A Daydream and a Nightmare — Depolarising your days

Vision without action is a daydream. Action without vision is a nightmare.

– Japanese Proverb

Although it may seem quite obvious, I find this proverb to be smart precisely because of its simplicity. For me, this describes most days of a designer. You go through days where you have a clear vision about this or that project or even about yourself and your career, so you dream a lot and, most likely, you do not much. And, there are these other days where you just craft stuff out of your stomach. No process. No background. Just doing things.

I believe somehow in between a glorious daydream and a terrific nightmare lies one of the toughest sentiments to deal with in our profession: Frustration.

Being a designer has a lot of ups and downs due to an inherit perfectionism we all have (or should have, in my opinion). It’s an idea. It’s probably unreachable. It’s a daydream. The downside is of course that while seeking for this Nirvana you’ll find yourself struggling with reality and you’ll probably go through few nightmares. In my career, I’ve experienced that a lot and I feel it is quite common in the design community: this excitement of a new project where you’ll finally do it “right” which turns into another not-good-enough realisation due to many reasons we all know or, that excellent idea we are not quite sure how to shape, etc.

I’m going to be honest here, in the past I really struggled with it but slowly found my coping mechanisms and have been able to depolarise my days to jump off any emotional roller coaster. Frustration is going to be there. Actually, it needs to be there: it means to me that I care, that I acknowledge I’m learning everyday and, most important, that I want to do better. So question here is more about how to deal with it, isn’t it? Well, I understood key here is humbleness which is something not that easy to practice organically. It’s what I value the most on a Designer. I love when interviewing a designer you hear things like — I did it this way but of course there are several other ways to accomplish the same– or — I’m not 100% satisfied about the test I’ve done. I think then: “This guy is willing to learn about the company and team”.

My personal opinion is that humbleness is what keeps your feet on the ground and it directly helps to balance these two poles because:

  1. Moves your daydreams to a rational thinking (this idea is awesome, let’s stop thinking on how nice it would be to accomplish it and start digging to make it happens).
  2. Helps you to naturalise your nightmares — There is going to be tough days. There is going to be tough projects. And most important, I’m not going to be happy with everything I do.

So no I do it this way. I try to “simplify” my personal and professional life and I focus on putting one foot after the other. No big unrealistic plans. Just vision on what I want and actions to achieve that. I try to summarise some behavioural changes I apply to myself:

Shape your vision

I want to craft things that helps people independently of whether it is going to be a successful start-up or a badass experience. This is how I vision myself as a designer. This is very broad but helps me to drive myself back to the roots at any time.

Moderate your “Multi-thinking”

I tend to have lots of ideas which turns into a high frustration cycle as none of them actually got shaped. Some of them were great though but simply I didn’t know how to make them happen. It turns into a lot of time spent drafting here and there but not having anything close to a presentable project. It drives me nowhere as at the end of the day I’m just doing stuff.

Stop “Over-thinking”

It happens to me and it is not necessarily bad: even before delivering a project, I’m already thinking about what I would change and what I would do differently if I would have another x months to work on it. It prevents me to focus on finishing and moving on. It keeps me in the loop of already sorted questions which is not ideal for a productive process. It’s ok, this is there and accepting it helped me to keep on rowing despite all these internal perfectionism-focused-dialogues.

Talk kindly to yourself

It’s a essential idea in NPL which makes sense if you think about it. Most of the times self-critique is tough, it is a heavy-weigh bag. It’s totally fine to have the will of crafting better stuff, actually is essential in my opinion in any creative job. But sometimes arguments goes way beyond rational. Ask yourself if you are treating yourself fairly when arguing against your last work. Is it real shit? Or is just that you are following the never-ending perfectionism path?

Don’t do what you don’t want to do

Be part of what you want to be part of. There are lots of opportunities out there in our field and there is no reason why you should keep on doing things you don’t want to do. Time is there so vision yourself and go for it. Stop accepting clients you don’t want to work with. Quit that job that have you stuck in such a comfort area. Challenge yourself, otherwise you’d only get more of those clients or another comfort-area-friendly job.

Take Action (for real)

Not every day is going to be a very productive day. With the foot on the ground, days are always unpredictable and this is the magic of life. I like that but I also like to be away of caos. Reality is that, most likely, you are not going to be enjoying each single task. There will be shit that needs to be done, for sure. So, the sooner you remove this boring stuff from your desktop, the sooner you’ll be ready for the funny part. I force myself to do so even though I wish I wouldn’t have had any boring bits on my day. I do it. I do it quick. I put myself into mechanical mode and I finish it. Then time to take action is there with no excuses. All for me. All for my daydream to be accomplish so tomorrow another daydream arises.

Gràcies for reading!

Digital Product Designer. Currently designing TV experiences @ Rakuten TV. More about me at https://pijoan.com