In other news, perfection remains elusive

Here is a hypothetical scenario which may or may not sound familiar to you: A project has progressed to the visual design stage. The process you followed fell somewhat short of textbook. Deadlines are imminent. The first iteration of a rendered design has gone to a client with various caveats:- that feedback is welcomed, that various aspects need to be reviewed, that the design can be progressed based on further discussion, etc. Then the word comes back:

“Looks fine. We’ll go with that”.

The question is: have you failed or succeeded?

Blind vision

As a professional you are almost certainly torn. You want to work towards the best possible result, ensuring the project is effective and represents something both you and the client can be proud for years to come. The craftsman in you wants to hone and improve. You had anticipated further debate, leading to the next iteration. Instead what you appear to have is approval. And the commercial imperative suggests that the time for iteration is past; the client has accepted your work and the process must move on.

The long wait

I suspect these are familiar dilemmas for design professionals. We hear much about the ‘perfect process’ in our industry writing and conferences. Professionalism calls for improvement; often arduous, incremental, glacial improvement that may only be measured in years rather than months. But it is a truism that perfection never arrives.

Reality slap

To remain commercially viable, relentless quests for perfection may have to be set aside for another day. Not, let’s be clear, abandoned completely: defeatism is the path to template-driven mundanity. Without question we should all aspire to better. However the harsh truth is – and you may want to brace yourself – compromise is a fact, in life and in business. Another element of professionalism is the maturity to accept that fact, while knowing that you are still a credible member of the design community despite falling short of perfection.


The lesson from a scenario such as this is almost certainly that we should not present anything to a client that we are not prepared to stand by 100%, or indeed go live with. It can be all too easy to sleepwalk your way to a design that doesn’t represent you or the client particularly well. #speakingfromexperience

4 replies on “In other news, perfection remains elusive”

The key word here (in my opinion) is certainly ‘compromise’. In the cold light of an uncertain economy the reality is that we have less opportunity to be precious when our minds are focussed on ‘paying our way’ and keeping the ship afloat. Does this mean we should sell our creative souls and submit to bad design? No. But there’s a fine line. In my business we only send what were proud of, but more importantly, we fulfil the brief. If that happens not to be a peice of award-winning potential but helps pay a salary – so be it. In short, we have to make hay while the sun shines because it rains *most* of the time. Every once in a while, a gem comes along and that’s good enough for me (just my humble opinion)

+1 Darragh. If you only hear or read a certain part of the spectrum of industry comment, you’d almost be fooled into thinking that compromise didn’t exist – everything, all the time, is apparently ‘awesome’.

I regularly comment to students that projects which they or their peers consider outright ‘cool’ are likely to make up less than 10% of their body of work over time – but the good ones are worth fighting for.

As you point out, as long as the work produced is effective for the client the project has been successful. But even when this is the case you can still feel unfulfilled as a designer – which is healthy as it almost certainly signifies high standards.

Thanks for the comment.

I think this is one of the reasons why we have to work very hard at our craft(s): build on our knowledge-base, learn new skills, be broad in our interests but detailed in our examinations. Rather than rely on what we already know (or have been taught) and what we learn from the day-to-day practise of design, we have to pro-actively seek knowledge and master skills that will make us better at getting it (more) right first time.

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