Getting Past Roadblocks

Rubbing your hands together in anticipation, you wait for the computer to startup. After roughing out some promising ideas on paper over the last couple of days, you finally get to start building what you’ve envisioned. And it’s exciting.


By this point, you already have a clear idea of how you are going to tackle the design and have a picture in your head of what the final piece is going to look like…


However, no matter how crystalline your vision is, we have all run into compulsively moving objects around with no real goal.


This is the point in a design process where our precious workflow seems to come to a halt, not due to technical limitations but anxiety from the overall composition.


Our work seems to be taking shape nicely, fitting well into our plans but then we suddenly find ourselves incessantly moving things around the screen in vague hope that by some magical arrangement everything will just click and come alive with a resounding “Eureka!”


And if this does work – it works rarely.


Where experimentation is necessary for discovery, this compulsion to just continue moving elements (with no end in sight) is usually the most inefficient habit in the design process and can misspend much of our time.


In fact, when we find ourselves committing this, it is usually because there is something wrong with the overall piece and we’ve become too close to really ‘see’ what it is.


When we find ourselves in this state all we need is a nice break away from the screen, breathe, and come back with fresh eyes. Or, even better, get someone else to have a look at it as they will have lovely fresh eyes for you to use.



I find it useful to print out the work in progress and stick it on the wall, so one can take a step back and look at it from new perspectives, from across the room, from the side on, through the window, upside-down – it all helps.


If it’s not colour your anxious about it can help to print it out in black and white just so that colours won’t influence your decisions on the composition. Some design studios present their work to clients purely in black and white and get their decisions before adding colour just in case the colour unfairly influences their decision.


At the time it may feel necessary and faster to the design process, but it will always workout faster to have a fifteen-minute break or get someones else’s opinion on the piece.


From these new perspectives, we can then get a pen and paper and clearly define what is working and what is not.


Try to avoid making changes on the fly or we can easily slip back into the habit. First try to define all the things which stand out to you and then, from the notes on paper, you can go back to the computer and start whittling your piece down to what will hopefully be better work.