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Iterative Design Process

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I’ve worked at the current company exactly for a year now – happy anniversary!

And today I like to meditate on the topic of iterative design process. These two tie in because I encountered that idea in that company first. Although it might be a known concept for learned designers – for me, a year ago the word “iteration” was a first.

Iterative design process absolutely does not work everywhere and on anything. I think in graphic design it works when you have multiple designers, you choose from their works a version and keep working with that – it will end up raising the production quality of the product.

The worst thing you can do is combine iterative design process with democracy. Have, say, 5 designers make logos and then have some 50 people (of whom maybe 14) vote, and then keep clashing the winner-logos as if it was a ping-pong tournament.

Another domain where I found it a little annoying was when making an advertising video. Video is a multi-dimensional domain enough that where you want to change one aspect – you end up having to change a whole lot more around it, too.

So – graphic design and video design could be done with expanding iterations if you are working with several designers – but you will KILL your designer if you have just one and you don’t go about the piece of work like you would go with chess.

I guess there is a turning point in the process. With designs it is fairly easy even for one artist to come up with several ideas – and then the stakeholder chooses one or two and they start working from there. Or the stakeholder says – no, none of them is good, make more. So, you’ll get more “first drafts” – and maybe there you can get something to start working on.

From that turning point it’s like chess – with every next phase or turn you have lesser and lesser options.

Now, I have found where this iterative design process works in a completely different manner: writing a story.

I used to write in notebooks – and it wouldn’t really work out there – but now that I’m doing it in the computer, in some file that I can access from different devices, I can actually just keep adding and retracting sections from it.

I won’t be too picky or selective – any idea I get, I just go find the place of the story where it needs to go, and add it. When I get a more elaborated idea, I overwrite it, or add more to what I already wrote.

When I get an idea that affects other parts of the story, I know where to go and eliminate or re-write the other parts of the story.

And here is the thing – with every oncoming phase up to a turning point there are so many possibilities – and then I need to force my own turning point – a point where I start locking the story up or retracting points from it which don’t really advance the plot at all.

I can finally handle writing what I’ve been on about for 10+ years – because I had made the mistake of wanting to come up with a solid vision or strategy first and then start writing it down. It never happens.

So, while endless iterations of a fucking video clip make my head explode and want to quit, effortlessly inserting and removing ideas from a story is a fucking gold mine.

Now, I wonder if I could also apply it making music… Yup, got an old keyboard from a new co-worker. Looking good!

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