“Take time to deliberate, but when the time for action has arrived, stop thinking and go in.”
- Napoleon Bonaparte
Sometimes I like to start an article with an inspirational quote that I didn’t write. I have a million of these quotes all stored up in my mind to make me sound contemplative and wise. Sometimes, I like to call my mind “Google” and I search my mind for hours – just to find the right quote to use. Other times, like in this instance, I used the first quote that “came” to me because honestly, I could have used almost any other quote about decision making to make my point. A quote by some guy named “Chinese Proverb” might have also worked. Actually, the quote by this Mr. Proverb guy might have been both more appropriate and interesting. Either way, let me be clear:
A different quote wouldn’t have made a difference to YOU. Please take a few second to reflect on this. An intervention may be in order.
Recently, I’ve been working on a series of projects that, for one reason or another, have been excessively delayed because of Design-oholism. I admit it: I’m a recovering design-oholic. In fact, most, if not all, people fall into the dark dirty world of repetitive indecision syndrome. This doesn’t make you a bad person, in fact quite the opposite – people who suffer from this condition are often the most thoughtful and intellectual people around. To a fault.
You see, when it comes to a design project there are almost always multiple solutions that will work. Not only that, but in many cases any of the solutions will work to achieve the project goal. Many of my clients, especially those that are more logically inclined, have a tough time understanding this concept. More concepts + more revisions + more indecision = Better End Result, right? Wrong.
You see, the design process is highly subjective. There aren’t always “correct” solutions. At least not like a math problem. You simply can’t view the process as 1 + 1 = 2. It just doesn’t work like that.
I view the design process not in a binary fashion (right or wrong) but as a three tiered system: “More correct” , “Less correct”, or my patented “Same Shit, Just Different.” Once you are working with a professional designer, the vast majority of decisions will fall under the last category. Let me say that again: Once you are working with a PROFESSIONAL DESIGNER. In other words, if you have a choice between two designs that are “just different” but equally good, just pick one and move on. A professional designer is hired to help you with those decisions, so TRUST THEM! Your clients or customers will not EVER KNOW that you spent 10 hours picking the perfect “leaf green.”
What’s that?. You don’t think you have a problem? The first step is to admit you’re a Design-oholic.
You’re not Steve Jobs.
Right, right, I know. Your website is going to “change the world”. Ok, maybe that was a little sarcastic so let me rephrase it. Your design project is extremely important and deserves countless hours of attention and revisions. While that is almost always true, you do not have the same budget as Steve Jobs. Nor, I’m guessing, do you have unlimited time in which to get the job done. Hopefully you don’t wear the same black mock-turtleneck that you’ve been wearing since the 80′s. So what’s the hold up ?
I’ve found that the determination of “correctness” of a design project – and the resulting paralyzation of the decision making process – can be attributed to two mental conflicts: The What Ifs and Fear.
The Crippling What Ifs
Consider this: A company has a brochure to do and they hire a designer to come up with some concepts. The designer gives this company 3 options and all of them will get the job done effectively. After all, this company sells a very specific product to a very specific audience. Maybe they are trying to sell Doggie Diapers. Looking at the concepts, the person in charge of the decision making starts getting the What Ifs: What if we used Blue instead of Green? What if we changed the font? What if we used a Beagle instead of a Poodle? What if we put a starburst on the front? What if what if what if? Changes are made. There goes the budget. Timelines gets pushed back. More changes made. Tempers rise. Wait, wait, change, wait, change, wait… and for what? Did the two months of color changes to pick the perfect “Doggie Diaper Green” really make a difference to the END USER? Will that green make them go out and buy your product? What if this company sent out the brochures 2 months earlier?
The Debilitating Fear
Consider this: A small business wants to get their website live. It’s a unique company, teaching blind people to become crime fighting Ninjas. But this company has no design assets yet such as a logo, business card, site, photography, or anything else. So the owner hires an amazing design company to help them with putting this all together. The designer presents 3 concepts for their logo, each just as good as the next. But our company decision maker just can’t decide. His boss is notoriously cranky (probably due to the stress of sending blind people out to fight crime), so our decision maker is worried that the logo they pick is going to be somehow “wrong.” So the changes begin. The pressure is on! Our company is called to a meeting with the city Commissioner for more business training other crime fighters (yea I know I’m getting ridiculous, just stick with me here.) The meeting is NEXT WEEK! The designer is tasked with changing the font. 10 times over. More thinking. More changing. Will the boss like it? Change it more!! Guess what? The company decision maker didn’t make the deadline and the meeting with the Commissioner resulted in no new funding. The website wasn’t up in time. The big fear, that the wrong decision was going to result in lost business, came true.
Know When to Say When
Sometimes stewing over these little details will make a difference and improve upon a design. There is DEFINITELY a place to explore ideas further and push your designer to offer better work. But you are using a professional designer, right? Just be sure to be honest with yourself. Will unnecessary changes and revisions be worth it? Are these changes for YOU or your customers? Will this change get your customers to use your service? Get past the What Ifs. Overcome your Fear of making the wrong decision. Know when to say when and admit you’re a Design-oholic. Know that you are not alone! Just make a decision and move on.
By now, I hope you understand that I could have used 25 other quotes to begin this article. None of them would have been much better or worse than the one I picked. For the most part, they are all good, just a little different. So I just picked one, moved on, and instead of ruminating I wrote the rest of this article. My daughter was happy that I did. And just like the wise Señor Proverb once said:
“Man who drop watch in toilet have shitty time.”
- Chinese Proverb