Two Bad Words
Nothing turns a design to crap faster than a certain two words. They are the bane of my professional life. They are a signifier that work I’ve done is either the wrong work, the right work done at the wrong time or the right work done for the wrong people. They are, without fail, the worst words to hear in response to a request for your work to be reviewed.
The words in question?
Give a shit
There are other words that can be similarly bad, but “Seems fine” basically boils down to “this was not important enough for me to give any time to”.
If it’s a design review, and you’re seriously and honestly not able to see any problems then shout it from the rooftops. You have found the perfect, shining unicorn. Hand that designer all the money in the world and tell everyone else to retire because they are done.
If you are involved in a design process, be involved. Merely being present is not good enough. In the event that it’s not so perfect that a life of perpetual ecstasy would disappoint, say something.
If you don’t give a shit, you’re in the wrong place. I don’t care what job you actually do, but if you don’t care enough to do more than phone it in then be up-front about it. Remove yourself from the process.
If you do give a shit, then push back. It’s not even about disagreeing. It’s about making sure that the design stands up. A rough design that you agree with still needs to be challenged, otherwise that rough design is what you’ll ship.
All design thrives on creative tension – you can usually produce “good enough” without it, but is “good enough” all you want? Do you really want to ship your designer’s first draft? They sure as hell don’t you to.
A request for a design to be reviewed is a request for one of the following:
- Information to inform or further constrain the next iteration of the design
- Information to inform the complete restart of the design within different contraints
- Confirmation that the design is the best it can be, given the established constraints
A first draft is more interview technique than design
I always consider my first-draft to be an interview technique rather than a design. It’s a means to gather more information about what’s needed and refine the direction, rather than an actual attempt to deliver a solution.
The sacrificial first-cut is a long established way to tease out other people’s ideas. People are a lot more able to articulate what they’d rather see than they are to articulate what they want in the first place.
If you don’t push back, then you’re committing to a shot-in-the-dark.
Design is all about constraints. Without constraints, all problems are trivial and solutions are obvious. Design, as a process, works best when the current result of that process is challenged and pushed to improve.
One of the best ways for that push to come is from tightening and refining the constraints – from speaking up when something is not good enough.
If everything is good enough from the outset, you’ll never get to actually good.
If you take one thing away from this post, take this: If you’re meant to be involved in a design process, be involved or acknowledge that you’re not, acknowledge what that means and step away.