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Why is a Graphic Designer Never Satisfied?

Why is a Graphic Designer Never Satisfied?

After a conversation with Amanda from Truly Ace Design on our post ‘eightyone design christmas card designs‘ (you can see the full conversation here) I started wondering if graphic designers are ever satisfied? In this blog post I look at the design industry and how it may be the cause of our endless search for satisfaction, how online networking and commenting encourages us to re-think our designs and how our eternal pursuit of perfection could just be a mere personal trait of a graphic designer.

The graphic design industry

In the graphic design industry there is never one answer to a question. There are many possible design solutions to a problem. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that there are endless possibilities and that there are no constraints. Good graphic designers always factor in restraints like target markets and key objectives. Still, this leaves a creative graphic designer with several solutions to a problem, thus plenty of ideas and creative elements to amend and tweak to our hearts content.

When working on a design we often tweak, amend and play until we are exhausted. We then always try and leave the design for a day or two before returning to it. Then we start the tweaking process over again. To be honest this cycle could probably go on forever. However, we have one very important restraint - timescales. Like any graphic designer, I don’t like working to  ridiculous timescales but reasonable deadlines can help rein in a project. This allows us to ‘draw a line’ under the project and stop us from designing ourselves to death!

As I said to Amanda, surely our strive for perfection can’t be a bad thing? Surely it can only make us better graphic designers? However, I would love to know how many times I have amended a design only to decide it was better when I first opened it. Again,  this may not be a bad thing as going through this process enables me to feel more confident when showing the visual to my client. I am happy in the knowledge that I have experimented enough to be sure it is the right design concept for them. 

Twitter, blogging and social commentary

I think that the graphic design industry has been heavily influenced by online networking. Social networking websites such as Twitter allow us to gain feedback and thoughts on a design concept, which is a good thing, right? I often see people asking for feedback and sometimes I give them my thoughts.

However, let me set the scene, you have completed a very long logo design project during which you carried out an extensive amount of research. Based on this research you are satisfied that the logo design concept you have created is inline with the clients objectives and would appeal to the target market. Prior to showing the design to the client you upload it to a forum for fellow designers thoughts and feedback. You give a brief description of the client, objectives and market and you are then sent comments on how to improve your design.

You then spend a huge amount of time amending, changing and redeveloping the logo design concept based on feedback from people you have never met, people whose own design work you may never have seen and people who have not been through the same research and development process you carried out at the start of the project.

Surely If you feel you have ‘ticked all the boxes’ and have created a design concept that fulfills the clients brief, shouldn’t you be satisfied and confident in doing so and not require additional time to amend and redevelop a design based on others critics?

Has this online network of individuals who share a passion for design (albeit professionally or as a hobby) caused this endless search for perfection?

Is never being satisfied just a personal trait of the graphic designer?

We recently purchased a new Mac with a 24 inch screen and we were pleased as punch with it. Compared to our existing 20 inch screen  it seemed massive! We thought there was enough screen real estate to have every single possible application open and viewable at once and that it would make our life so much easier when working on larger print design projects. However, a mere two weeks down the line we are now looking at it thinking ‘well… it could be a bit bigger’!. Give it another week and we’ll be saying that it’s not fast enough (although I hope not as it is very, very fast!). 

So is this strive for perfection more of a personal trait that can be found in every graphic design artist? Is it this passion that has led us to a career in this industry and is this a trait that carries through to other areas of our lives? 

Conclusion

Part of me thinks this endless strive for perfection is an excellent trait to have making us better designers. It constantly forces us to produce better quality work.

However, are we in fact just huge time (and therefore money) wasters who should trust our instinct and believe in our skill rather than ‘tweaking’ our designs until we can ‘tweak’ no more?

What do you think? Is our pursuit of perfection beneficial to our graphic design soul or are we just huge time wasters?

Posted by Lu

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Posted on Wednesday, March 11th, 2009 at 11:13 am
Posted In Featured Articles, Freelancing, Graphic Design, Logo Design | Tags: , ,

21 Responses to “Why is a Graphic Designer Never Satisfied?”

  • [...] Why is a Graphic Designer Never Satisfied? | eightyone design - graphic design blog Its true, we never are LOL (tags: design graphic freelancing theory) [...]

  • Ovi Dogar says:

    Yeah…that’s true. We, graphic designers, always look for perfection and try to create for every design made, the best look ever…

    By the way,keep up the great work

    Ovi Dogar
    AbsoluteCovers.com

  • Andi says:

    This is a great post, I believe that tweaking a design is good and getting the best possible solution in the given time constraints are Number 1. But I would never post something on the net so it could be criticized by other “designers” I would ask my colleges past and present if they thought the design was/is sucessful or not.

    You as the designer should be happy with your own work. Present to the client when you are happy with it, save your time and money.

    It’s the same never ending story with clients they will always come back and some stage with changes and tweaks.

    Make it the best YOU can.

    Get some SELF satisfaction out of your work.

  • IanJ says:

    To right! I’m never ever satisfied with my design work! Although i still take exception, like the rest of us im sure, at clients making their “little suggestions” about how they would like us to “jazz it up” a bit more! Grrrr i HATE that phrase!!!

  • [...] Why is a Graphic Designer Never Satisfied? [...]

  • nbcreative says:

    True. I’d been thinking about this dilemma recently, and wondering if it would be good to get out of the freelance environment and into an office environment for collaboration with other designers. I mentioned this to my husband, who is also a designer, who said “why would you need someone’s opinion, when people come to you for your personal design sense/style?” I was thinking about this, and your article opened it up all over again. If there was a way to have quality control on who comments on your work (designers that you respect and trust) I think it would make sense. BUT, I find that we tend to take lots of things personally, so why would we trust designers we don’t know? aka twitter… Maybe as designers we need to listen to our inner voices, and only take advice from those we trust/admire/respect. Great article!

  • Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. Antoine de Saint Exupery

  • @Andi- I too have built up a couple of good designer friends that I go to when I need a critique. I never want someone critiquing my work if I don’t know what kind of work they produce. In other words, I need to admire the persons work who’s giving feedback to me.

    I think many graphic designers identify very closely with the work they produce. It’s pretty much tied directly to self-worth. Some say that this is a negative thing but I think to some degree it helps push you to do the best you can. That may be why we constantly revise our work until we’re verging on complete and utter exhaustion!

  • [...] Why is a Graphic Designer Never Satisfied? (tags: designers graphicdesign) [...]

  • lu says:

    @Ovi - You are right we are looking for perfection, but do you think that this is a waste of time or does it separate great designers from the good ones?

    @Andi - Glad you liked the post. I agree, I think you have to get the best possible design in the time frame given, that is the challenge and main objective. Also you make a good point about seeking approval from designers you trust rather than anyone on the net. I think self satisfaction is also key here, I believe this is why we work so hard to get a design spot on - to satisfy our need to achieve perfection.

    @IanJ - I know what you mean there’s nothing more frustrating then spending loads of time on a design tweaking it and getting it right to then have it completely changed by the client! Even “little suggestions” can ruin a masterpiece!

    @nbcreative - Glad you liked the article! Once again I agree that we need to put our trust in graphic designers we admire and ask their thoughts rather than strangers. I also agree that we need to believe in ourselves a bit more and as you put it listen to our “inner voices.” Please do keep us informed if you head back into an office environment away from freelancing. I’d be interested to hear how you get on.

    @Jacki Hollywood Brown - Lovely quote, thanks for posting it!

    @Jonathan Patterson - I agree that us graphic designers work very closely with the work we produce and ties in with our self-worth and satisfaction. This drive makes a good graphic designer great (and exhausted!).

    Thank you all for taking the time to comment, we do enjoy reading your thoughts!

  • Thank you for this post! Now I know i’m not alone! i’m rarely ever satisfied and i’m in the process of designing myself to death as i write this comment. I usually console myself in the knowledge that atleast if i am happy with something then it must be good.. But as i’m on the 5th redesign of my website this year i’m beginning to think about settling with not being 100% happy..

    Nooo never!!! back to the drawing board :)

  • Steve says:

    Hi Steve,

    You are certainly not alone and I am sure you will find that many designers find it hard to design for themselves! And I know all too well the 5th (or even 6th or 7th) redesign of your site! It can be very frustrating! If you want any unbiased opinions on any designs you are working on then we are happy to help. It is sometimes great to get a fresh pair of eyes to look at a project. Email me through some visuals if you want us to take a look - info@eightyonedesign.co.uk.

    Good Luck!

    Steve

  • Devon says:

    Improving something is only a waste when it goes too far over time or too far over budget. Even if you are going a little over, you can at least say you are learning something.

    If you aren’t happy with something, there’s probably a reason. By the same token you have to know when to throw in the towel and just call it done. If the client accepts your work, that usually means it is good enough. As designers, we have to realize that anything can be improved, but it isn’t always practical.

    “Moderation in all things.”

  • [...] Why is a Graphic Designer Never Satisfied? / eightyone design / graphic design blog Its so true! ahhh (tags: designers graphicdesign design) [...]

  • Lu says:

    Hi Devon - I think you are right practicality is key, it is so easy for designers to take thing too far. But on the other hand if you have to go the extra mile to get outstanding

    design surely the journey is worth it? …. Isn’t it?

    Thanks for your thoughts!

  • Pebbles says:

    As a graphic designer this is a concept I have toyed with.

    At what point is the artwork finished?

    Answer: It is never and whenever. The point I am making is it is subjective, it is finished if you decide it is finished and also when you manage to convince your viewer it is finished.

    This may seem pedantic but there is a serious point here.

    As we ‘always’ strive to find visual perfection, we each have a differing ideal which we work towards. Most of our ideals are fed to us by the culture around us and through the visual imagery of media and publishing.

    As a designer you have a choice as to whether to merely regurgitate / plagiaries the current style set out by other designers or risk your own style which will inevitably involve slightly distorting or remixing the current style or (my pet hate) just do something in a naive and simplistic style - “its so bad it’s good, really”. cynicism aside :)

    The point is we are all striving for the ultimate transitory visual perfection which does not exist. It’s a visual fashion and the best mimic wins.

    In practical terms a design is finished if it communicates it’s message effectively and everybody who counts says “I like that, I really do”

    If this is followed by ” although” it is not finished. :)

    “A rye smile appeared on the face of William Holman Hunt as Tracey Emin informed him that she was also an artist. Although he was more concerned with her time-travelling abilities he couldn’t let this one pass and was heard to whisper ” Are you ill?”

  • Lu says:

    Hi Pebbles - Some very interesting points. You are right that in the end of the day the design is only finished when the design communicates it’s message effectively and everyone involved is happy with it.

    Thanks for your thoughts.

  • JP says:

    I found this article a little bit late.. but still think it’s very true.. just now I was doing some work and not being totally happy with it.. and yes.. sometimes it’s a waste of time.. but in my case, most of the times, working on several options, and making some changes always gives me the best result.. the solution that I feel the “happiest” with… it’s our work to push ourselves, ’cause most of us know how to give a “decent” result in an hour, but that’s not the point… as the say.. if you don’t like it, it probably isn’t your best work.

  • Hi Pebbles - Some very interesting points. You are right that in the end of the day the design is only finished when the design communicates it’s message effectively and everyone involved is happy with it.

  • Baseem says:

    Just keep changing and wasting time in something u love most its worth more than a dimonds. At last u will love what u did.. …… u are in the right way if u r looking for perfection (and there is no perfection beacuse u cant satisfy ureself in the first place and the people around u in a perfect way….. There is always something u can add….

    Designing will never be perfect beacuse there is always something new u can add to ur work or always something u can change…..

    :)

  • Being not satisfied with effects of your work is sign of professionalism. There are however limits. There is a thin line between professionalism and perfectionism which very often means nothing is completed.

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