Be mindful with the time spent on Photoshop

This is a piece from the 10 guidelines for Kickass World Class website making.

I am going to start off with an acute (yet wise) moment by Bjarne Christensen in Amsterdam this year, when he was talking about Stupid Studio design process.

“Photoshop has been lying to you!”

We all know how much designers love photoshopping. Oh god they love it!

If you pay close attention, it feels like a ego-trip. Drawing and tilting our heads to double check every single sacred decision made. Using grids and guides and rules and shortcuts and filters and modes and… all for nothing, basically.

You guys might get me wrong with this one, but there is no such thing as “pixel perfection” for designers — unless you also code. Pixel-perfect will happen on staging, it is the developer’s job to make that happen. Our .psd file is worth nothing if the final work is living in a different environment. It hurts i know, but we are wasting time designing full layouts and tweaking details that are going to be reviewed, discarded and told to be done again.

I love the idea of pixel perfection, yeah sure. But the one i can see on my browser, not the one made to fill my ego and fuck up creativity, deadlines and budgets. Photoshopping does that — not always but it does that a lot — it drains your creative energy, it lets you believe you are focusing on the right details.

Let me tell you something. Narrowing down our focus on a static layout and try to make it super “crisp” is just killing all the experimental opportunities we could have with animating, prototyping, coding, testing and feeling our ideas. We can easily lose the big picture, the message, the “user experience” we want to provide — and you know why? All because of Pixel-Perfect Misconception ( i just made that up, am i great or what?).

Seriously. Think about it, when stripped off your photoshop skills, you’ll need to reach down to the essence of the story you’re telling.

You guys should read this piece about Conversational UI, by Matty Mariansky.

We are on a show for our client’s sake, to solve a business need and that story needs to be told. This is not just about the creative moments and the opportunities we might be missing, but also about keeping our process light, conversational and profitable.

And this takes us back to the relationship level.

If as designers we are trying to tell a story, we gonna need (believe it or not) 2 participants to make that happen — us and the client. Try to guess alone what the story is, and you will probably tell the wrong version of it.

If we don’t listen to our client’s side of the story (because we are too busy photoshopping) they won’t feel included or appreciated — and they are going to screw our process, our budget and our reputation.

If you are both synced while telling the story then you won’t need photoshop that much.

With photoshop, if you (in your bubble) design everything and then share for approval, you will be guessing not designing. You know what happens to your business when all you do is guessing? You become a cheap-ass-amateur Casino with the odds all wrong.

Don’t even pretend it never happened to you. Designing a bunch of layouts based on your team’s perspective (and i believe it would be amazing), present it to the client and then they shut everything down with “small feedback” because they feel the need to say something.

Again, you’ve guessed. You right guessed, but they shut it anyway. You guess it wrong and they’ll let you know that when negotiating extra-time budget or new deadlines for the project.

I know i know, i am laughing too… there’s no negotiation for you my friend and you’re screwed!

Don’t be that guy. Get approval on style & mood first, then functionality, then develop those ideas or at least hi-prototype them. Use photoshop, sure, but as little as you can. You will save time, money and frustration — on both sides.

(read the other posts on 10 guidelines for Kickass World Class website making)