Embrace the mess

Feb 4, 2024

The truth is, innovation is messy. It doesn’t fit neatly into diamonds or any other shapes for that matter. It requires getting your hands dirty, building something tangible, and learning from real-world feedback. In the thick of genuine creativity, you might find yourself leaving layers unnamed or bypassing the use of auto layout in your design tools. This isn’t negligence; it’s a conscious decision to prioritize speed and flexibility over meticulousness in the early stages of ideation.

If we spend all our time trying to perfect our approach within the rigid boundaries of processes and models, we miss out on the spontaneity and serendipity that often lead to breakthroughs.

Yet, many find themselves drowning in a sea of process, dedicating excessive time to planning and documenting our design strategies without taking the crucial step of action. This overemphasis on preparation can lead to analysis paralysis, where the cycle of refinement within the confines of models and processes overshadows the most critical phase: implementation.

One of the most telling examples of this barrier to innovation is how we use design tools like Figma. While essential for visualizing ideas, there’s a tendency to overfocus on creating a polished file—every layer neatly named, every component organized, prototypes that replicate every possible variant—losing sight of the primary goal.  It’s a classic case of missing the forest for the trees, focusing on the polish of a presentation rather than the functionality and user experience of the actual product.

Tools like Figma are instrumental but can easily become more of a crutch than a catalyst. The goal is to transition from design to code as swiftly as possible, transforming concepts into tangible products that can be tested and iterated upon in the real world. Full discovery needs to continue outside the canvas. Remember, a well documented Figma prototype or meticulously documented components never changed the world; a launched product can.

Spending more time perfecting asset libraries in Figma than engaging with the tangible testing of prototypes is a clear indicator of lost momentum. Innovation flourishes not within the confines of a design tool but in the dynamic transition from concept to creation, from digital design to functional code.

This isn’t to say organization and planning have no place in design—they do, but they must be balanced with the imperative to act, using tools and methodologies as enablers of innovation rather than constraints.

The magic lies in doing, in transforming ideas into realities that can be experienced, measured, and improved upon. Let’s shift our focus from over-structuring and over-planning to embracing the messy, unpredictable, yet thrilling path of bringing new ideas to life.