Design is stressful. You don’t have a clear path to success. Your stomach churns because your design seems to rely more on gut instinct and desperate assumptions than on things you can explain mathematically. Most painfully, you think you haven’t found “the great idea.” You wonder what you haven’t done correctly and what you have missed.
On top of this angst is our ego. It follows us and taunts
us. We want to say “This is my design,” when in reality, 99 percent is existing
stuff that you rearranged. You want to develop a great design, but you realize
your work is in response to someone else’s insight into the need for your
design in the first place. Your idea did not fall into a valley of awaiting
desire, but was sculpted from rock laid before you by others.
I have lost sleep and dealt with a lot of angst in the
process of design. Personally, I battle with:
1) worrying about missing the best design solution and
2) subordinating my ego to the design.
I want to believe there is some ideal design, and I want
to keep the creative process going until I arrive at this ideal. The ideal
design doesn’t seem to be the case as I look at the man-made world around me.
All designs are ephemeral, replaced in good time by designs more suitable for
the day. I have had technically sophisticated designs get completely replaced
by a new technology. I’ve had embarrassingly simple designs that have lasted
for decades. Basic forms and functions already exist in nature, from geometric
forms in crystals to round trees rolling down hills. Designers more often than
not are manipulating what already exists. However, we tend toward perfectionism
and strive to create the perfect design. Because our identity is in design, we
wish to separate ourselves from the “amateurs” and dazzle the world with our
ability. We can get some peace in knowing that our design is not the ending
point, but one of many points in a galaxy of evolving ideas. Is there a perfect
poem or painting? If so, has it been read or observed, or does it live in an
artist’s mind, never to be degraded by actual execution on paper or canvas?
This leads into the problem with ego. Pride is a
fundamental fight. We want our mark on the world because we believe we have
something distinctive to contribute (and we do!). We don’t want to be someone
who shovels coal all day with nothing to show for our labors but a pile of
coal. We want to create. We were meant to be creators. We identify ourselves as
such, and strive to execute this desire in our profession. Therefore, we want
all our professional work to start with “let me show you my design.” However, we work in a collaborative community with an
intellectual ecology, whether across time or contemporaneously. We wonder if we
are a singular sensation like the Slinkey and Salinger, or copious creators
like King and Kandinsky.
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