Why you shouldn’t rush design

Every­one wants their project done yesterday.

Sure we can hit tight dead­lines and some­times they are unavoid­able, but that doesn’t make for great results or good ideas, espe­cially when it comes to design. What design­ers need is time. This need really has very lit­tle to do with design at all. It’s all about how we per­ceive the world around us. More specif­i­cally, it’s how our brains process visual stimulus.

As we work, we process a range of choices about for­mal qual­i­ties, the nature of the con­tent, and the audi­ence the whole thing is intended for. All of this takes con­cen­tra­tion to weigh whether the result of each choice enhances the work or reduces the over­all impact. Over time our brains begin to fatigue and we can’t objec­tively process infor­ma­tion. Basi­cally we become accus­tomed to what we are see­ing and it becomes dif­fi­cult to iden­tify prob­lem areas and adjust the design to fix these prob­lems. This is related to habit­u­a­tion and neural adap­ta­tion which is the way our senses change in respon­sive­ness over time.

A good exam­ple of adap­ta­tion is how you imme­di­ately feel aspects of an object when you first touch it but after a few min­utes your body stops feel­ing the object in the same way. This also hap­pens when a designer works on a design for a long period of time, espe­cially when they are work­ing on the fine details of a piece rather than rough con­cepts where the dif­fer­ences between iter­a­tions are much greater and give the brain “new” mate­r­ial to process.

It is crit­i­cal to the suc­cess of the a project that enough time is ded­i­cated to the design process. This is because design­ers need time to process all of the infor­ma­tion about the project and draw con­clu­sions about how to com­mu­ni­cate that infor­ma­tion. Many times the ini­tial con­clu­sions we come to are obvi­ous or super­fi­cial direc­tions and not nec­es­sar­ily the best, most cre­ative or most inter­est­ing ideas. Hav­ing more time allows the designer to make con­nec­tions and explore direc­tions that can bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate the con­tent past the “easy” sur­face con­nec­tions made at the start of the design process.

While ensur­ing you’ve bud­geted enough time helps mit­i­gate the effects of fatigue and allows the the deeper cog­ni­tive explo­ration of con­nec­tions to bet­ter com­mu­ni­cate the con­tent, hav­ing time also helps in a dif­fer­ent way. We’ve all expe­ri­enced how we get great ideas at dif­fer­ent times of the day and design­ers are no dif­fer­ent. Inspi­ra­tion doesn’t fall con­ve­niently between nine and five. It might be when you are in the shower or jog­ging, or just try­ing to fall asleep at night that you get your best ideas. A rush project that’s due at the end of the day doesn’t give a designer the oppor­tu­nity to process and uncon­sciously form ideas in this way.

Every project is dif­fer­ent and some­times there really isn’t time avail­able. While the effect of inad­e­quate time or a com­pressed design sched­ule might not be as crit­i­cal for work cre­ated using pre­ex­ist­ing brand stan­dards, this degra­da­tion can seri­ously affect logo design and more cre­ative work. Tak­ing a moment at the start of your project to ask a designer how much time he really needs might be the dif­fer­ence between a design that’s just ok and one that’s awesome.

Aaron Dickey
Author: Aaron Dickey

I’m a graphic designer from Greenville, South Car­olina. When I’m not work­ing, you can usu­ally find me read­ing about design, study­ing type, or paint­ing tiny war gam­ing minia­tures in my spare time. I try to keep up with this blog to record my thoughts on design, typog­ra­phy, or pro­vide tuto­ri­als for paint­ing miniatures.