Here We Go Again

I haven't written a blog post here in years. Four and a half, to be exact, which is right around the time I stopped freelancing and started working on Baron Fig.

Originally this site was intended to be a way for me to get new clients. Hence posts like "On Choosing a Designer" and "The Design Process." Once I moved on there wasn't much of a reason to update. 

Now I find myself in a completely different place in my life: Baron Fig has a full team and serves over 60 countries, I live in Hell's Kitchen NYC with my fiancée, and my days aren't solely filled with design anymore, to name a few. Despite the changes, one thing has stayed constant: Writing.

Since my college days I've been committed to a daily habit structure to make sure I put my energy in the right place. Over time my focus has changed—I don't Draw daily like I used to, for example—but Writing has never left my short list. Different projects have allowed me to write on a daily basis, mostly Baron Fig, but often journaling, poetry, and even the occasional short story. Now I'm going to give a shot at maintaining a regular blog, inspired by my conversations with fellow designer, Khoi Vinh.

The Hypothetical New Focus

Yeah, I know—it sounds like I'm already hedging my bet, calling it "Hypothetical" right off the bat. Does that mean I'll drop off after a few posts? Or does it mean that I'll change subject matter and never look back? Hell if I know. 

Here's what I'm going to attempt to do: 

First, I'm going to aim for one post a week. Short, long, whatever—I just want to publish something in the beginning. If there's anything I've learned about habits, it's that when forming one it's far more important that I show up rather than make a masterpiece.

Second, I'm going to write about Creativity, Productivity, Design, and Culture. The rule of three says I have one keyword too many, and it's probably correct. Right off the bat "Culture" lets me share the things I enjoy, like movies, video games, and books. That leaves the other three to battle it out. I'm not a "Designer's designer," but I am a designer, so it seems like Design should stay. I could go on, but you get the point. Only time will tell.

If you want to read my posts as they come, subscribe to stay updated. I won't spam. Hell, I might not even make it past this post. 

📝

On Doing

There’s a big difference between Doing Something and Doing Something Right—it’s not the end product, as you would expect, but the mindset that carries you there.

Fearing Failure

Every time I used to sit down to write or design I felt a nagging fear creeping around the lower corners of my mind. It started out as just a little self doubt, with me thinking about what has to be Done and asking myself whether or not I could Do it. If I wasn’t careful the little wisps of self doubt grew into looming clouds of seizing fear as negative questions piled up like fresh kindling. Before I knew it I'd psyched myself out and, fearing that I wouldn't be able to Do anything Right, I'd move on to something else.

There’s hope, however; I've come upon a slight shift in mindset that has allowed me to splash the kindling with water and ignore my nagging doubts.

The Achievability Factor

While it sounds like a cross between Fear Factor and a Ben Stein trivia show, the Achievability Factor is a simple concept whose roots plague our minds. It’s the basis for the question we ask ourselves every time we sit down to work: Can I do this?

If we strip away all the weeds and get to the crux of Achievability, it all boils down to a very simple idea: we don’t know if we can achieve something until we do. And the harder the challenge and longer it takes, the more doubt that builds up. Lucky for us, there’s an easy way to combat this problem: instead of trying to Do Something Right, just focus on trying to Do Something, period.

Doing Something v. Doing Something Right

When our goal is Doing Something we're guaranteed to achieve it. The moment we touch pen to paper or mousepoint to vectorfart we’ve immediately succeeded. Then it’s just a matter of stringing together a chain of Doing Somethings. Before we know it, we’ve Done Something.

On the matter of Doing Something Right, it’s unlikely that we’re going to get things perfect on the first shot. The problem with always aiming to do things Right is that it’s possible (and likely) we’ll fail several times in a row. And that can get frustrating. Instead, we’re much better off not worrying about it—the Right will find its way into the equation on its own, usually when we least expect it.

The Design Process

Every project has different goals and expectations, yet the process by which a designer gets the job done is nearly always the same. It can be boiled down to four fundamental steps: Absorb, Explore, Refine, Define.

Absorb

Design is more than the literal sitting down and creating of images. Before that can happen the designer has to understand what he’s working towards. He has to understand the client’s business, clearly formulate who the target audience is, and clearly grasp the project itself. This includes researching appropriate fields to provide himself with sufficient ancillary knowledge (e.g. designing a propeller company identity benefits from knowledge of flight, propellers, aerodynamics, wind, and so on).

  • Value: Research
  • Result: Full understanding of the client’s goals and the project; attain appropriate project-related knowledge.

Explore

Information has been assimilated, now it’s time to begin applying it. The Explore stage concerns the shaping of ideas. It’s the part that varies wildly from project to project; the designer walks down a new path each time, not knowing where it leads or at what point it will bear fruit—ample time is required to truly benefit. (As cliché as it sounds, creativity cannot be rushed.) The goal for the step is to have project concepts to present for discussion.

  • Value: Conceptualizing
  • Result: Clear, appropriate, and effective ideas for the project; sketches to illustrate one or more ideas.

Refine

At this point the designer has one or more ideas and now it’s time for you, the client, to enter the discussion. The designer begins this stage by presenting the results of his Exploration. He explains his reasoning for the choices he’s made and together you Refine the ideas into a chosen direction for the final stage of the design process.

  • Value: Deciding
  • Result: Unified direction that is well thought out; appropriately expresses the project goals; appeals to the correct audience.

Define

The final step is akin to sharpening a pencil to a fine point. The ideas have been labored on, discussions between you and the designer have taken place—now it’s time to take all of that work and hone in on the final solution. This stage is set in motion based on the direct feedback from the previous one. After all is said and done, your final product is design of value that is unique to your endeavor.

  • Value: Finalizing
  • Result: A final product that is intelligent and interesting—which accurately expresses the client’s intentions and appeals to the correct audience.