We waste time redesigning wheels

Designers are good at reconsidering what exists today and thinking about it differently. This is powerful skill for innovation and it makes us really good at challenging ourselves. But it comes with a very unproductive tendency: reinventing solutions even for already solved problems.

  • I believe the first reason why we developed this bias is because we have an unsolved ego problem. We generally recognise that design is not about art… but cannot stop ourselves from creating something unique that WE invented and so putting our signature on the painting.
  • Second reason is we tend to disregard each others’ work. I have heard so many times harsh criticism when talking about other’s design. Very few pieces of work will find favour in our eyes, even though we ourselves would be unable to deliver at such a level of complexity (Maybe this is a perfectionism attitude… which could be a full article on its own…)

I’d love to think that those reactions are superficial. That we just don’t think about it and so couldn’t realise how much we’re wasting time and energy reinventing wheels.

“Reading is one of the keys of life […] There is no new problem that someone hasn’t already had and written about it in a book” Will Smith.

Design talent is not about creating new patterns or visual elements, it is about solving problems. So if we want to solve new problems, we’d rather not spend our time fixing the solved ones.

The app stores, pattern libraries, dribbble, Pinterest… are full of answers to our interface problems. There are plenty of brilliant designers around the globe working on the same interaction elements as we are, and so offering answers to the community.

I have been lucky enough to work in 100+ designer teams such as PayPal and Intuit. They are full of talented people and big enough to ensure that every design detail is explored, tested and crafted with care. We should trust their work and reuse it. Trying to redo ourselves, faster and in smaller teams is a nonsense strategy.

“Good designers copy, great designers steal” Pablo Picasso

This quote might be a source of inspiration for people that may feel frustrated in thinking about that reuse mindset. Especially in small design teams, there must be no design work that doesn’t include a strong benchmark and a significant amount of identified sources of inspiration. It is a creative and efficient activity to identify the best existing answers, and reassemble it in a unique way that will beautifully solve your problem.

… and the whole will remain greater than the sum of its parts.

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