As a developer, I know that awful feeling where you show a client/customer/constituent your work, and they ask you to make tweaks that they consider “easy changes” which for you are “complete architectural redesigns.” A large driver of this is the fact is that they don’t understand the amount of work that goes into building an application. They can’t really. To do so one has to fully understand the application architecture design, building, and coding process. In most cases to understand that you have to be a developer capable of it. If you are a developer capable of it, why are you hiring others? All this leads to the guy or gal in front of you asking you to change “just this little thing.”
People do it because people tend to think anything they don’t know how to do is easy. I think this is because our touch points with each other’s disciplines are so small and shallow. Our work is all icebergs. There is a little that can be seen, but underneath the surface it goes on and on.
What does this have to do with design?
The other day a typography site named Typedia.com launched. I follow a couple of the founders, and thought it was a cool idea. Then I happened to read a blog entry from the guy who designed the logo. (He’s John Langdon by the way, who did the ambigrams for the Dan Brown novel Angels and Demons.) In it he talks about the logo and the process of creating what is essentially a custom font for it.
Look at the logo. Did you have any idea that there were volumes and volumes of thought behind that logo, dating back to the invention of the printing press? I certainly didn’t.
Which leads me to think about the hundreds of fonts on my system (working for Adobe has its perks.) Each one of them contains some measure of this thought. Each of them is an iceberg too.
This leads me to think that every design comp I’ve ever seen is also an iceberg with hours of thought and volumes of reference and knowledge behind it. Makes me wonder about the push back I’ve given.
This does not lead me to say that all of these icebergs mean that I should not criticize other people’s work, or ask for changes. Volumes of content condensed into the wrong logo are still wrong, as John Langdon’s post reveals. It also does not make me naïve enough to think that every comp has had hours put into it, just that there are hours of expertise leading up to it.
It leads me to the thought that we need to be more mindful of the fact that what other people produce is not only what we see, but the accumulation of their expertise. We as developers need to see it when we look at the work of designers. We also need to see it when we look at the work of other developers. Once we do that we just need to go out and convince the rest of the world to look at our work that way. How we do that is a mystery to me, but I suppose it starts with doing it ourselves.