Three Pictures

Every Designer should concern themselves with the size of pictures. There are exactly three and I’m going to label them small, medium, and large. Some people may call the last one the big picture. It doesn’t matter what you name them, just know there are exactly three.

What’s in those pictures?

The small picture; the size of the counters in the character ‘O,’ how tall the x-height is, how to use grids and when to use which ones, how content falls across columns, or how certain colours affect a user’s mood and psychology.

The medium picture; what’s the goal of this project? what are the project’s constraints? am I hitting the objectives? can I prove success? is the team launching anything? when are we launching? what am I responsible for?

The big picture; what is the company doing? why does this matter? is this moving at a pace that makes sense? what am I missing? how does this project fit into the company’s growth?

The problem with only one picture

There are many Designers who are only good at noticing what is in one picture, and it’s typically the small one. This is not a good place for you to be in long-term. I wouldn’t hesitate to say that staying in that area for any period of time beyond three years means you’ll have to be specializing as a visual artist or some other thing that isn’t a Product Designer.

There comes a time when too much fussing about one pixel being off comes at the detriment of missing a deadline, blocking your coworkers and being the visual equivalent of pedantic. Make a decision. It’s going to be okay: on the web you can reverse most decisions.

But, what about the childrenquality?

Design is at the intersection of a lot of fields which makes it difficult to approach it with one philosophical perspective. It is very pleasant to think about a woodworker who spends an extra five hours carving a detail into a table leg that maybe most people won’t notice. We’re not woodworkers though. We are one piece of a team which depends on us to solve a problem within a certain timeframe.

The speed at which a Designer works has implications and given the speed of how the industry moves we can’t afford to waste time producing little value. Keeping an eye on the bigger pictures will make the decisions about the smaller pictures easier to make.

Every problem has exactly three pictures. Identify all of them.

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