Give Your Design Time

Rome wasn’t built in a day

Time, we often take it for granted, thinking we have more of it than we really do. It speeds up when we’re on vacation, but seems to slow down on Friday at 4:30. But when it comes to design, time is an ally that doesn’t always get as much credit as she deserves.

We all understand that design is an iterative process and that all the best designs take time to become what we see today. On some level, we understand that cars have evolved over time from Ford’s Model T to the electric supercars we see being launched into space by Elon Musk.

Every great design takes time to build- it requires multiple cycles of research, production and implementation. Which we commonly refer to as the iterative design process.

Here are some of the things I’ve come to realize about Time, and how it affects design.

Your Favourite Apps Didn’t Always Look Like That

Most of us probably have a couple of apps that we cycle through every day- whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, SnapChat, Tinder, AirBnB or Clash of Clans.

These are pretty well-known apps, but they didn’t always look the way they do today. These extremely popular products have evolved over time- they’ve adapted their visual identity to a number of ever-changing conditions such as current design trends and brand guidelines.

It’s easy as a designer to look at these massively popular apps and become disheartened that your illustrations will never look like that, or worry that your colour palette might be out of style next quarter.

Time has given these products room to grow and adapt.

Facebook in 2007 vs Now - Credit: Know Your Meme

Designs Need to Get Out of the House

Another benefit that products have from time in the wild is the information that can be collected in regards to the latest iteration. Rapid design iterations and releases mean that teams can quickly gather data on how the latest version of their product is doing in the big bad world.

The thing is, data often needs to be collected over time so that it can be validated and used as information. A design needs time in the wild to be used by actual people so that new insights can be gained; this leads to updated designs, new features and even complete overhauls of the existing product.

Designs are kind of like college kids- they need some time out in the world to discover themselves (but more importantly so you can find out if that change you made to the CTA really did improve conversions).

Updates and Iterations Take Time

The world is a pretty scary place- it changes pretty quickly and is rather unpredictable. Change is scary. It means learning new things, thinking of new horizons, and generally stepping out of our comfort zones.

Design needs time to adapt and evolve. We didn’t go from the Wright brothers to 747 Jumbo Jets overnight; it took years of research, engineering, and design to make that happen.

A good way to keep track of this evolution is to keep those past iterations in a file somewhere so that way you can look back at how far you’ve come and look forward to the road ahead.

Consistency Produces Results

We’ve all heard it before when it comes to diet and exercise; consistency is the only way to get that summer body. Which unfortunately means I have to consistently say no to pizza and watching Netflix.

To improve our designs takes consistent work, day in and day out. But you can’t be consistent without the time to be consistent. For the same reason you can’t get instant washboard abs after a week of hitting the gym, great designs don’t usually happen after a week of working on them in Sketch.

Be consistent with the amazing work you’re doing and eventually you’ll see some amazing designs coming together.

But sometimes it can feel like this.

Closing Thoughts

We all realize on some level that everything takes time to be great- trees don’t grow overnight, Rome wasn’t built in a day etc. etc. But sometimes we forget that design needs time to.

It’s easy to go on Dribble or use my favourite products as a junior designer and think, “wow my designs will never be that cool or look that good” but that’s when I remind myself that all these things have taken time to get where they are today.

In a way it’s kind of amazing. Designs are kind of like people- they need time to grow into the thing you’re looking at today.

Every great design takes time.


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Hope you enjoyed and if you want to get in touch or see some of my work you can find me here at my home on the web.