“Hmm. Okay, maybe this panel will look better on the right”
“Oh, that feels a little unnatural. People usually read left to right, not right to left”
“Maybe it was better on the left”
“Oh… no, no, that doesn’t work”
“Maybe I need to find a new image”
“Yup, I’ll find a new image”
“So many images and none are the one I want”
“Maybe that panel should be on the right after all”
“Hm… does that need to be italicised?”
“No, that can’t be italicised and be that big”
“Maybe that’s it. The font size is too big. 28? 26? 24? 22?”
“None of them look right”
“I’m just going to leave the font as it is for now”
“Hmm. That panel still doesn’t look right.”
“Maybe I should concentrate on something else”
“Should this text be centered?”
“No, I don’t want that centered”
“THERE IS TOO MUCH CENTERING”
“Oh, let me zoom out and see this panel again”
“Let me rotate the canvas to see if it looks right when its upside down”
“Nope, still looks weird”
“Oh. Right. I was looking for images”
“Who even uses these images”
“Hmm… maybe that text needs to be right aligned”
“Do I even need that text?”
“That font is really bothering me”
“Maybe I need to move that panel again”
(Okay I get the point, take me to the post)
“Is that the right blue? I think that’s a different blue”
“But this looks like every other site out there at the moment”
“Does it matter?”
“That image is bothering me”
“Maybe it needs a colour overlay”
“Maybe I should add a drop shadow”
“Kylie. Don’t be stupid”
“What’s for lunch?”
“Maybe that panel could horizontally span left and right”
“But then I would have to move that text”
“… And change the font”
“Maybe I should quickly sketch this out”
“Why are my wireframes so messy”
“Ooh this looks like a good image”
I wonder how bigger the footer should be”
“Should I put the logo in the footer?”
“Oh. Shit. I left out the navigation”
“Ok, I’m going to try that horizontal thing with the panel”
“No no no no. That looks awful”
“Maybe don’t need the panel?”
“Hahaha. That tweet was funny”
“Where’s the navigation going to go?”
“Is this even going to work?”
“Okay, 32. That’s the right size”
Should that be bold instead of italicised?”
“I think I need a coffee”
“I just sketched out this wireframe half an hour ago and I have already forgotten what it was for”
“I’m going to delete that panel”
“Hmm.. wow that does make a difference”
“Maybe I need to rotate the canvas again”
“Oh god, now that looks even worse upside down. I need to add the panel back in”
“I wonder if there are any images from X site I can use”
“I hate them all”
This was my mind this week and only on one small, tiny part of a much bigger project. I initially put it down to creative block and did all the things people tell you to do to kick the block. None of them worked.
Nope, this wasn’t creative block, I was just over thinking it.
I had an idea for this project floating around in my head for a couple of weeks before I could actually get started. In my head I could very clearly see what it was going to look like and how it was going to work. However, when I started working on it, it didn’t look or work like anything I had envisioned in my mind.
The more the design on my canvas parted ways with the design in my head, the confidence I lost. The more confidence I lost, the more I questioned and over thought every single, tiny, minute, insignificant detail of the design. Does this look right? How can I fix it? This all looks wrong.
One night after work while hanging with some colleagues/friends, I asked Developer Lee if developers ever got creative block. He was was kind enough to actually offer up a very useful answer given that, at the time, we were squished into a Fringe Festival tent so small and so hot that everybody’s bodily odours moulded into one:
Lee’s reply was simply (paraphrased because somewhere between my nasal passages caving in on me and the awesome performances on stage, I lost may have lost my short term memory):
“I don’t think developers get creative block in the same way designers do. Maybe when we need to figure out why something doesn’t work, or how to make something work. Sometimes you don’t even know why something works when it works. Usually you just need to go back to the beginning and start again.”
“You just need to go back to the beginning and start again”. I thought about this a lot over night.
I didn’t take that as literally deleting everything I had done and starting completely fresh. Rather, as a way to refocus. Instead of stressing about the minutiae that was currently holding me up, I should step back, go back to the basics and focus more on the bigger, wider, more important things. Is this staying true to the brief? Is this communicating the intended message? Is this on brand? Not “is this font too big” or “should this panel be on the left”. As soon as I recognised that I needed to take a step back and pull myself out of The Lake of Indecisiveness, things really started to come together.
Last year I was a design mentor at Startup Weekend. While I was supposed to be providing participants with some sort of helpful advice, I was actually learning a whole lot about ideas and the way to evolve them. In the startup world they have a thing called a ‘pivot’ (not this type of pivot as hilarious as it is). ‘Pivoting’ just means that as soon as you recognise an idea is not working, you should restart. You take all the information and knowledge you’ve learnt about your idea so far and you use it to evolve your idea into something newish or something better. You then let go of your original idea. It’s gone. You work on something better. Kaput. You’ve now got something shinier.
Remembering this was helpful in my refocus. Going back to the basics meant that I was able to recognise that although I had spent days spinning around in circles, each consideration, every indecision and the few tiny wins meant that I was improving on my initial idea. The fact that my design wasn’t working out the way it appeared in my head wasn’t because I didn’t have the skill to execute it, it wasn’t working out because it wasn’t working. The foundations were wrong and I may have continued to spin in circles for days had I not just “gone back to the beginning and started again”.
Thanks Lee and everyone who put up with me last week :)
Take a step back, breath, head back to basics, pivot and don't be afraid to let go if nothing is working. Just go back to the beginning and start again.