By Benn Raistrick

Do Less & Think More

Productive before production

I am a victim of needing to ‘see’ the idea in order to ‘think’ the idea; always the ‘visualiser’, never the ‘theoriser’.

Holistic creativity comes naturally to me, I’ve never really been conceptually driven. I have an idea, I make it — it’s as simple as that! However, over the years I’ve found myself shifting solely from creating the aesthetically pleasing to questioning everything behind the surface design — ‘why am I creating this?’, ‘what purpose does it serve?’ and so on.

Lets look at creating a website. 9/10 times I would see the trend, be inspired and I’m off — Photoshop is open and the pixel pushing commences!

As we all know, design is subjective. Most times the client either likes or dislikes the design based on personal preference. So, how did I justify my design? Back it up with research? Reel off a load of analytics? The honest answer, no. Instinctively I knew what worked as i’d be designing for so long — a slightly arrogant approach I admit but there was a level of truth to it — I didn’t need to justify it, or so I thought.

Moving beyond that initial self schooling, there came a point when I frequently questioned myself posing questions such as, ‘am I really good enough?’, ‘is this what I want to do?’ Genuinely, I’m not a pessimistic individual but admittedly here displays the doubt I was experiencing, mostly forged from the environment I was working in.

Back in 2005 with approx 6 years on the design experience clock, I was given a brief to produce a series of wire-frames, something I had not really attempted before. This was pure revelation to me — the gap between brief delivery and Photoshop conception was to liken an alien discovery. After laying things out, my then creative director prompted me to think about what content should be included, then determine the hierarchy of said content. Initial thoughts, fantastic! Bottom line, I still wanted to jump into Photoshop and concept first. This habit stuck for a long time until a stint at the last series of agencies put everything into perspective and aligned all those misconstrued dots. I could see processes and ways of managing that bothered me and the chaos amongst people jockeying for ownership and influence;

“We need to get this in on budget and on deadline”

I absolutely hated it and became mindful of how future projects and processes could be more efficient, all the time knocking back the thoughts that this was not my role, not my concern as a designer and most of all that this energy should surely be better consumed making things look nice!

Skip ahead to a new space working collaboratively with great people, open ended creative discussions on tap and experiences to be heard, learnt and contributed to. The very act of talking through a problem with others instantly opens your mind to a world of ideas that were perhaps off your radar. In turn it can also provide confidence to your own reflections and equally allows an opportunity to input and inspire others. Whoever the inspiration originates with, by evolving and refining that inspiration the end result is a better method. The value of using the whole mind to create questions and find solutions was mastered and accomplished through collaborative conversation.

Ridding the need to visualise everything from the starting block has resulted in some amazing outcomes. But, and this is a big but, how on earth do we justify to a client that they don’t need to see every scrap of design and that actually this week you’ll be researching, developing thoughts and not producing a physical creation? How do we respond to the reaction of “we don’t need that much time spent with you thinking, its costly so can we cut any corners here…?”

Let me be the first to say RUBBISH. Our last project took 2-3 weeks of developing thoughts, sketches, word doc after word doc and valuable meetings. When it came to producing and finally delving into Photoshop, everything clicked together like a well worn k’nex set. It was completely organic, every little detail justified and doubly efficient. Time was saved due to the initial thought process we had accomplished on square one. This made for an extremely happy client!

One thing I will point out, I have been in Microsoft Word more than Photoshop recently and this is O.k. A piece of advice I have only recently acquired myself, is to document everything and share it with your client. Let them see the failure and then the success of your thinking. Let them experience the evolution of their product not in drips, but in it’s entirety including the warts of inevitable human error. This transparency ultimately results in a stronger working experience. Your client is a collaborative partner too, work with them as you do collectively with others and it will yield such fantastic and proud results.