Brute force design

Or, “I’ve already tried that.”

This is what my method of design often is called. The first time I heard it, I have to admit, I took offense. I’m used to having my designs critiqued, and debating ideas, but my process? This was a first.

It put me in a funk. On my next project I tried to just focus on a couple ideas only to try to clean up my process. It was a disaster. I wasn’t thinking things through properly, I missed obvious choices, and I wasted time. This got me thinking about why I work this way.

It all starts with why.

When I started off my career, I was a terrible designer. I was never that shooting star, straight out of college who just innately just got it. I was constantly sent back to the drawing board to try new ideas that I haven’t thought of.

This led me to start asking myself why more often, before I went to get a critique. Why set the type at 16px vs 18px? Why switch the bright blue to that particular shade dusty blue? Going along this train of thought set me up to always be able to defend every decision that I make.

As I grew as a designer, I didn’t just stop at why, I began to think why not. The best representation of this is from Julie Zhuo.

A diagram from Julie Zhuo’s article, Junior Designers vs Senior Designers.

I like to think that each path is where a designer asks themselves why, and each node is where they asked themselves why not. Taking that extra step clicks your brain into a different direction and sets you off on a new path and is that push to discover something different.

Opening up any Sketch file I’m currently working on probably looks like chaos unless I’m around to guide you through it. But by the time I’m done, I have a great final product and a page named “Nixed” when you can see all of the iterations that got me there.

By asking yourself why not, you’ll explore more ideas and rarely be surprised when someone begins to utter, “Have you tried…”