Aim higher and go farther

Christy Chan
Jun 14, 2017 · 5 min read
“Reflection” by Skip, taken on July 7, 2011, retrieved on June 30, 2017 from https://flic.kr/p/a1YbbW, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Good design is okay. But every designer should aim for great and design that can make people “wow”. Great design stays in people’s mind. They remember it, they remember you.

I didn’t aim very high each time. Whenever I think my design is good, it meets the requirement then I stop. That’s why I am far from being a professional designer. We should all aim for doing better and better. Nothing is perfect, we can always find flaws and improve. Just like “Apple”. Their product is really popular and have helped them earned a lot of profits already. Yet, they are still developing new products every year. This is because we need to improve. Life can often be better.

Sometimes, you might get stuck and begin thinking there is no more better idea. If this is the case, you are not working hard enough, you are not pushing yourself enough. It happened to me as well. I realize that if you want, you can. Nothing is impossible. It’s just a matter of time. You may say we are usually given deadline which often leaves us having not enough time to improve. But yea, who don’t have a deadline. Why others can and you can’t? If you are determined, you can. Sometimes, it’s really hard. Therefore, I think the first thing is to start working right away once you are given a task. I often think there’s still a lot of time. Why don’t I do something else. Why should I start that early? And then I often end up regretting having procrastinated until the last minute. Yes, I am still able to submit my work but usually a bad one. Sometime, you may be able to come up with a good one before deadline. But human should never be satisfied with what they have now. We should all aim for better and go farther and faster. And that’s why we got airplanes, we have computers and we have. All these help improve our life.

Don’t just think about what’s good, think about what’s bad and need improvement.

Talking about time, there is actually a good method in pushing yourself to work. It’s setting a time limit.

Setting time limitation

For example, you are working as a team and your whole team need to come up with new some ideas. Before starting anything, set a time limitation let’s say 5 minutes. All the members will then come up with some ideas, comments or assumptions within this 5 minutes, no matter good or bad. If you don’t set a time limit, often times people will take a long period of time getting frustrated into coming up with a good idea. And sometimes, even you take a long time, your idea may not be a good one. Setting time limit help speed up the process and increase efficiency of work. I learnt that having a time limit actually help stimulate people’s thoughts.

Setting a time limit not only can speed up your design process, it can also help the group to generate more ideas. You may think 5 minutes is too short for a good and thoughtful idea. But anything that come out can be useful in the future. If you have something, you can improve from that. If you have nothing, you can never do anything and you can’t proceed. And every little idea helps build a bigger inspiration. It works the same in your daily life. If you set a time limit for your work and get it done within that period, you can get things done really quick. One reason of procrastination is because we get distracted easily and often think that we still have time. Another day is not a weekday. We only have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Don’t leave it to another day. If you think you can finish it tomorrow, you will continue doing the same the next day and leave your work to another day again. Set a time limit for yourself. If we don’t set an exact due day, we will delay our work day by day and often end up doing it in the last minute.

Destroy and deconstruct traditions

Sometimes design is about breaking rules and destroying traditions. You can’t go further if you continue living in the tradition. People need to break rules and think outside of the box. I was once given the task to draw my ideal wallet. My first thought is to have a really big one with spaces for coins, notes and cards. Actually, I just draw one similar to my own wallet. And then I was asked to think if there is better way to hold the notes, coins and cards. I think and think and suddenly have a thought. Just make them all electronic. And then I come to realized that an ideal wallet should be an electronic one.

With the question phrased in another way, you get a different answer. That is what I said still living in the tradition. I am still thinking about what I have now. People need to think about what is the current problem. Often start with a problem that you want to solve and make something people want. Do not afraid to break rules and traditions. That’s how we can improve. If your mind stays the same, your life stays the same as well.

“Reflection” by Arild Storaas, taken on September 15, 2007, retrieved on June 30, 2017 from https://flic.kr/p/37D8Tx, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Know your user

The next thing that I want to talk about is that you are not your user. Sometimes, people fail in making great design because they just think about themselves. It’s easy to assume that others are like you and think the way like you. Designing isn’t just design for your own but the general public, your target audience. Therefore, we need to get to know how people think, feel and behave. What frustrates them, what are their needs. Don’t focus on getting what you need and want.

“Know thy user, and you are not thy user.” — Arnie Lund

And there comes the importance of research. If you want great design, get to know your people, your target population. If you just want to make something that suits for yourself, you can never be a professional designer. A designer should aim for the best that can overwhelm people and is created for people.