You know the drill. You have been slaving over a project for days, weeks, maybe months. The glorious moment arrives — it’s finally finished! Chances are, you take a quick breath and then move on the the next project that is demanding your attention. If we aren’t careful, it is easy to work at such a fast-paced rate that we never take time to look behind us. They say hindsight is 20/20, but you won’t ever see what it looks like if you are constantly barreling towards the next big thing on your list. Your best ideas will most likely come during silence than chaos.
In his article Letter to a Junior Designer, Cennydd Bowles says it perfectly:
“Ideas aren’t to be trusted. They need to be wrung dry, ripped apart … to do our job properly, we must disassemble our promising ideas and make them into something better.”
Your creativity will increase greatly if you start to evaluate your past work. How can we ever learn from our mistakes if we don’t know what mistakes we made? Refusing to evaluate your previous work will kill your future ability to produce great work.
A few months ago, I decided to intentionally change my creative process. Instead of moving on to the next thing after a project was completed, I asked myself questions about what I produced. I think often the reason why we hate to pause and evaluate our work is because it hurts so much. You will find yourself angry at all of the things you wish you would have done differently, should have done, shouldn’t have done, etc. While it may hurt at the time, this process is absolutely invaluable. Understanding the things you wish you would have done differently will directly benefit your next project.
To help you get started with an evaluation process for your work, I’ve created a few questions for you:
1) What were the things I knocked out of the park on this project? What is the thing or things that I am 100% happy with how they turned out?
2) What part of this project didn’t meet my usual level of excellence? Is there a part of this project that is uncharacteristically not in line with the usual quality of my work? It’s important that you have a bar of excellence you strive for, so that you have something to evaluate it by.
3) What was the ultimate “win” for this project? Did my work succeed at accomplishing that “win?” The “win” for your project is the intended action that happens as a result. For example, if you are designing a brochure for people to sign up for a local event, the “win” could be people actually signing up for the event.
Over time, after you begin asking these three questions, I hope that you will begin to customize them and add more questions to your post-project evaluation process. Over time, you may begin to learn things that you didn’t even know!
If you were to add a question to this list, what would it be?