Stop Being a Rambo Designer

You are not perfect. I don’t mean that just in the commonly thought of way as to say “We all make mistakes sometimes.” Humans are not perfect. Our retinas are in backward; so some wiring gets in the way, causing a blind spot in each eye. Our spinal column is not an ideal structure to support us and it can easily be hurt. The brain is a clumsy apparatus that is sometimes closer to something put together with duct tape rather than an amazing supercomputer we imagine it to be.1

We can be someone very intelligent, but do some very stupid things. People join cults, get addictions, and drive off cliffs while typing a message on Twitter. Our memories are limited and we regenerate them in new ways every time we recall something. So, accurate and perfect? Not so much. Our memories many times blur together and so something we learned today can interfere with something we learned yesterday. This interference can even lead to false memories.

In life and our designs we expect perfection. Nothing less can be expected. There’s nothing wrong with having pride in doing the best work you can do. In the article, “Your Design is Wrong (And Here’s Why),” Mike Rundle goes over the many reasons a design can be off: “If you’re not a world-class designer but aspire to be one, don’t ever commit a design error. Your visual tone could be off, the colors could be muddy, the concept could need tweaking but you should never, ever make a mistake that I’ve listed. There’s no excuse, and the best part? Fixing a design error requires no design talent.”

There is a drive to be perfect. But the belief that we are, or can be perfect, is wrong.

Information Contamination

The mind can so easily be contaminated. There is a phenomenon known as “focused illusion” where if you are directed to see or read some information it impacts your future reactions and decisions and forms beliefs. Even if you don’t recall this belief/opinion directly you might form an decision based on whatever pieces and parts you happen to recall at the moment. That contextual filter of memory is something very unpredictable.

We can so easily fall into an endless rut through being contaminated. We form something called “confirmation bias” where we basically only see the things that reinforce what we believe or have formed as a core ideal for ourselves. The rest, we ignore. It’s like buying a car and noticing that type of car everywhere on the road while driving around after that. The things at the top of our mind continue to make us think we are right in our beliefs at the cost of ignoring information that might actually prove that belief wrong.

This happens to us daily. We live in a design bubble. We follow and like certain people in the community and read and believe in what they say, especially if we identify with them somehow. If it comes to blows on some community discussion, we side with that person/group. This happens a lot of the time with leaders in the community. What they say has a lot of impact, and it becomes an echo of that person’s belief. There were always opinions on Flash, good and bad, a year ago. Today though, due to this phenomenon, no one in their right mind would speak out in favor of it, because it goes against the grain. We’ve bought into the myths, half-truths and all. Right or wrong technology for the job, the belief wins over.

Rambo-style Design

There have been a lot of rumblings in community places like Dribbble lately where folks that are more known have seemed to come down on the lesser known designers, or designers just thinking they are better than everyone else. I think that there is a difference between giving feedback, and giving feedback and being a jerk about it. We need to have some mutual respect.

I admire and respect the designers that are good at design, and good at being a human and treating others well. I don’t care if you could redesign Craigslist so beautifully that it would even make Jakob Neilsen cry. If you act out against people because you think you’re perfect, think again. You aren’t. Your best ideas are only as good as what you know today. I’ve found (over and over) that collaboration proves to provide the best designs and solutions. Rambo-style design doesn’t work.

Who you are in the design world doesn’t matter, just who you are in life.

1) Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind – Gary Marcus