Design is an Ugly Process
A childhood favorite of mine is the Ugly Duckling, the story of a small duckling shunned by his flock for his ugly appearance. He dreams of one day becoming as beautiful as the swans he admires.
Then one day he sees his reflection in the pond, and lo and behold - he has become the most beautiful swan of them all. The moral is one of transformation, but also one of struggle along the path to greatness.
As designers, we too waddle along this path and let's face it: Design is an Ugly Process. It is ultimately a process of failures, which are the stepstones on the road to new solutions. Every design project goes through these puberty periods …. Awkward, where it is obviously “in development” - acne and all. Here are some snapshots of ICRAVE projects in various stages of evolution:
The Brainstorming Process. When you are exploring ideas that break from convention and steer into new territories, the ride gets bumpy. During brainstorming sessions, we hash out the good, the bad, and the UGLY of ideas and purposely do not judge, criticize, or refine. Ideas are offered in raw form and it’s not always clear how (or if) they will fit into the bigger picture.
The Sketching / Modeling Process. Designing can be just like experiencing growth spurts (pain et all) – your limbs (ideas) are literally stretching beyond the extents that they had previously known. Sketching is meant to capture ideas as quickly as possible; 3D models start blocking out spaces before ideas are fully developed. The early results may not be pretty, but the goal is to quickly move through these onto better ideas.
The Mock-up Process. Whether you are working with contractors to fabricate complex custom elements or creating a new virtual reality from scratch, there are bound to be some failing iterations along the way. Moving elements from the digital world of 2D lines and 3D models into the real world can be quite painful. Likewise, translating an imaginative world into an immersive virtual experience requires deep coding knowledge and constant cycles of trial and error. The handoff from design intent to working prototype can be ugly - because UGLY makes you think.
"Confident Ducks." Though 'ugly' may cause a knee-jerk negative reaction, in reality - ugliness is freedom from convention and restrictions. ‘Ugly’ also implies human qualities, since perfection is not human. Honestly, most designs never reach that unattainable tier of perfection and we are okay with that – sounds boring. Above all, design is about solving problems and should go beyond conversations about aesthetics, style, and beauty. As author Maeve Binch concluded: "I don't have ugly ducklings turning into beautiful swans in my stories. I have ugly ducklings turn into confident ducks."