Stop Debating Design Minutia And Start Making The Big Decisions

By . Filed in Web 2.0

So many designers waste their time contemplating things that, in the long run, are completely useless to their development as creative professionals, freelancers, or better designers in general.


(Image source: Montgomery County Planning)

They whittle away at meaningless details – what font size their name should be on their business card; whether they should make that CTA button white or blue – then wonder why they seem rooted in their current situation. They spin their wheels, as the saying goes, without ever making any real progress.

We’re going to look at some of the most common types of minutiae that seem to trap freelance designers in a never-ending cycle of indecision, and explore some simple ways to break out of them.

Tiny Technicalities

Stop worrying about tiny changes like button size or shape, unless your client’s company is big enough that those types of changes matter. Any website smaller than eBay or Amazon is probably not worth the stress, because the target customer base will respond mostly the same way to a variety of different UI configurations or CTAs.

Tiny differences in color, placement, etc. are irrelevant, and if they hinder your progress on a project, they can actually be damaging to your career as a freelancer.

Pick Your Battles

Some elements of a design project have speed or budget as the number one priority, like foundational deliverables on a tight deadline. Other elements need to be done as perfectly and accurately as possible. Designers sometimes think that the latter is the most important, but it’s usually the opposite.

If you really analyze any design project you happen to be working on, you’ll most likely find that the 80/20 principle applies to the ratio of quality needed versus quantity.

What Takes Priority?

The elements of a project that absolutely require the most attention to detail are often not what you think they are. Usually, they’re things like copy, where a single spelling error can utterly destroy a brand’s reputation, or correct indexing of inventory or other offerings to customers. Rarely does the perfect font or color scheme seriously impact your client’s bottom line.

I’m not saying these things aren’t important, they’re just not as important as many designers believe. Unless you or your client have hard data that proves otherwise, it’s better to prioritize what really matters to users.

Stop Revising And Start Selling

You have to know how to sell a client on a solution you know is best, rather than allowing them to steamroll you into endless revisions. Salesmanship is an essential part of any business relationship. As the saying goes, every business is a sales business. Whether you’re convincing people to buy your new brand of table salt, or convincing a client that your solution is perfect for their problem, you’re always selling.

Nitpickers Never Prosper

It’s a hard truth in business that the people hired to polish and perfect a project are often the ones who are the most insignificant in terms of importance to the team. If you find yourself swamped with making tiny corrections, or always doing the design equivalent of janitorial work, it might be time to reevaluate the direction your career is headed.

Sure, clients might appreciate your efforts, but do they genuinely value you as a designer? Unless the true solution to your client’s problem is crossing T’s and nudging elements around a grid, I highly doubt it.

When It’s Done, It’s Done

There’s a quote generally attributed to Albert Einstein that goes something like this: make it as simple as possible, but not simpler. Design is all about providing the simplest, most elegant solution to a problem that one possibly can, but some designers actually reach that solution about 3 or 4 revisions earlier than they think.

If you’re baking cookies, and after 10 minutes they’re golden brown and perfect, you wouldn’t put them back in the over for an extra 10 minutes “just in case”. Quality is important, and clients certainly do care about it, but it’s never a good idea to belabor a solution that is already good enough.

Conclusion

Design as a profession tends to attract people who are highly analytical and who can see multiple solutions to problems. This is an excellent trait overall (in my not-so-humble opinion), because it gives designers the creativity and freshness that clients are looking for.

The challenge is knowing when your natural meticulousness stops being a help and starts becoming a hindrance. It’s important to keep a healthy balance and maintain perspective so that your freelance career will grow instead of stagnate.

Author:

Addison is the author of Food Identities, a blog that explores the crossroads of food, design, and culture. She's written some things, designed other things, and eaten a whole lot of food.

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