Gearside Design

You can never see your own work for the first time.

I’ve always wondered if I would like my own style of design. It is really impossible to tell when you are involved in all aspects of the project from inception to final product. It’s the whole idea of “looking at something for too long”; it removes the whole aspect of getting that “first look” at something. I’ve also wondered if I would be able to tell the difference between my own design and someone elses’- I’m curious if I think I’m better than I actually am, or if the opposite is true and I don’t give myself enough credit.

It is strange that everyone else gets to see an artists’ work for the very first time except for the artist himself. There are some benefits to this- like having a strong sentimental value to the project and having the sense of pride for it. Drawbacks are present as well: determining the visual¬†hierarchy¬†is more difficult (the primary and secondary are typically easy to determine, but after that it becomes fuzzy), when it comes to audio, levels are interesting because when you know something is there you can’t un-hear it, so battling the placebo effect becomes difficult.

I have found a few ways to experiment with battling this phenomenon, and I encourage all creatives to give it a try sometime. What you need to do is work extremely fast for a single project. Make sure the steps taken to create the piece has no memorable or sentimental experiences outside of the creation (for example, no trips to memorable places for a photoshoot). The idea behind this approach is the process of creation has to be easily forgotten. Don’t follow instructions either on how to make this because it needs to be 100% your own style (or else you’re defeating the purpose, right?) Try to make your project as “typical you” as possible. Don’t spend time making the details perfect- I can’t stress enough that the longer you spend on this project the harder it is to forget. This is just an experiment, so don’t plan on it being your best work.

Once you’ve got the project to a condition that it is recognizably yours, save it and close it. Hide is somewhere so you won’t even see the title of the files- if you’re working electronically, put the files on a jump drive and hide it or give it to a friend to hold on to. Do all of this fast. Keep that file hidden for as long as possible. Months. Years work even better. Don’t go so long that your design style has changed so much that it negates the experiment. Also, don’t mark your calendar for when you are going to look at it. In fact, have someone else spring the project on you when you least expect it. If it’s audio, have them play it in their car sometime, or if it’s print have someone frame it and put it on a wall where you may see it.

Seeing/hearing it again will trigger some memory of making it, but hopefully that effect will be delayed until after you have had time to get that split-second “first look” at your own work.