Perfectionism is the enemy of design

Feeling proud of your work is one of the trickiest achievements to hope for, as by the virtue of being an artist (of sorts), confidence in your own work can be thin on the ground.

This is not a winning portfolio statement. Especially when the big ol’ American Dream of ‘you can do anything if you work hard for it’ finally got its passport, and flew the coop to everywhere else in the world. Don’t get me wrong here, I think this is an important and galvanising idea to spread out to many who previously felt that they would not and could not achieve what they always dreamed of achieving. My problem lies in the wake of this revolution.

My inbox is full of daily design digests instructing that it’s commonplace to be expected to be buttoned up at all times, to be able to vocalise to strangers that you are completely sure of your abilities and decisions 100% of the time. It makes me think of that tired interview answer everyone has peddled, ‘You can count on me, my biggest weakness is that I am a perfectionist’.

Well I’m a perfectionist, and it doesn’t mean that all my projects work, no matter how much time I am willing pour into them. In fact I often neglect new projects, just to try and polish the ones which have long been in their death throes. I stagnate in the loathing of that project which never lived up to my expectations.

Perfectionism is wasted hours, not being able to have the objective clarity to just put work out there and learn from it, thicken your skin and take those lessons learnt the hard way, on to the next project.

I had one such project which after agonising over for months, finally taught me how to let go of my perfectionist demons. I had sent over the project and the recipient had still really loved it, whereas I had learnt that massaging the perfectionist within leads to languishing in that creative nightmare, The Rut. Being able to identify what I was doing meant that I could break that cycle by accepting this work was not my best, and shipping it all the same.

Only by doing so was I able to identify what the problems had been, namely the lack of time vs. the scale of the project, and it also being my first foray into Adobe Illustrator. It’s obvious now, but sometimes hindsight is the only way you’re able learn and move forward.

No one should be expected to have a squeaky-clean, shiny, unblemished portfolio, that’s only half the picture of how you work as a person. It’s misleading, yet this is the pressure perfectionists put on themselves.

Perfectionism is the antithesis to progress and innovation.

So this is my homage to all the work out there that never lived up to the creator’s personal standards, because dammit we are not robots, and failure in your own eyes is a sign that at least you tried something you weren’t sure would work, and that’s got to count for something.

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