The Scratch: How to reach the beginning?
A few words about the universe, apple pies and the joy of designing from scratch.
As Carl Sagan put it: “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe”. While not about to rewind that far, I thought about talking of starting points in design. What is the best starting situation when setting out to bake the tastiest design pies in the block?
Everyone’s different: people (also designers), organisations, tasks and projects. Thus, coming up with a blanket blueprint for an ideal design process – leading to an ideal outcome – is impossible.
That being typed, some fundamentals of creative work exist.
A design is always created on an idea – yours or someone else’s. At least it’s difficult to imagine a creative scenario where this essential mechanic didn’t apply.
But where do you start? What does the metaphorical artboard look like when you start sketching around with human thought?
When we start something, by definition, we stand at the beginning. But when it comes to design, beginnings can be different.
1: First ideas are great
Isn’t it great? The feeling when your first idea is just so obvious and feasible? Even better, your colleagues and/or clients bought it immediately. Done and done – and all it took you was benchmarking something you think you saw during summer 2016 and showing that to the client. No further brainstorming or alternative approaches needed.
Time is money and post-it notes aren’t free either. Time to get to work, you Design Flash you!
2: But as we all know, first ideas suck
They really do. And so do the following ten. This does not mean one shouldn’t check them out. You know, give every idea a chance. In your mind and in discussions with your team. But being wrong should be done as fast as possible. Once that’s taken care of, we can keep on working towards a better version.
But in design, one shouldn’t take the easy way out. The worst scenario is way too familiar to any designer even with a glimpse of experience. It’s about a project that is built for a client’s legacy system. Here our symbolic canvas is, if not filthy, stained before we even get to really explore the brief. A brief that was never challenged but handed out like a weird divine design order, attached to an email you received a day before the kick-off meeting.
Even worse, the parties involved in our imaginary Project from Hell vary from week to week. This goes for clients, partners and other stakeholders. The budget and schedule are challenging too – to put it nicely.
And all this is a recipe for average stuff. A process that begs a good enough outcome – at best.
This kind of beginning doesn’t even need lead to a disaster. You and your team might finish this project and the outcome might be functional and beautiful. But as a designer, average is your enemy. The way too familiar windmill we need to constantly fight.
From the get-go, the attitude of good enough, while known to us all, lacks all the proper pieces to make good design flourish. As we move forward on the roadmap, the remaining sparks of passion within the team will die out.
And this makes creating excellent stuff impossible.
So what to do?
At Wolt, we believe we can make and do what we want. By ourselves and from the scratch. Big words we aim to live by every day.
And this is why we have to go back to the beginning. And see what kind of beginnings we wish to create.
Ah, The Scratch. This mysterious Shangri-La of design where the sky’s the limit. A place in time and space in which a
designer creator has all the control. To have ideas, say them out loud and simply start building something right away. Even a mockup or a light prototype. No interruptions, half-assed briefs or technological and organisational limitations. Unfortunately, people still tend to stick to the talk instead of doing the walk.
This is something we at Wolt strive for. Our designers get to focus on what they think is important. Working on a new feature, for example, has to be inspired by our own curiosity as well as the needs of our users. Everything else is more or less irrelevant.
It’s not all perfectly designed sunshine and rainbows either. The freedom our Scratch provides can be hard. But starting freely at a blank space will always revolt against the tyranny of restricting design blueprints.
Building stuff from scratch is simply better. Start working. Come up with an idea. Start building something asap. Make a suggestion. Think about it. Destroy it. Build it again. Improve it. Now, let’s have a look at it together. You know what? Let’s destroy it again. This is how we get to hone it towards an outcome that is simple and usable and aimed for the people.
You can’t have premium design without a premium attitude. This is why we need great people, too.
Are you a designer who respects a clean canvas? Good. If you’re still scratching (tee-hee) your head, we are looking for good, curious designers to start sketching the best stuff. From scratch.
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TLDR: If you’re a designer, make one summer promise for yourself – familiarise yourself with AI over the summer. Read an article, read a book or go through some case studies. You will thank yourself later.