By Karen and Khadija

Lately at EDIT, we’ve become increasingly aware of how the illusion of perfection, particularly on social media, is having a negative impact on young designers – manifesting itself in a crippling fear of getting things wrong and a lack of confidence to try.

Being guilty of only sharing our greatest and shiniest of work on our social accounts, we were excited to return to Preston uni this week to put this right. Joining an incredible line up of agencies and designers from around the world at UCLAN Conference Week 11 to ponder the theme of ‘Close But No Cigar’ and share some of our less proud moments of our story so far.

Probably one of our most open, honest and therefore nerve-wracking student talks to date, we really put ourselves out there (in matching Loser hoodies) to share some of the ups and downs of our five years so far. Trying (a lot), failing (a lot), losing (a lot) but thankfully learning (a lot).

We hope sharing our vulnerable side and facing up to some of our own personal short-comings helped the students to understand that the design process is a messy one and failing is a vital part of improving and moving forward in the design world. We’ve all been there and even those of us who are twenty years down the line are still a long way from perfect.

However much we hate losing (Khadija being a particularly bad loser), we know that all the losses and failures that we’ve experienced to date have just made us more determined to learn and move on and not make the same mistakes twice.

Here are a few take aways from our talk:

Dare to try
Pretty obvious. But the biggest reason ideas fail is they never find their way out of the sketchbook. Fear of sharing and saying something ‘stupid’, especially in front of your colleagues and peers (particularly when starting out in the industry) can be terrifying. But you have to try. Just face your fear and be prepared that your idea may get shot down, laughed at or politely brushed over. But maybe, just maybe, it will be the killer idea that everyone’s been waiting for. One thing is for sure, it’s much more likely to be the latter if you get the idea out of your head and into the real world.

Fail. But fast.
Exploration and experimentation is a critical part of the design process. Mistakes are often where the magic happens. The place where those ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ ideas happen and a place where doing things wrong, leads you to figuring out what’s right. So make room for it in your process, do it early, and if you can, involve your client along the way. Don’t just assume clients want to see the perfect, finished idea. To most clients, working with designers is the fun part of their day, so don’t keep it all to yourself, let the whole team in, and discuss, debate and distill ideas together. Doing this early in the process allows you to short cut the hours/days/weeks that can be wasted on working up ideas that are never going to cut it. And making the mistakes sooner, means the failure points are weeded out long before they become costly for you or your clients.

There’s no bigger idea killer than ‘all talk no action’. Mistakes we can handle. But excuses are a different matter. That’s why JFDI has become our unofficial studio motto. If you have a great idea and you believe in it, then it’s your responsibility to make it happen and see it through. If you don’t know the answer, ask. If you need help, shout. If you don’t know how to do something, find someone who can. And if you do make a mistake along the way, put your hands up, own it and the whole team will have your back. But just flippin’ get on with it. No excuses.

Thanks for having us UCLAN.
Here’s to many more happy mistakes.