The Best Design Advice I’ve Ever Received

About 20 years ago, I worked in advertising in the Boston area. I enrolled in a Creative Concepts class offered by Ad Club of Boston. The class goal was to help advertising pros create better pitches.

At one point in the class, I created a pitch which I thought was really unique and clever. When I presented, the concept fell flat on it’s face, so I started providing some backstory and context for the concept.

Joan, the instructor, interrupted with one of the most honest pieces of criticism I have ever received, and provided me with a personal design mantra I’ve used for almost two decades:

You’re making me work to make this work and that does not work.

“You’re making me work to make this work and that does not work” (add a South Boston accent to get the full experience).

After a millisecond of disbelief and defensiveness, the harsh truth and stark brilliance of her comment stuck with me. It is amazing to realize that five seconds of feedback has resulted in 20 years of impact (and counting).

The expression applies even more today than in 1994. Think about it: we live in a world where seconds of unresponsiveness from technology results in a default behavior of abandonment. Making our customers work to make our things work does, in fact, not work. They’d just google another option that works better.

So, try the expression on for size (only attempt the South Boston accent if you can nail it). You will find many opportunities to use it to guide solutions you develop. It always seems to work, because at the core is a kernel of truth that everyone inherently understands.

My sincere thanks to Joan for sharing this wicked good advice.

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