Don’t Get it Perfect, Get it Going

perfection_topimageWhy, as designers, are we all chasing an unattainable perfection? Part-time Shillington Brisbane teacher Brenton Craig dives in to discuss our creative industry’s obsession. 

“Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.” —Vince Lombardi

Design creates an incredible opportunity to inspire and enrich the lives of those who happen upon it. But it also serves the mundane and communicates the daily grind of business and marketing.

As a designer of 10 years now (how did that happen?) I still find myself drifting between the polarising worlds of dream job and bread winning. It’s in this restless state that I look enviously through the cracked window of my iPhone at my favourite studios and designers and can’t help but compare. I always seem to fall short.

Despite my years of experience, I’m always my own harshest critic.

In these moments of self depreciation I can hear Mr Roosevelt over my shoulder saying “comparison is the thief of joy, my boy”! So this brings us to the bigger question. Why, as designers, are we all chasing an unattainable perfection?

Perhaps society, advertising and social media is to blame. I mean, each day we find ourselves exposed to constructed lifestyles through fragmented realities. Instagram, I’m lookin’ at you. Maybe this subconsciously creeps into our work and contributes to feelings of self doubt. Or maybe it’s our own obsession with design thinking that forces us to refine, refine, refine as we compare our creative process to the finished design of others. And beyond that, an easier scapegoat is to pin it on soul-sucking clients that are always demanding perfection yesterday for work they will pay you for tomorrow.

“Have no fear of perfection—you’ll never reach it.” —Salvador Dali

Everyone has their own insecurities when it comes to their profession. From whichever angle you approach it, there is something to be said of owning where you’re at in your design career and enjoying the journey for what it is. Good designers are flexible and constantly evolving with the world around them. We have the power to effect society and shape the environment around us. Be bold, don’t be afraid to embrace anxiety and self doubt as part of the creative process! Our most revered design influences come from creative thinkers that push through the internal and external competition to lead our industry.

While I might be just ‘another guy’ that overthinks stuff, according to Professor of Psychology Dr Anders Ericsson (Peak: Secrets From The New Science Of Expertise), the ability of any given individual to acquire and perfect any given skill is almost limitless. He explains that it’s not so much ability or intelligence that separates the very best from the mediocre, but the degree to which they engage in what he calls ‘deliberate practice’. A potential synonym for practice being ‘work’.

So what can we learn from this neverending quest for perfection? Be sure to sweat the important stuff like design principles, concept generation, visual language and clarity of communication. But temper those results with a healthy realisation that aesthetics are subjective. In many ways, creating work that people love or hate is awesome because you’re creating a reaction. The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference. As long as people are critiquing your designs and forming opinions about your work, you’re cutting through and breaking down barriers.

If you stay true to your own ideology you’ll always remain relevant.

“Making mistakes is better than faking perfections.”—Unknown

The funny thing, is when you visit the studios you admire most and actually speak to your design heroes, it’s always humbling to find they’re no different from you. Remember—just about everyone around you is thinking/feeling or has already thought/felt exactly the same way you do. It’s refreshing to know we’re a community that’s in this together!

For me, I’m slowly starting to realise that perfection sucks. We shouldn’t seek a pinnacle or defining achievement of absolute perfection. Your design career is an ongoing process and it’s one that should be experienced and enjoyed. At the end of the day, the only thing separating you from growing in your career is your own commitment.

Article originally published in Shillington Post 04—The Process Issue. Read the full issue online!

Artwork by Brenton Craig.