My (totally) Paranoid Way of Working

That kinda hurt

I have a love/hate relationship with web design.

It’s what I like to do. When I first coded a website, looked at it and thought “hey, that’s nice”, I decided that’s what I wanted to do for a living. Even though I have a Computer Science degree and I’m lacking in graphic skills, I love learning about the basics of design through trial & error.

On the other hand, empty Photoshop documents scare me to death. When a project starts and I have to start thinking out of the box, my mind shuts down. For a person as dependent on method and rules as I am, creativity is a huge struggle sometimes. I can prototype and wireframe a project’s ass off, but when it comes to design, I feel like a rabbit in front of headlights. So many possibilities!

Long story short, I get quite paranoid while designing a website. And I thought I should share it with you, dear readers.

Here are the phases I’m going through while designing:

1st phase: Fear of the dark blank slate

Launch Photoshop. File > New. Stare at the screen till eyes feel tingly. Shut down Photoshop and open WoW. Play till eyes bleed.

2nd phase: GTD

I’m feeling quite guilty at the moment, so I usually break up the design process in itsy little steps and enter them in OmniFocus. I start working on the first todo, typically “Launch Photoshop”. Something fancy gets my attention on Twitter. 90 minutes and 12 clicks later, I launch Photoshop and create a new document.

3rd phase: Procrastination

I start translating my wireframes to .psd talk. Typically, that means that I just copy my wireframe to Photoshop, trying as hard as possible to avoid any kind of creative thinking at this point. I obsess over grey boxes and alignment, till I remind myself the finished result will hopefully not look anything like it. I try to switch my mind to creative mode.

4rd phase: Guilt

By now, quite some time has passed and I’ve got nothing to show. I turn to the web for inspiration. It dawns to me: every web designer out there is more productive and creative than me! Every single link I click on is a nightmare. There’s a devil on my shoulder whispering “See how well she’s done it? And in so little time? Try to beat THAT”.

5rd phase: Denial

This is the worst phase, both for me and the people around me. I become moody and unapproachable. I answer to questions with grunts. I mope around the house, wearing pj’s and eating trash food. I’m convinced I’m a fraud, that I somehow managed to cheat people into thinking I’m a designer. No colour scheme works, Photoshop tools give me hell, I can’t even draw a straight line. I sometimes cry. I sometimes have fits. All in all, I behave like a brat.

6th phase: Spark

While browsing every website from Dribbble to Youporn [NSFW obviously / but safe for MY work / mwahahaha / yeah.] and squeezing my mind trying to come up with something, I see it. My spark. My inspiration igniter. It doesn’t have to be a full website, it can be a background or a button or a textured line. The world shifts, everything clicks into place, a feeling of warmth inside me tells me: Everything’s gonna be alright.

7th phase: Execution

That’s where the real design happens. I form a bubble around my design. I’ve been known to talk to myself during this phase – things like “Oh I know! It’ll look exactly like this” are occasionally heard in Casa Sugar. I design like there’s Devil hot on my tail. Sometimes I forget to breathe. Double rainbows all across the sky, unicorns fetch me sandwiches and I keep wondering “Gee, how could I question myself? I’m a great designer”. Yeah, modesty doesn’t really work in this phase.

8th phase: Delivery

[Save for Web Archive]. Fire up Gmail. Attach & send.

And this happens every. Single. Time.

If that’s not a love/hate relationship, I don’t know what is.

Subscribe to my management & leadership newsletter
Why My Summer Vacation Was a Total Failure – and Why it Really Wasn’t
New Adventures in Web Design