Typically designers are optimistic, positive thought is valuable for problem solving in the face of the challenges and the uncertainty that come with all new design projects.
But just like love and fear are the two most powerful driving forces in life, so optimism can be complemented by pessimism and both be equally useful perspectives to a designer.
Being a nervous designer helps as much as being a confident one, its all a matter of balance.
Just like an extreme athlete enjoys fear in the anticipation and the joy from the accomplishment, a designer can also thrive in pessimistic perspective and the optimism that comes from finding a design solution.
I admit that I can be critical, sometimes unbearably, mostly obsessively. Design is rarely good enough for me, especially my own and there’s always a detail that can be improved on. But more than anything my critical perspective is a motivational force. I think that if I weren’t so dissatisfied I probably wouldn’t be as passionate and driven to design, to find solutions and make improvements.
Maybe dissatisfaction is simply the trait of a perfectionist.
Recently I came across an interesting paper titled “The Value of Stimulated Dissatisfaction” by Nicholas Spencer and Kevin Hilton of Northumbria University. It also claims that dissatisfied designers can be more driven and focused. That amplifying, or stimulating dissatisfaction can be used as tool for greater awareness, to combat creative fatigue and habitualization, to keep striving with competitive urgency. And that some experienced designers intentionally distort their reality to become more dissatisfied and more competitive.
In human years the young profession we call design is experiencing its awkward teenage stage, redefining what is important and it’s place in the greater world.
With increasing world population, new opportunities in global distribution, developments in technologies, there has never been greater design potential, but also greater social and environmental consequences of design. Today’s Designers have a lot to think about and the classic, romantic/artistic design approach is longer enough. Designers must now be able to think holistically and are arguably on their way to becoming the philosophers of the 21st century.
But with increasing design challenges, comes increased uncertainty and the designer must manage his emotional state when faced with an increasingly complex creative process, short timelines and the critique that comes with every project. Going forward, designers will need not only more and greater abilities, but more optimism and also more dissatisfaction.
“An ideal-type designer would be one that has developed tactics and gambits to help manage the effect that strong and/or sustained levels of anxiety have upon their practice of design while maximizing their motivational benefits positively.” – Spencer and Hilton
Of course like any tool that doesn’t mean that dissatisfaction will always be used positively, nor that a dissatisfied designer is a better designer and the same goes for optimism. But the next time you work with an overly critical designer consider it a positive trait and use it to your advantage, because behind their dissatisfaction you might find a greater passion and commitment to the project at hand.
“I’m not saying it’s a good quality to have, but my observation is that good designers are never happy, they’re never satisfied, never content” – Adrian Stokes
So if you’re looking for wind in your creative sails, try becoming more dissatisfied.
“Dissatisfaction is therefore argued to be an integral part of motivation for change and motivation to design.” – Spencer and Hilton
And when you start your next design project and are searching for inspiration, ask yourself if you’re feeling dissatisfied enough?