I have a simple method for breaking down a design project. And it starts with answering these key questions.
As I sat down at my desk today pondering what to write. I came to the realisation that hey I’ve been doing this for a while. 13 years of my professional design career has kind of flown by.
That laptop beach lifestyle, exotic locations, work from anywhere in the world and have more autonomy and freedom in your life.That’s the lifestyle that’s painted & depicted, if you run your own lifestyle business, am a freelancer or remote worker. Whilst this image can be true, it is only a tiny tiny snapshot in time and the reality is not as pretty as Instagram makes it out to be. A lot the times you are just in your pjs working behind your desk, eating toast as crumbs fall off your plate and onto your keyboard - as you scream “fuck!” with toast in your mouth so more crumbs fall out as you watch YouTube. All the while you wonder whether or not you should wear proper pants for the day. And you decide ‘yes’ you should wear proper pants for the day.
I’ve been reading Ray Dalio’s book Principles over the last few days. It talks about Ray’s principles and experiences of building Bridgewater Associates into one of the most successful hedge funds in history. It dissects his life and work principles which is a fascinating read. Rays humility and open mindedness is what makes him interesting. For overachievers I highly recommend picking up his book to get into the deep psyche of someone as extraordinary as Ray and to learn from his wisdom and principles. Both in investing and in life.
It’s simple do the most important tasks first, but more specifically do the thing that will give us the most amount of impact. It’s about the output of high value activities vs. time. And then try to do that everyday and track it.
11 years ago I was sitting on a tram on my way to work and contemplated whether I was good enough to be a designer. Bright eyed but a complete rookie and unfamiliar with the demands of a studio working environment. The stress was too much, the obstacles too high, I wasn’t doing well on the job and I really struggled to find my footing. If only I was good enough I thought to myself, if only things were easier and I could just go on autopilot. How much better would that be if that was the case? I really felt I wasn’t good enough that day and that maybe I should quit and not step foot off that tram. It seemed to be the easier route.
Do you ever lay in bed and dream up ideas of fun projects you’d love to work on? Or you’re at work and you like your job but the projects aren’t exactly 100% what you’d love to be making or designing but you tread along as if sleepwalking at times
How side projects made me a better designer
Mentors I’ve had throughout my career have been instrumental to my growth as a designer. They helped guide the way and gave me that little push that I needed to realise more of my potential. The moments where I was lost and didn’t know if I was good enough to be a designer, or how to improve my work, or whether or not I could quit my job and run my own business. I looked at my mentors who paved the way for so many of these big decisions and actions that I took. Both through their own actions and their advice.
The key skill that opens the door for everything else
The best designers I believe are the ones that are capable of thinking and executing across the spectrum of the design process. To look at things from a macro level – How does this product fit into a businesses product offering, brand and overall bottom line? And how does this product fit into the lives of the users and customers we are servicing? To also having the ability and the chops to execute on this information – implemented through sketches, wires, prototypes, visual design, testing, iterating, collaborating and launching. To get that balance of researcher, thinker vs craftsman and visual designer.
You might be thinking of starting a side project/startup/side hustle or your own business one day and this posts for you. And even if you aren’t, there are still invaluable lessons in today’s post on how to think like designer, along with practical know-how tips that you can use. I’ve found the best posts I’ve written are the ones where you can step into my mind and thought process so to speak. Just to peer over my shoulder and go “oh shit so that’s how you got from there to there”.
Building your own curriculum for a great life and design career
The power of simply asking.
5 things I wish I did earlier on in my career
Consistency and perseverance is so underrated
What to do when the CEO doesn’t care about design
Last year I wrote a post that really struck a chord with the community. And it was a candid walkthrough of a freelance project of mine. A lot of designers have emailed me about how much value they gained out of it. So I wanted to follow it up with another behind the scenes walkthrough.