Dear designer, everything is a remix

What does that mean to you in practice?

If you don’t know that everything is a remix yet, learn it from Kirby Ferguson and come back later.

You don’t have to try to be original

Don’t strive for originality — you’ll never reach it.

Do not waste your time trying to achieve it.

OK, if you must waste it, please, do not tell your customers to pay explicitly for those hours.

“Creative block”? Get these words out of your vocabulary. “A bad day”, “burnout”, “depression” — sure. But a “creative block”? Pfff.

Design is a job. And you are a designer. An average one. You solve problems. In a systematic manner — regardless of whether you act according to a written process or not. Your job description doesn’t include the word “originality”. And there is nothing wrong with that. Know that.


There is no point in pretending that you have no competition

I know designers whose design process is free from competition analysis.

The most common reason I hear? “I don’t need to see the competition. I can do better.”

I don’t buy it.

There is a fine line between confidence and an unreasonable ego. In my opinion, pretending that competition doesn’t exist crosses the line of confidence.

At the same time, I understand the fear of being accused of plagiarism. I’ve been there. You have my empathy.

There is always competition. It’s worth it to know what the people who you design for may be accustomed to. Also, it’s worth it to know what they may experience if they stop using the solution you’re designing.

  • What are people accustomed to?
  • What language does the competition use?
  • What is the scheme of the button labels?
  • How do the competition’s solutions look on phones?
  • Which elements of the competition’s solutions may cause the most negative emotions?
  • What is the minimum amount of effort that will enable you and your client to stand out above the competition’s standard?
  • What kind of mistakes that your competition has made can you avoid in the first iteration?

These are just some of the questions to ask yourself, the answers to which you can find in a shameless competition analysis.

Did you notice that I haven’t mentioned copying anything?

Another thing: Does it feel a bit silly to you to copy your competition’s good ideas? A word of advice: Copy, and do what you can to be copied.


Refocus

Stop creating.

Start copying, transforming, combining. Become better at it. Iterate more. Build.

I’d love to live in a world where more things are being built than created.

“Good artists copy, great artists steal”? Maybe. Good designers ship, great designers iterate.

As a designer, you will be accused of plagiarism sooner or later in your professional life. I’ve been there. More than once. It won’t be comfortable. But it’s not a reason to lie to yourself and to your clients.