Routine-blindness is inevitable in almost every business.
It definitely exists for every task involving the higher brain functions: while it is not likely that you lose sight of the complete picture while mowing your lawn, it is far more probable to happen for one of your designs. In the worst case, you’ll deliver a design that is peppered with mistakes.
Mistakes you could have avoided if you had followed a few simple steps.
As for every hurdle and barrier in life, there is a way to avoid routine-blindness – you just have to know about it. To put it another way, there are many roads to do it right, but in order to follow any one of them, you have to know of the potholes in the ground.
You are working on a design for a series of ads. You were involved in every single step of the brief creation, and you played a leading role in the creative process. Now, you’re in charge of the production.
Let me ask you a question. With this amount of different tasks, each one with its own complexity, all of them on your own shoulders – do you see the chance of doing it right at first shot? Do you think you can avoid possible mistakes by routine? Do you know for sure that – with the deadline sneaking up – you won’t do even the slightest mistake?
I think it is not a long shot to say that every designer knows about the difficulty of keeping a job under total control, especially with little to minimal given time. And hey, let’s face it: short deadlines are reality in our business!
Keeping this in mind, let’s turn to see what we can do to avoid common and uncommon mistakes in the process of the project.
1. Develop awareness for the mistakes you make.
Whenever you encounter a fault, don’t just correct it without giving it a thought, but make a mental note. That also means that when you come across a flaw in your comp, try to find out why it came up in the first place. By analyzing these little things, you can discover amazing insights about your working habits and possibly find out that you have been doing something the wrong way all along.
2. Analyze the cause of a mistake.
Was is a lack of time, were you sleep deprived? Or were you simply unaware of the importance of a specific bit? If it is the latter, it hopefully acted as an eye-opener that you shouldn’t take on tasks you don’t know how to accomplish correctly. If you are uncertain about a certain aspect of a job, you absolutely need to learn everything about it before you even start. Also, don’t make the mistake of taking on a job too easily and hoping you’ll learn along the way. Rather pass on that job, catch up and do it right with the next opportunity. Otherwise it will be your reputation that takes the credit for your mistake, and there may not even be another opportunity after that.
3. Counteract with specific measures.
Take action: don’t be embarrassed to take notes! If you have an ideabook, drawing journal or doodle-book, use that to write your mistakes down. If you don’t, get one. Almost every professional designer has a personal notebook they carry along all the time. That is because you never know when the next bolt of inspiration strikes you, and you never know what you’ll come across when you are simply stuck in traffic or taking a break in the park.
Take a look at Detour, a project by Moleskine (the legendary notebook of Hemingway and Picasso), featuring videos of designers, artists, illustrators and writers who open up their journals for you.
4. Before you start on a project, create a project map.
Try to anticipate everything that might go wrong. Write down a list of every project step, e.g. analysis – research – goals – brainstorming – media buying – production – prepress – launch – post-analysis. List all tasks in a horizontal row. Under each task, note what you have to keep in mind for each specific step.
If you collect every major step for a project like this, you’ll always know where you are in the process. In the next step, you can set time goals for every step. This is especially important with bigger projects.
5. Check on your work regularly.
Get the habit to check your work for common mistakes. To stay on top of it, you could write down a list of checkpoints that you will stick to. Create different checks for each task. That could look like this:
- a preliminary check, in which you list everything you have to keep in mind. Anticipating possible mistakes refreshes your memory and makes it less likely for such flaws to happen.
- intermediate checks, which you do after every major change/addition to your design. Don’t make this list too long (you’ll regret it in the process), but do list everything that would be too late discovering at the next step.
- a final check that lists all of the above in addition to the steps of finalization.
Our goal is to bring order to a process that, without certain installments, would be rather chaotic. Of course, this applies to every business and every task in the world. But right now, were looking at the creative business – so what we have to do is transform our creativity into productivity by structuring our efforts. That way, we know what comes next, which is the key to productivity.
Having the general road laid out for us, we can follow the steps of the project map and are less likely to make a mistake along the way. This doesn’t mean you should flip up your blinds and stick to the project map only – it is more of a guide than a strict set of boundaries.
End of story? Not at all!
As much as a project map helps avoiding common mistakes, you can bet on encountering little things along the way that you haven’t thought about in the beginning. This is where your experience comes in, and our most important step, which happens to be the first named above. Did something slip through? Well, write it down! That way, you can include it in your next projects map, and avoid it the next time.
And what mistakes have you encountered in the design process? Share your thoughts!