10 reasons to keep designing
Designers don’t have to burn out!
In the six years since I began this design business, I’ve come across a lot of reasons to quit designing. People burn out for lots of reasons: designer’s block, long hours, lack of clients, too many clients, and of course – client-zillas. That being said, I’m still in love with the design process and find new and refreshing reasons to keep working long into the night. I’ve come up with why I choose to continue, and hopefully this list will give you some insight into the design world and some inspiration to continue creating.
Why I Design
Kinetic learning cements new (and old) knowledgeIf you learn a new fact, principle or technique, the best way to really understand it is to use it a practical application. Design is imagination in action and applying disparate sets of information to accomplish a design task works your mind and keeps useful bits of knowledge from floating into the ether.
Designing expands what human life encompassesLike it or not, there’s a point in our collective history when all we did was pick ticks off of each other and try to avoid dying from a multitude of things that go bump in the night. We’ve outgrown that. We can talk about all kinds of things that weren’t even a glimmer in Urg son-of-Grog’s eyes. People can do this because each generation adds a little to the accumulated knowledge of the former.Simply applying musty principles to the same tasks doesn’t create iPhones, suspension bridges, or oatmeal cookies. It took imagination and determination to get here to where we are today; everything available now was designed by someone in the past. We, as designers, are that someone!
Building helps focus your mind
It might just be me, but with the amount of distractions available at all times, I have a heck of a time focusing on any set task. I get a lot done, but it takes more energy than it rightfully should. When I’m creating something (new coins, monuments, etc.), I can take all that ADD / Wikipedia acquired information and put it to good use. All the little bits of info act as polishing cloths on my rough-cut design, and seeing the final product come out shining is a wonderful feeling. Which brings me to point number 4:
Overcoming challenges brings a lot of satisfactionThis one seems obvious. When you make something awesome, you feel awesome. ‘Nuff said.
Simplification makes you think about what is essentialGood design is functional. Great design is elegant. Getting to that stage of elegance is extremely difficult, and a big part of the road there is “simplification”. When a designer takes the time to think about whether a new feature / font / material is absolutely essential, she can really learn more about what the project’s goals are. Say you’re designing a neat wallet, based off of some sleek European design. It’s beautiful, down to the built in coin pocket. But wait– it’s for an American audience! Americans don’t carry change in a wallet because USD change doesn’t have high enough values to warrant the extra butt bulk. The coin pocket should go, and a designer who had that eureka moment will have gained some insight into what a wallet is really meant to do. Not to mention why pennies are silly.
EmotionsThe world is an absolutely beautiful, amazing place, which is more aptly described by Cormac McCarthy than myself:
The truth about the world, he said, is that anything is possible… The universe is no narrow thing and the order within it is not constrained by any latitude in its conception to repeat what exists in one part in any other part. Even in this world more things exist without our knowledge than with it and the order in creation which you see is that which you have put there, like a string in a maze, so that you shall not lose your way. For existence has its own order and that no man’s mind can compass, that mind itself being but a fact among others.
Cormac McCarthyDesigning allows me to recognize parts of that ineffable beauty. Focusing in on how we interact with the world and how the world in turn interacts with us shows me wonderful little secrets that would otherwise be lost in a sea of TV marathons.
Teaching design helps… well everybodyThis isn’t exclusive to design, but it is something the various design fields encourage: fellowship and education. Part of the reason I’m beginning this article series is to help share the knowledge I’ve accrued from a million free sources throughout my career so far. Teaching ties into #1 in this list. It helps me make sure I actually know what I think I know. If I can explain a technique to someone else, then I know it inside and out. If I can’t, the process of trying to teach it to others will reinforce the bits I’m not so sure about.Spreading design knowledge helps people interact with their surroundings in a more capable way. Every teacher helps the world get a bit better, and teaching design helps bridge the knowledge gap between purely aesthetic considerations and lifeless mechanical construction.
Working in a cooperative setting is good for youDespite how contentious the media makes us out to be, I’ve always found that one-on-one interactions with most people are civil and constructive. When people get together to achieve a goal, they generally bring their best to the table. Design is one of those fields that engenders roundtable discussions and allows everyone to contribute something.
Design tests me and my abilitiesI’ve been working on a new Kindle cover for a while now. It’s sort of a pet project, so I’m allowing myself to play around more than I would with a paying client (although after reading this, I might start being more strict with my use of time).
The image above is one part of a multi-component locking assembly for the Kindle cover that should be extremely easy to operate and fail safe. It doesn’t look like much, but this little doohickey (which is smaller than a stick of gum) has forced me to research sheet metals, ABS plastic injection molding, CNC cutting, assembly techniques, etc. I just wanted a latch, but the design world gave me “manufacturing processes” as an added bonus. Cool, right?
Good design adds beauty and elegance to the worldIt’s a big statement, but it’s true. Lucretius said that elegant complexity is the highest aim of the universe and therefore should be humanity’s only end goal. Crushing a bug reduced complex order to simple disorder – not okay. This reading of the world has always resonated with me, and the task of thoughtful inventing achieves Lucretius’ aims. When I successfully design something that has not existed before, something that looks right, feels right and acts as it should, I’ve brought something into the world that makes it a tiny bit brighter. I like that.
Design Rocks My Socks
The next few articles will be more down to earth– tutorials, reviews, and the like. For this one though, I wanted to commit to paper some of the long-felt musings about why I do what I do. I hope you’ve enjoyed, adored, or loathed it. As long as you’re not neutral, I’ve done my job. Feel free to tell me what you think about this first article in the comments below!