I spent last Thursday in New York, listening to the legend of design, Milton Glaser, speak about everything from the projects “The Clients Didn’t Approve” to the power of color. He seems to have a pool of stories that’s never-ending (in a good way!). I took so much away from his talk, but one thing in particular will sit with me for a long, long time.
I have used the phrase “I’m stuck” plenty of times when I’m designing. It’s what I run to when a solution doesn’t come as easily as I had hoped, when I want to step away from something and take a walk, when I have exhausted all the options I can think of for a design and don’t know where else to go. After Milton had finished his presentation, they opened the floor for questions and a woman asked the question that we’ve heard so many times, ” Where do you go for inspiration when you get stuck?” His response was not what I expected.
“Stuck is just a literary term. It doesn’t exist. It’s not real in design.” He continued, “The only way ‘stuck’ exists is when you STOP WORKING. So don’t stop working!”
Milton explained that design is most often times a process and if you find a solution that isn’t working, that’s very different than if you are “stuck”. If it’s not working, you move on, that’s part of the exploration. The work that you are consistently doing will influence and help you through the moments you think you’re stuck because you’ll begin to see what works and when to move on. “The solutions come when you are involved with the project so thoroughly that you know it’s a good answer.”
I realized then that use of “stuck” in my vocabulary needed to change. I was using the idea that I couldn’t go any further to encourage me to stop working or move to a different project or start the whole project over. It was the wrong answer. I do believe that sometimes you have to walk away from something, or sleep on it, but in most cases, the more you persist in moving forward, the more you’ll get from it.
Milton reminded me that design is as much a process as it is an art, and that to continue to create great work: don’t stop working!