I was recently asked by Kelsie Meiling
"How do you decide on a logo/design and remain content with it? I'm always looking back wishing I had changed something."
Knowing when something is ‘finished' is a great struggle for everyone, but especially for those in creative professions such as design, music and art. As we learn and improve as professionals, it's always tempting to go back to old work and 'fix it'.
However I feel it is an unhealthy waste of time and energy that could be put to better use. It is good to have a back catalogue of work that can be improved on. If you feel that you can make it better, this is a sign that you are continuing to evolve and grow as a designer. Not only that, but potential clients can also see this improvement which is vital if they are to gain trust in your ability.
In my opinion having something 90% finished is often better than having something 95% finished. The effort needed to take it from 90% to 95% is quite substantial and should go into your next endeavour/project. At some stage you have to be able to walk away and leave it be. It’s not easy, but there are a few things that I do that have really helped me over the years.
Actionable tips to try:
- Impose a false deadline.
- Schedule new jobs to start immediately afterwards.
- Gain perspective.
- Become less precious.
- Keynote Roulette.
Impose a false deadline.
By doing this you are creating an end. This is not only realistic for when you are working with clients, but it focuses the mind. The concept of Parkinson’s Law (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Parkinson's_law) is very applicable here:
"work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion"
We’ve all been here with homework. If you had all summer to finish your homework, then you would take all summer to finish your homework. This would often culminate in a mad rush to get it done days, even hours before the first day of the new term. By setting a short deadline, days or even hours into the future, you are able to push yourself to get the work done and then it’s forgotten. Once the deadline is up, stop. Close the chapter on that logo and have another project lined up to get immediately stuck into.
This takes me into my next tip:
Schedule new work to start straight after.
If you have a new project to work on, you stand a much better chance of not being tempted to go back and keep tweaking previous designs. You don’t have the time to waste on it, plus you are distracted and as they say ‘out of sight, out of mind’.
The new project should be exciting enough that you go all in on it forgetting all your insecurities about the last job. What is also great about this as it teaches you about scheduling work and learning not to take on too much. Be disciplined, set time aside so you can give your all to one project at a time and not spread yourself too thinly over several projects.
You also keep up momentum. Your personal work ‘stamina’ is improving all the time as you gain more experience with each project.
Put it in perspective
This is just a stepping stone in your development as you continue to improve. Over the lifetime of a designer, one project is just a small part in that timeline. So treat the project as such. Not that your disregard it’s importance, but more that you step back and understand that this is an opportunity to learn and impress and there will be many more along the way.
Become less precious.
Quite often during your career you will be asked to "go again" if a client or your boss isn't happy with the work you've done. An old Creative Director of mine used to call it 'killing your babies'. An awful phrase, but somehow quite apt. We were often too close to the work and has lost our objectivity. Having to rip up what you’ve done and start again isn’t easy but can be a rare and vital skill that will set you apart from many others.
Learning to give it up is huge but it's not easy and takes time and practice. But once you are comfortable with it and are able to find that energy to ‘go again’ the results second, third and even forth time around will be so superior that you’ll be glad you did it.
Practice doing a design and then after 3 hours or so, throw it away and start again and do something completely unrelated. To have to keep finding new angles and inspiration will take genuine resourcefulness, but persevere with it as it will make you much, much better. It will teach you that rare skill of churning multiple excellent solutions instead of picking your first one and settling on it.
This is something I do when I get stuck. There are several options I like, but I can’t decide. I will choose my top 5-10. Re-read the Client Brief and then set up a keynote doc with 1 execution per page. Then it’s a case of eliminating the ones that don’t work. I will go on instinct, experience and knowledge of what’s needed. I spend a maximum of 3 seconds making a decision. Yes and it survives, No and it’s dismissed. I will cycle through the alternatives until I have my final solution in under a minute - it’s fast and brutal, but it has to be this way for me to get out of my funk and move on.
After that I will move on to the next stage of the process and will try to not look back. The chosen one moves to a new document and the previous designs are consigned to an old folder of ‘work in progress’ designs. The other great thing about becoming slightly distant or being able to move on quickly from old work is that it makes you much more analytical and cold out when it comes to analysing your new work. Becoming less p
All of this takes practice and as gets easier over time as your knowledge deepens with more and more projects. Whether this is imposing a false deadline or just growing comfortable with the fact that it will never be 100% perfect, having a series of designs in a portfolio that could be improved on with hindsight shows progression and improvement when compare to your most recent work.
The key is to take the learning that you have made from looking back at old designs and apply it to your next project.
"You can’t move forwards if you keep looking backwards, you’ll keep hitting walls"
What are you struggling with? Leave a comment here or on my Instagram and I'll do my best help in any wayI can.