Nothing good gets designed in a day

Working quickly is a part of life. Juggling multiple projects & requests from within our company, we often have to respond quickly. And there are times speed is necessary over quality. As a designer you accept this, get your co-worker the graphic or presentation they needed, and move on thinking next time it’ll be “better”. It’s not a deep thought, but…

Nothing good ever gets designed in just one day.

That’s not to say some of my best work hasn’t been quickly. But for a designer, I think there is a point of digestion that needs to happen before you can really execute. It has to do with design thinking, or even divergent thinking when approaching an issue. The ability to understand a problem and then walk away for a while.

Our working environment can be chaotic – designers may juggle multiple long term design/dev projects, and in between get hit up to help support our growing corporate brand. A lot of time, the best value we can add is visually illustrating a complex development process for our business development team. Those graphics help our proposals shine above others and translate very complex concepts into something  that can be easily understood.  Seems simple, but we’ve invested hundreds of hours in our graphic library over the past 4 years.

First step is to simply listen & gather the requirements you’ll need. Finding the person and a whiteboard is one way. Another way could be simply to find the image assets you’ll need , start a new illustrator doc. This will take you 10 minutes, but this start lays the ground work for coming back at the design problem with a clear head .

How long do you pause? Could be a day, could just be a couple hours. The important part is actually taking a break. Because when you come back, I find myself both mentally prepared but also ready to enjoy solving the design problem. And when you think about it, why else do something unless you enjoy it?

As a designer, you need the ability to know your process and how to get best results.

creative processAnd that extends to your team – knowing how they works helps delegate projects and avoid poor quality responses during a fire drill.  Sometimes watching how they work tells you more about how you should be a leader. There are a dozen of us, all with different strengths and a different person. Lisa is one I can relate a lot to – she can crank out visual or UI design all day, and quickly. But when she’s spent time to digest the problem, and then iterated on it several times, the results truly get portfolio worthy.

Another designer Matt took home our graphic inventory over the weekend – something he’d contributed to before – and elevated the design pattern by rethinking it. Understanding, taking a break, and then coming back at the problem helped him elevate the  style we’ve been using going forward in our proposals.

Which brings me to my next moment of Starbucks introspection, what am I putting in a portfolio? And what work as a team are we proud enough of to keep? We have a pretty good throughput supporting multiple products, service teams and our corporate brand. Our process is loose, but achieves results. But what of those results would we share at our next job interview? Or online in behance?

And how much of that lack of quality comes down to the time constrains we work under?

Ok, too many deep thoughts getting broken up by the cackling old ladies of starbucks. But think about it next time someone does a “drive by” and requests a new graphic… it’s only going to take an hour to knock out. Or can it be something better to understand the problem, gather the requirements and give it a break before barreling headfirst into solving the problem visually? The best things I’ve ever designed we’re never done in a day.