The fourth installment of I Went to Adobe Creative Camp at SXSW 2015… And all I brought back is a series of blog posts, the firsthand account of a first-time Adobe SXSW Creative Camp attendee.
Learning How to be a More Inefficient Designer with The Made Shop
“We view our process, our journey from not knowing to knowing, as our work.”
Like everyone, the founders of The Made Shop have been taught to value efficiency (time, after all, is money), but when they looked closely at the projects in their portfolio, many of them had a common thread: They’d been created “the hard way,” using tools they’d never used before, ideas they’d never tested, and paths they’d never previously followed. It made them question whether efficiency was all it was cracked up to be.
During their session, subtitled “How I Learned to Stop Worrying And Love Inefficiency,” they shared projects and maxims and explained how to introduce friction into the design process, how to un-automate procedures, how to design the hard way, and still consistently create solutions that imaginatively address client needs.
“Not to find the answer but to ask the questions… that’s the job of the designer. Selling answers, that’s a product. Selling questions, that’s part of the process. We start with the idea that the client comes with the questions and it’s our job, and they’re paying us, to come up with the answer. But that’s not quite the right way to think of it.”
The “right” answers don’t always ensure the best solution. If designers only take on work they know… that is, projects for which they answers come easily, they sell only their most tested capabilities to clients. Only their most-accepted answers.
But clients call on designers for new. For unique. For innovative. So… Question. Learn. Explore. Then begin the process again with every new assignment.
“Limitations act like a funnel; they direct focus and, because they cut away other options, produce a really pointed end result. When starting a new project, where you start directs the shape of it in an inevitable way.”
Creative minds wandering unencumbered by money or time or rules… it’s the creative ideal. Unrestrained imagination and problem-solving. The ability to stretch creative muscles. Afterall, controls are not for creative thinkers trying to solve problems for a living. Unfettered creative freedom is how other designers come up with meaningful and memorable solutions. Right?
Well, that’s for sure the knee-jerk reaction: Constraints (a lack of time, of budget, of experience) as not good for the design proces, stumbling blocks to work that’s valuable, rich and, well, creative.
The opposite is true.
“One of our favorite methodologies is to work with tools we’re unfamiliar with…. that we don’t exactly know how to use. Sometimes, although difficult to use, they give us exactly what we needed in the first place—even though we didn’t know that when we started.”
Want a new solution for a problem you’ve solved before? Use tools that are unfamiliar, follow paths that are unknown, and say yes to projects that scare you:
Analog. Digital. Tools provide the direction of the solution. Unfamiliar tools force finding new ways to do things.
Sidetracked by an idea? Follow it. See where it leads. Not sure whether it will work? Not knowing is the first step toward knowing.
Say yes. Despite obstacles, lack of knowledge, or limitations. Dive into projects with no prior experience, no answers, and no expectations about how they will go. “You’ll be,” says The Made Shop, “inherently and unavoidably in an inefficient place.”
My conclusion: The goal of design is to NOT make things exactly the same, or in exactly the same way, every single time.
Read the wrap-up of Session 3: Failure As A Creative Catalyst with Erik Natzke