The Art of Maintaining Perspective

The (Designer’s) Art of Maintaining Perspective

The Hypothesis

You’ve been working almost exclusively on the same client for the last 2 years.  You’ve been going back and forth on the same logo for the past 4 months. That layout for a retailer’s DPS is on revert 26. Your agency seems to just want to push out the same work again and again. Does any of this sound familiar?

A designer is the link between client and customer. We are also often the glue that holds  together all the work that comes out of any agency. This adds up to a lot of pressure and often leads to the designer being the first to be criticised, as throwing out an opinion on whether something ‘looks good’ or not is often far easier that working on deeper seated issues.

This can lead to a crises I sometimes find myself in: Crippling Designer Perspective Paralysis aka C.D.P.P. (a truly scientific term). After a while this pressure can build up and build up on a job to the point where we are only focused whether that curve is juuuuust right (you’re still going to adjust it 50 times anyway) or fixing that niggling bit of kerning that just won’t obey, all in hopes that it will finally be the magic bullet that will solve the problems and allow you to complete the job. We get stuck in repetition, working within the same set of parameters for an extended period and eventually creating a marginally different version of a layout in the vain hopes that maybe, just maybe, this will be the one.

This form of tunnel vision is extremely frustrating, yet we all get caught by it at some point. We lose sight of the goals of the client and we lose the joy we had for that fantastic original idea. It’s a dark road and there’s no hope, right?


Thankfully, the beauty of working in an agency is that we have a team to share our burdens with*.  Pass that cursed layout to a team member! He or she might not be ecstatic about it at the time but once a precedent is set for a team that shares creativity the team as a whole can grow. Share the frustrations you have encountered with a team member and I can guarantee they will have a completely fresh take on the problem. You can be certain they will toss an infuriating website design over to you once they’re at a loss on the fifth revision.

The other danger caused by a lack of perspective is that it can bleed into your personal life. As creatives we tend to take our failures personally, sometimes obsessing over how such a simple task could possibly vex us so. I find that a number of designers struggle with psychological disorders of some form or another and an issue like a menacing design can bring them down, affecting their team, productivity and even their home lives.

Maintaining a clear perspective is also healthy for your clients. It allows us to truly see what is important about the client’s (and their company’s) goals, sometimes even better than they can. We will then recognise innovative ideas, building excitement about the brand internally. This outlook will naturally bleed through to the work, agency and relationship with the client creating unexpected, fantastic results.

How To Fix C.D.P.P.

These are my tips to reset your perspective (that, I will admit, I often forget to do myself)

  • Get up and walk away. That’s right. Move away from your desk. The deadline doesn’t matter if you aren’t getting anywhere and you won’t reach it anyway in a rut.
  • Start again. Yep. Scrap EVERYTHING you’ve worked on up until that point. Nine out of ten times you will have a far better idea within the first hour.
  • Call for reinforcements. You work with a team. Use them. Talk to them. Feed off their ideas and queries.
  • Don’t get defensive. Being creative everyday is difficult and sometimes that spark just doesn’t come. We all have those days.
  • Go and eat a good meal. Seriously. Brain food is called that for a reason.
  • Get inspired. Go and do something you haven’t done in a while or ever before. It doesn’t have to be skydiving. Drop by the dive bar around the corner that sells bunnies that may or may not be toxic and watch the inspiration flow.
  • Take a holiday. Without a laptop.

So stop tormenting yourself by shuffling those pixels around fruitlessly. Start living a life without the curse of C.D.P.P.!

*Freelancers have options to experience this type of culture within the modern work situation. When I was a freelancer I had a group of designers on Skype who I could sling an idea to before taking it too far along in development and they could tell me whether it was worthwhile or not. These guys are still permanently open in my Skype, only because they refuse to move to Slack.

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