In the last blog post I talked about open plan vs. closed plan offices, mentioning the concept of flow along the way. Wikipedia says:
Flow is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity
I used to be a sole freelancer and I achieved optimal flow by locking myself up for 8 hours. I was very productive and could crank out tons of designs in a small time period.
Because any distractions might mess up my flow, I protected that by limiting them. I would try to get a solid 4 hours off designing in in the morning and 4 hours in the afternoon.
However, after a while I found there is a big downside to working in that “flow” zone: it’s so easy to design in a way that is devoid of the outside reality. You start to live in your cosy Photoshop world where every decision you make is “right”.
And then you find out that what you make doesn’t get implemented as you had envisioned.
And too often there was a change request halfway the project that changed your sentiment from “this is portfolio material” to “if only this hadn’t happened”.
And the thing is, it was your job to prevent that from happening. The job of a designer — next to actually designing — is aligning the developers, the ideas of the CEO and the product manager, getting to the business goals, and so much more.
The thing is, ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. You need to get out there, talk to the stakeholders, talk to the users. The pretty pictures you are making need to have a use out in the real world.
As we grow in size I find my time is shifting more to talking than to actually designing. As I find myself in more product discussions, I often think about this great blog post by Paul Graham on the maker’s schedule vs. the manager’s schedule. This leads me to self reflection: am I maker, or am I a manager?
I guess my own conclusion is that design is much more about communication than anything else. And that means you need to get out there: to the board room, to your colleagues, to any stakeholders in the project. Even if that means messing up your flow.
Making things that won’t be used is entirely unproductive anyway.