Thursday, July 23, 2015

Little Experiments and Small Mutations

I should be grading my student's project right now. But, I just can't bring my self to do it — so it will get done tomorrow (Sorry Omar). I've been thinking about a common problem amongst beginning and even mature designers — letting go of control and letting go of the notion of perfection. Until, you are able to get past these obstacles you will struggle as a designer. Design commonly deals with problems, concerns and ideas that simply do not have a single "best" solution. When this quality is combine with our compulsion to worship the designed "artifact" it can prevent us from being effective designers. An artifact is a fixed point in time and space and it's very hard to let go of the idea that that object should be a perfect "best" solution to a design exploration. Because it is fixed that means that as a designer you will always be generating artifacts that will very likely be replaced by something that better suits new contexts. It's a painful reality.

I find that I can get past this by viewing my work as little experiments or small mutations. It's quite fun to design with this mind-set — trying new things and seeing how people react. You have to have an elastic ego to approach design in this way. First your ego must be quite huge to be able to come up with a design to begin with. You are saying "look at me... here is something that I made... it came out of my brain... isn't it interesting?!" Then once it's out there you have to let go and be willing to receive all kinds of feedback. You have to let go and move on to other designs or in many cases re-designing the same thing or some aspect of the same thing... over... and over again. It's all little experiments and mutations to me. So, if it strikes the fancy of other people that's awesome. But, if not then I try something new or different.

When I change a design, whether it's my own or whether I am riffing off of someone else's work it helps to think in terms of small mutations. I design things or make changes to some thing or some idea and I understand that this thing I am designing is not the beginning or some revolutionary new thing and neither is it the end to some long journey. The design that I create — it is in the middle of an on-going process. There are things that came before and there are things that will evolve out of this thing. When I see someone else take an idea of mine and do something new with it I rejoice. I want other designers to "steal" my ideas and do something different with them. That is the evolutionary process.

Yes I have my obsessions and these drive most of my work. I suspect that most designers are pretty obsessive. To keep bouncing back and designing and redesigning over and over again one has to be obsessive and yes have that elastic ego.

1 comment:

  1. I work much the same way, both in my day job and as a game designer. And Peter Sims confirms in _Little Bets_ that many successful creative people do something similar: they test a new idea by investing a small amount of time and money, as an experiment to see if it's worth working on further.

    I've also had to learn that perfection isn't the goal, because it is unattainable. Excellence is the goal.