Here’s why you aren’t satisfied with your work
I daresay designers are hardly ever completely satisfied with their work.
Recently, I was working on a design with an intern at our company, and he asked me a question that got me thinking. He asked, “How can you have a finished mockup done for the same project in the same amount of time it takes me to get just a basic layout designed?” Before I could go off on a tangent about experience and skill, he stopped me by saying:
“I know exactly how I want it to look in my head, but when I build it on the computer, it’s missing something. But the thing is, I don’t know what it’s missing.”
This reminded me of one of my favorites quotes by Ira Glass.
“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”
You picked design because you have good taste. Your taste is what makes you unique. As Ira puts it, this is why you are disappointed with your work. It’s because you know it’s missing something. However, sometimes you aren’t sure what that missing piece is, and that can be incredibly frustrating.
But know this. You are not alone!
Now there is something to be said about experience. It’s pretty simple. The more time you spend doing something, the easier it gets. However, I don’t know any designer that has not or isn’t currently struggling with this. And I believe there is only one true way to get through this: passion.
There are so many different categories and job titles out there for design. Product design, interface design, package design, experience design, graphic design, motion design, interaction design, spacial design, the list goes on…
It doesn’t matter what kind of designer you are, ultimately design boils down to one thing: solving problems.
As you continue to work and design, your skill will grow. But anyone can learn Sketch or Illustrator. What makes you different is your ability to solve problems in your own unique way. Eventually that gap will become smaller and smaller, and you’ll be able to discern that that “missing piece” is.
So whatever kind of design you are struggling with, understand that you are not alone, and that this is normal. When you become frustrated and start questioning yourself, go back to the reason you started. What inspired you to start designing in the first place? If there is passion, it’s a lot easier for that fire to be rekindled, and to push through the difficult times. Because as much as we love colors, typography, and layouts, design is not always a walk in the park, and can be extremely challenging at times.
“It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”