Make yourself (un)comfortable

Working on a computer for most of the day, it’s pretty easy to get stuck in a rut when designing. I used to really struggle with it, but over the past year I’ve got a lot better at realising when I’m in a rut and how to get out of it, instead of wasting lots of precious time getting frustrated. Different people have different methods of getting out of their rut: some sketch, some go for a run, some smoke crack. I like to get the opinions of the people around me, particularly other designers in the studio.

This approach works for me because when I’ve been engrossed in my own interpretation of the brief, the opinions of other designers can make me uncomfortable. They make me question design decisions I’ve made naturally or subconsciously; when I’ve been getting comfortable with the design. I’m not saying you shouldn’t get comfortable with a design—you must at some point, if you’re to present it with any confidence to a client—but it’s important to leave yourself open to being proved wrong.

How you respond to—and counter—the challenging opinions of your peers is one of your defining traits as a designer.

I often find that simply articulating my problem to someone else results in the answer I was looking for, before I’ve even finished my sentence. Having others around me who’s insight I can rely on can make a big difference to a design really quickly, and this is the greatest benefit I’ve found of being part of a team in a studio. That’s not to say freelancers are shut off from this situation (Dribbble, Twitter and Skype can certainly aid in emulating this kind of environment), but there is something very immediate and satisfying about printing off designs you’ve been slaving over for days, pinning them up on the wall and critiquing them with a few other people and a bloody big marker pen.

Conflicting opinions with your creative director are usually the toughest to counter. Not only will she immediately spot any selfish or frivelous elements in your design, but she’ll be able to tell you why you put them in and why you were wrong to do so. Oh, and she’ll probably have ‘final cut’ too. Here you need to set aside your arguments and hear her out — she’s been in the business longer than you and has seen more designs fail than you’ve had hot dinners. Not only will you learn from what she says, but if you can successfully counter an opinion of hers which you happen to disagree with, you know what you’ve argued for is worth keeping.