I learned how to design by copying. As most of the web designers from my generation, I crawled every inch of the web looking for cool stuff, then carefully inspected the source code of those cool things and replicated them in my own work. That’s what kickstarted most of our careers.
We copied ideas. We experimented with code. We learned from others and remixed their stuff to create new things. We were always remixing.
Somewhere in the way we developed an irrational aversion to copying. Of course it’s wrong to take other people’s work and make it pass like ours, but today we see other ideas as “taken”, as if every new product needs to be brand new from top to bottom. That aversion results in awful things when people try to reinvent the wheel.
Let’s copy. Lets get back to our heroes and find new heroes and take and remix their ideas. Let’s move our work forward. Let’s put these remixed ideas into the world, ready for new remixes.
I once gave a talk at work about the impostor syndrome. If I ever give it again, I will definitely add:
If you want to help your impostor-syndrome-ridden friend, don’t tell them everything’s fine and they’re overreacting. Better promise you’ll tell them as soon as you notice or learn about them doing wrong at job, and do it. Be the trusted friend.
The biggest fear of somebody feeling like a fraud is not being outed, but being found out and not knowing about it.
At any time I have a couple ideas for software products to make, but they never get made because of the lack of time to get together with other developers (I do design and some front-end). Most people enjoy to get together and hack, but, you know, ain’t nobody got time for that.
Thinking about this, I came up with the idea of running mini-hackathons of six hours. The schedule would be something like this:
0:00 to 1:00 — Pitches and set up
1:00 to 2:00 — Work
2:00 to 2:15 — Break
2:15 to 3:15 — Work
3:15 to 3:30 — Break
3:30 to 4:30 — Work
4:30 to 4:45 — Break
4:45 to 5:45 — Work (including deployment)
5:45 to 6:00 — Closing talk and beers
Of course this would work for simple/small projects, but going from 0 to 100% in six hours keeps people motivated and it’s fairly easy to reserve that amount of time over a weekend without breaking personal schedules.
Designers don’t need inspiration. We work to solve problems with defined constraints, and you don’t need inspiration for that. What you really need is knowledge of the medium you’re designing for, references, and an awful lot of work.
Sure, a lot of designers seem to just sit down for an hour and come up with awesome solutions. Again, that’s not inspiration: that’s a lot of knowledge, experience and skills put to work.
We don’t need muses. We need to sweat.