I feel it is time to discuss something that’s been on my mind for a while. I’m uncomfortable with your addiction to the lightbulb.
I don’t think it’s doing you any good. In fact I think it’s going to kill you. I think your going to keep bouncing into it, looking for inspiration or an answer, until your important wing dust burns away and you fall to the floor like an old and dead Pigeon.
You don’t need it.
It’s never going to give you the answers. It’s just a light. And when it burns out it’ll be replaced by an identical one, maybe one with diodes instead of a filament, but it’s still just a bulb.
We’ve been here before. Last time it was that disco ball hanging in that discarded van that all the other Moths were glued to. You bounced your head into that for weeks believing it would turn you into a butterfly. All you got was a broken face.
And then there was that gas boiler pilot light. You were convinced flames were back in vogue. “It’s retro chic” you said. How long did that last?
What’s next? Ahh, a new site to look at. Awwwards. Hmm. Sweet nectar. Lots of new inspiration to steal from.
You remind me of Microsoft. They used to be addicted to their photocopier. It was a crappy old model with a slightly mis-calibrated drum. The copies were never any good. They’d always be slightly bent. They never knew why the designs they’d stolen didn’t work. And they weren’t their designs to begin with so they were never in a position to fix them.
Design Moths are no different.
They hunt around for the next in an endless line of lights to bump up against, hoping that somehow the insight the designer that they’re trying to steal from had will be injected into them through some mystical method. It won’t.
But even if it did, it doesn’t matter. The facsimile was created on Microsoft’s copier. It’s broken. Design Moths will never understand it. The design challenge they are facing is nothing like the design challenge these other people were facing. So why should their idea save their arse now? It won’t.
Design Moths are the worst of all things. An uninformed consumer.
Don’t do it.
You are not a moth.
You are a designer.
A creative. An individual. Somebody who questions. Somebody who is not afraid to fail, because within failure is discovery. Something learned. The best of all things.
This is what you do, it is why you are. If not you are in the wrong job. A designer is not somebody with that word in their title. A designer is a problem solver. A designer will indefatigably question everything until they know why things are. And they’ll not settle on the first answer.
A truly great designer is a real pain in the arse.
They are inspired by everything around them. Sometimes those are things within their direct realm of knowledge but often they are not. They do this because great design is everywhere, not just on internet award sites or places where people show off their latest skeumorphic button set. Tools, furniture, sculpture, architecture, engineering, video games, nature. Our world is full of great design inspiration, why limit yourself to just one medium?
That is lazy and foolish.
Don’t do it.
You are a designer. You don’t blindly follow commands without thinking. You don’t churn a handle and watch clone websites fall into a bucket awaiting dispatch. You can’t do this, every product you work on is their to solve a specific set of problems.
You know this. So why are you Googling ‘website design inspiration’ again?
It’s not easier, it’s not quicker. It doesn’t lead to acceptable work. It is there as a last resort when everything else has failed. When it’s 11am, you have an end of play deadline dropped on you out of nowhere, and your mind goes ___________.
For your own mental health don’t do it. It’s addictive. You’ll waste away chasing the bulb.
Instead do something else.
Close your eyes.
Count to ten.
Grab the team and find a room. Demand more. Ask questions, be a pain in the arse. This isn’t right, you can’t produce design like this. You are not a photocopier.
“I AM NOT A PHOTOCOPIER!”
You need context. You need understanding. Who is the client? What does their business do? You don’t steal a finished design and then post rationalise it. You’re a designer. You rally the team, the entire team, to identify the real problem the client has.
That one crucial issue that needs stamping on.
Is it a content issue? Is it an SEO issue? Is it a political issue? Or is it a technology issue? Or all of them?
Work with the team to solve it. You are not an island. Designers are sponges, you need liquid. The team is your goo. Suck up every piece of knowledge they have, every insight, and every concept.
Identify where other people have solved this issue, and for your own sake don’t limit yourself to the web. A problem spans every discipline, and a web design is NEVER the answer.
Talk to system administrators, psychologists, back end developers, interaction designers, the receptionist, the local Barista. Talk to everyone, they’ll all have a unique input and together you’ll come up with a great first answer.
And then, armed with knowledge and ideas grab your pencils and start scribbling. You don’t need Photoshop, you don’t need Sketch. Your best tool, the only real tool you need, is your capacity to question.
Let the group wisdom flow through you onto the page. Answer the questions, and discover more of them. Challenge everything. Iterate. Never be precious, and never stop questioning.
That is where you belong, amongst a team. Asking questions, finding answers, and designing solutions.
You don’t need the bulb.
You are not a moth.