Design Process: Don’t Forget the Messy Middle
Design Process - Don't Forget the Messy Middle

I recently listened to Rob Lowe on the Nerdist Podcast (best podcast ever, by the way, check it out!), and there was one little gold nugget of wisdom that stood out to me:

Never compare your insides to someone else’s outsides. 

This struck a chord with me because I often find myself doing just that, both in life and in design. It’s easy to fall into the comparison trap when all you see online or on social media is the finished picture.

Take Instagram for example. Truth be told, I love pouring over the carefully edited and polished images in my Instagram feed. I love to imagine myself in the frame, roaming mountains, eating pretty sandwiches in adorable cafés, strolling along exotic beaches, or drinking coffee while curled up in perfectly white fluffy beds. We all love to be inspired, to escape the everyday, and look at images that take us somewhere else. What we don’t anticipate is the feeling of missing out or not measuring up, and what we don’t see is what’s sitting just outside the frame (hilarious!).

The design process is the same. Most of the time, all you see is the finished product that has been carefully constructed, edited, polished. When gathering inspiration for a project, it’s not often that you see the messy middle – the rough drafts, discarded ideas, and half-thoughts, not fully formed.

As creatives, we need to remind ourselves that for every brilliant logo, perfect photograph, or intricate typographic treatment, there is a design process behind it, and there are a million discarded ideas sitting just outside the frame. Those superstar designers that we all admire go through the same messy middle, hit the same roadblocks, put in countless hours of hard work, and try and fail just like we do.

Don’t forget about the messy middle. Focus on your own design process, pull yourself out of the comparison trap, roll up your sleeves and put in the work, because your passion and dedication will show through and your design will be all the better for it. There’s beauty to be found in the journey, not just the destination!

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