Design is for Scaredy Cats

Design is for scaredy cats?

Damn straight.

Design offers a path toward confidence through critical thinking and collaborative problem solving.

However, as designers, we tend to focus on the plan more than the execution. Maybe because we’re afraid of the word execution. It’s a scary word. Or maybe it’s that whole human interaction part. Whatever it is, if we’re hibernating, we’re not designing. But we can fix that. And in the process, we’ll learn that execution isn’t really all that scary after all. It’s actually the heart and soul of design. It’s where we meet our problem and begin the journey to a solution.


So you’ve found that inner enthusiasm for design. You started designing, solving problems. You are now a designer, or you’ve been a designer for a while and still can’t figure out why you’re so terrified of getting on that conference call, or asserting yourself more in all those meetings. Well, have no fear. Our design work has already begun. We took our first step. We know the problem!

Problem: Fear

We are scaredy cats. This keeps us from growing as a designer. To fix this, we need to stay close to the problem, problems will show you the answer.

To do this, we’ll explore our problem a little further, draft up some solutions, put them to the test, and then, wait for it, execute!

If it weren’t for fear, we’d reach out and mingle. Simple. We’d send some friendly emails, make a couple calls, maybe grab a drink after work and call it a day. This could happen. Not likely if you’re still in your cave with that DeLorean Lego model sitting next to your monitor. I get it. It’s tough. We’re designers. We need magic, beautifully practical magic to get the wheels turning with 1.21 jigawats of power.

So, how do we find this magic? How do we make it easier to execute, not just at the end of a project, but throughout the entire project?

We get further acquainted with our core problem by looking under the hood. To begin, you need to ask why this problem exists.

Subproblem: Hidden

We’re afraid. We like to hide. And hiding makes us more afraid the more we do it. We like big headphones, big glasses, big coats, beards and scarves. In other words, we like to hide behind things. We hide behind our computers and call it design. Unfortunately, crawling behind our tools when problems get hard only makes it worse in the end. We need to reach out. Participation kills fear. The best design work is never done behind a screen.

Subproblem: Silent

We don’t speak up enough, we want the “work” to speak for itself. To sell itself. But work is a thing you do, not a thing you deliver. So if you want to sell your work, speak up, sell it! Talk about why your “work” is a solution, not just a pretty thing you want people to look at and admire because of it’s on-trend color palette or polished typography. Its actually a lot of fun when the solution conversation begins. Strategy appears out of thin air! That’s when you know you are in full design mode. It feels like magic!

Subproblem: Selfish

We design for ourselves instead of others way too often. We think our design is done when we say it’s done. But that’s called art, which is great! I love making art. But this post is about design. Design requires budgets and deadlines. A “perfectly” designed thing delivered late is potentially worthless.


Time to call our shot. We need to hold ourselves accountable to something in order for our solution to be strong. Something we can measure, something we can test.

This phase is when most designers get afraid. It absolutely requires execution. Your hypothesis needs to be tested, reviewed and discussed. Otherwise, you’re just guessing, and you are basically making art all over again. Good luck!

I’ll stick with design, I need to pay rent, and I really want to save up for another trip to Disneyland with my wife. It’s the best. Good design is what makes the happiest place on earth so magical.

Get as much out of this phase as you can before you devote any significant amount of time to production. It will make you and your client very successful. It also saves you from running around in circles trying constantly slapping a bullshit “design” name tag on your art.


Feeling better? Not so afraid anymore? Hope so! You’ve got the nuts and bolts. Focus on the work and you’ll have a solid, tested solution that you are excited to deliver.

Soon you’ll be designing without fear! You’ll find some magic of your own and unicorns will roam the earth.

It will be glorious.

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