Break Things

When in doubt, break things to fix them. Don’t always heed advice to the contrary.

Only when something is broken can you truly see what it is made out of.

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The Ugly Path to Beautiful Design

Design is difficult. Perfectionists want to nitpick until they are blue in the face. Most never finish satisfied. The few who feel they got it just right invariably get torn apart by the public or by passing time. Burdened by stress herein, many never finish at all.

Beautiful design seldom comes from a single stroke or first draft. It takes iteration upon iteration to arrive at success. The path to creating widely accepted design depends entirely on feedback. No single designer wields a universal sensibility, so each design must be put to the test.

No matter how focused or specific your target audience is, you have no way to inherently know how to approach the look and feel of your creation until you drop your pants and present it.

Put out something ugly first so people can call it ugly and help you define what pretty is. Listen to the criticism carefully and identify the common taste denominator woven throughout your core audience. Without compromising your vision, steer work in that direction. Before long, your audience, you, and your design may find common ground.

If It Doesn’t Work…

…Try again differently. Don’t give up. Don’t dismiss it as a failure and leave it behind in the dust. Not yet. Don’t let all that hard work go to waste. Learn from your mistakes, figure out why it didn’t work the first time, and put lessons learned into practice. Try again, but differently this time. If you lose a second time, sit back and analyze the situation again. Debrief. You cannot wave it off in ignorance and shame. You must study your defeat. Only when you can draft an educated and supported thesis on your shortcomings should you be allowed to dismiss your attempts as failures and move on.

Artists: Do Not Fear Your Old Work

Most people shy away from, try to forget, or openly reject their old projects. They have “learned so much since then” and are outwardly disgusted with the thought of revisiting outdated work again. If you feel ashamed by the portfolio of your past, don’t be. It’s natural to laugh at the work you did, the person you used to be (pubescent years, anyone?). But do not fear it. Do not avoid it altogether.

As an artist, it’s important to understand who you are and where you came from. You must iterate from old pieces – learn from what worked and discard what didn’t. Develop a genuine voice over time, understand the reception of your craft, and grow. Revisiting past projects helps you appreciate the trajectory of your skills and values. It helps you remember who you were and stay true to yourself. It helps you improve and move on.

Do not ignore your past. It is the key to mastering your craft. It is the compass for your future.