Nothing is free. That’s been my mantra for as long as I can remember. If you want something you have to work for it. And that goes for great design as well. We designers don’t just sit around thinking up great ideas and execute them. First we come up with some really terrible ideas. Eventually we come up with a terrible idea that has a kernel of goodness in it. Then we take that kernel of goodness and try to expand on it with yet more terrible ideas until eventually that kernel of goodness turns into maybe two or three kernels and becomes a seemingly good idea. We then try to execute the seemingly good idea and find out that it was a bad idea after all and we get dejected and think up some more bad ideas. After we’ve finally exhausted all of the bad ideas, we are standing in the shower one morning feeling hopeless and the right good idea pops into our head. From nowhere, right? Not really.
I know I personalized a bit here, and maybe design doesn’t happen for everyone this way, but it certainly does for me. And it doesn’t matter whether I’m designing a space or trying to solve a problem with my children or writing an essay. It always happens the same way. With perseverance and constant movement followed by quiet. I take the problem and turn it over and over until I’ve looked at it from every angle and tried to solve it, then I go take a shower. Or a yoga class. Or a walk. And my brain settles a bit, the noise quiets down, and the right solution floats to the surface. I don’t seem to be the only one to think this way either. Try a google search on ‘bad ideas’ and you’ll be surprised by the response. Even Scott Belsky, the creative genius behind Behance and author of ‘Making Ideas Happen’, and the man who teaches creatives how to execute, agrees that good ideas require the generation of many ideas (and by extension presumably many bad ideas).
The key is perseverance. I had the awesome good luck to attend a small gathering at Coi a couple of weeks ago and Daniel Patterson spoke about the cookbook he just published. (We also got to taste his food which was an awesome bonus.) Someone asked Daniel if he ever made a dish that didn’t work and he chuckled. Apparently this incredibly successful and well respected chef has some very bad ideas too.
So my advice (as if you asked for it) is, embrace your bad ideas. Bad ideas are an important part of the process. When I write, the first 30 minutes are throwaway. But if I don’t do those first 30 minutes I’ll never get to the real writing. If I don’t come up with bad ideas, I’ll never get to the good ones.