working out loud

Design: Letting Go to Move Forward

exitIn the design aspect of my full-time job and my freelance design gigs, one thing that can be painful is making a final decision. For myself, and I think for everyone involved, the inability to decide on a design, or at least a solid direction, stems from wanting to get it just right. And man, if it’s a logo? Forget about it. Plan on at least twice the amount of time and 10 times the number of options you thought you were going to present, and everyone still won’t be 100% happy.

I tend to be fairly decisive on my own because I know it often isn’t ever perfect. I’ll like most of one idea, or some of another, and yes, I’ll mix and match things to get the right blend—but I know that even if I like it, not everyone will. Plus, I usually don’t have the luxury of time to do whatever it takes to achieve near-perfection. I’m not willing to sacrifice progress for that, and I’ve learned to live with that. But when it’s someone else’s project, finding that “good enough” can be tough.

I always try to give the client three solid, varied options. I know it will be a miracle if they love one of them. I work with them to figure out what they like best between the three, then go back to my lair and see if I can come up with the closest thing to what they want. For some at this point, they like it and are ready to sign off, or they like it enough to move forward, finding a balance between the end result and other factors like time and money. Then there are those that always find something to mess with, no matter how many versions they’ve seen, and they just can’t get past trying to achieve exactly what they want, usually because they don’t really know themselves or just aren’t able to articulate it.

Here’s the thing though: it’s hard to get people to the point of accepting the best at the moment. I certainly don’t want anyone I work with to choose things they don’t like or rush decisions based purely on time or money, but in every creative process, there comes a point where you just need to move on. It should be very close to what you want, but you have to move on. Otherwise, you’ll never have that logo you wanted updated or the new website you’ve been putting off for years. With some clients I’ve worked with, they never get there, or they’re still “making do” with something that could have been replaced by a far superior iteration months ago.