No excuses

What makes a good designer? Is design work valued by beauty? What about utility or revenue? Its a tough question.

Its not easy to concoct a recipe for a great designer. I think its such a variable job that there are numerous correct answers. However, there does seems to be a common variable among highly effective designers : they make no excuses.

Excuses. Ya know, reasons that you can’t do your job.

“This logo isn’t in vector”
“We need a full list of requirements first”
“I didn’t get a layout for that”
“We need the final content first”

Design problems never seems to be wrapped up in a nice neat little package. I think the world just didn’t get the memo. Design is about solving problems and a problem by definition is messy. It makes sense that often times problem-solving is called “getting your hands dirty.”

The best designers just don’t let anything stop them. They build with productivity and momentum. Once a train gets going its hard to stop it. Most times getting moving toward the goal is better than stalling the departure. It can be argued that moving design forward full steam ahead ( to continue the metaphor) without all the pieces is wasting time or misusing resources. But, its hard to argue that the grand majority of great ideas never make it past the discussion stage. There is tremendous value in a team member that will fill in blanks, move forward and build rather than wait on planning or perfected requirements.

Version five is almost always better than version one. Many times, it doesn’t even matter how incomplete and wrong the first version was. Iteration is powerful and its shocking how many organizations believe in it but don’t really do it.

There are many examples and discussions of theory around how we should work with a certain process. You know : how we should not use “lorem ipsum” or that designing without well-formed content is the devil. What about how incomplete requirements or jumping into visual designs early are just the wrong process? Those are excuses.

Great design seeks solutions and brings value by production and iteration. Moving quickly and making assumptions is generally not ideal or clean. Sometimes it leads to missed communications or extra cycles. I submit that momentum and testing ideas even in raw form makes better products, solves more problems and gets shit done.

That’s how I like to work and I’d like to see more designers who do to.


Now read this


This is an essay originally written and published by Stemmings. In physics, there’s a concept of inertia. It’s the idea that an object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by a force. The thing is, it’s not just limited to physical... Continue →