#DesignLikeYouGiveADamn: a lesson from American art director, designer and author James Victore

 
 
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About a year ago I started the process of building future/6, a global community for thought leaders and creatives imagining inclusive futures for underrepresented entrepreneurs. It's an entrepreneurial passion project that I parked on a back-burner for almost ten years. When I started the process I was eager to get moving so I considered what I wanted, mapped out requirements and researched vendors that could provide immediate solutions for what I hoped to build. Translation: designing from scratch could cost time and money I wasn't sure I had and I desired a 'quick fix' to get up and running 'now'. After all, the idea was shelved for nearly a decade and I didn't want to be the cog in the wheel holding up the process.

 

Is there an app for that?

To support the future/6  community, one of the objectives was to create online tools and resources. I don't have strong coding skills so I turned to existing applications on the market for out of the box solutions. I figured, why build from scratch if I can build on-top of something that already exists. I found solutions I felt good about and told myself that I was a few small tweaks away from being off to the races. Of course, as life usually goes, nothing is ever that simple. Each app had most of what I needed but not everything. The use of each app lead to needing another app (funny how that happens) to enable functionality that would solve for *the one thing* that seemed to be missing with each integration. Before I knew it, two apps became five and my quick fix was no longer working the way I imagined.


Not so fast, user experience matters.

After several failed attempts to bring my dream to life it dawned on me that I needed to pivot my approach to design. Each app wasn't delivering what I imagined because my actions didn't match my vision of the final product. I was building online tools based on what would make things easy for me as an administrator not what would create a relevant and seamless experience for members of the community. I reminded myself that I was trying to solve for challenges I had experienced in other communities and knew that if I wanted to solve for them in a meaningful way, it was time to slow down, roll up my selves and begin building future/6 from the ground up.

 

Dollars and sense.

Before changing my approach to design, I needed to determine wether the change would be viable. To help do this, I took my emotions out of the decision process and treated myself the way I would treat a client. I loved that I was finally working on my passion and wanted to ensure I didn't let that passion prevent me from objectively seeing future/6 from a business perspective.

First, I considered time. I had already spent several months on the project but it wasn't so much time that I would feel like I was giving up on a major investment if I had to start over. Beyond self-pressure, there was no immediate rush to build future/6. If I could wait ten years, I could wait a little longer to make sure that I was building my dream the way I imagined. I learned many lessons in development that helped to refine what I was offering. I know more now than I did at the beginning and in that sense my trial and error was already paying dividends.

Next, I considered cost. Building on top of existing apps seemed inexpensive at first but that was when I only needed two of them. Every time a new app was added to get that *one thing* for additional functionality the operating costs would jump. What started as less than $30/month grew to over $200/month, an increase of at least 85% without delivering all of the core requirements. The idea of spending over $2400/year for resources that offered partial solutions wasn't an investment I was willing to make. Once I saw how much the apps would cost, it became clear what I had to do and it was time begin that process.


Time to do the work.

The irony of my quick fix is that is took the better part of several months to remember that the best way for me to build the community I was dreaming of was to invest the time to build the right foundation. Being more involved in design process would take more time but the silver lining was that in the interim, it would cost less than paying for multiple apps that would eventually need to be replaced anyway. Once I committed to doing the work, I remembered words of wisdom from an American art director, designer and author I admire:  
 

"I hate doing the work. Doing the work takes time, elbow grease and persistence. I’d rather be lazy and see beautiful results immediately. But, I know that the process is everything. If you cheat the work, you compromise the process, and come out the other side unchanged— still an asshole. Thus it makes sense to choose work you love in the first place, then it is more “serious play' than “work'.” Just do the work, don’t judge it, don’t edit it, just make. This practice forms the necessary muscle called discipline. You gotta do the work, cuz there ain’t no shortcuts. " - James Victore


Ten years ago when I came up with an idea to build my dream, general work life was moving at a different pace. There's so much pressure nowadays to bang out project after project in record time. But this isn't just any project, it's my dream and every detail matters. There is a good chance I will have to make compromises along the way and I don't want the quality of my offering to be one of them. James Victore, hit the nail on the head. I gotta do the work. Cuz there ain't no shortcuts. 

 

Designing like I give a damn,

Elisa Watson-Smith
Founder, elisa+COMPANY


future/6 is a community of leaders building inclusive futures.