04 September 2006

Kill your babies, NOW!

We all get caught up in our own mini accomplishments… works or partial works that we obsess over and that meet and surpass what we had hoped to accomplish. If we are artist – that works out great. In fact is it one of the criteria. Egocentric creation is what separates artist from designers. It was a writer that first exposed me to the concept of “killing your babies,” those little very cool part that we create and can’t let go of.

A wordsmith may become infatuated with an elegant phrase, a musician with a riff, a designer with a graphic. We all do it. Something we create, that meets our sense of “wow,” within the process of a project, of which we cannot let go.

One of the best books I have read on writing is Howard S. Becker’s “Writing for Social Scientists.” He tells of a young graduate student that is trying so hard to write smart, that she looses track of the reader. This is the essence of user-centered work. Malcolm Gladwell is the master of converting complex issues into easy to understand works. He understands his subject matter, and the perspective of his reader. And he matches them simply and elegantly.

In my experience, young socially esteemed visual designers have the hardest time with this. They know not when to pick the right battle, and hang on to their pet “cool” for far to long, whether it fits with the project or satisfies the client’s objectives – they just will not let go. If you find your self stuck, designed into a corner. Try throwing out one of your favorite elements. It works wonders. It will help you to refocus on the true objective and move beyond your momentary obsession.