautiful, so don’t be afraid to wield the knife, or even the torch…and yes it can be more fun if you do it with a crazed look in your eye.

one wheel motorcycle

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.” – Voltaire (1694-1778)

The best designers I know are good because they like to get their hands dirty. They are not afraid to try something out to see if it works. They have a healthy attitude toward prototyping. Bad design is thinking you have all the answers and therefore no need for questions.

You know that person in your life who is always the first to say ‘That’ll never work’, well next time they do give them a slap. What’s frustrating is that quite often these people can be extremely intelligent and highly convincing in their arguments as to why you needn’t go further with an idea. And you know what, 90% of the time they may very well be right…on the original point. But you know what is insanely criminal in any kind of design? It’s not allowing exploration, often ideas are the genesis for fantastic and unexpected revelations further down the line. Prototyping is so intertwined with creative thinking that to stunt an idea at its source can severely limit the natural design process. Innovative thought can only occur from action, never inaction. So test out an idea and see what tumbles out, the naysayers might be surprised as to what actually does turn out to work.

Now going back to the traits of the best designers… they will without doubt always have confidence. But not cocky overly assured confidence, true and honest understated confidence. They are open to being wrong and indeed relish the prospect as an opportunity to learn. Being wrong broadens their outlook and opens doors. But on the other hand an unwillingness to be wrong can bring those guilty ultimately to ruin. One path leads to exponential growth in wisdom and experience. The other a linear and narrowing path saddled with a deepening propensity for close mindedness. The moral of the story being; prototype, or be prepared for your final designs to fail a lot more. How is that for irony?