I've had my head down and my shoulder to the grindstone the past few weeks. Yesterday at a friend's urging I snuck out at 4:30 for a walk. Afterwards I rushed off to pick up a few things at the grocery store. After I grabbed my half gallon of milk I turned to cross the store for bread. As I did, I stopped in my tracks. There in a free-standing display were bottles of Sanavi Spring Water.
Two thoughts immediately occurred to me. The first, "Hey! I designed that." The second, "Wow. The bottle really pops on the shelf."
It never gets old seeing work you've produced "in the wild." And this was no exception. I had never seen this project. I knew the labeling was fast tracked at the plant but I wouldn't have guessed that they could get it onto the bottles and onto the shelves of my neighborhood store quite so quickly.
That second thought—that the bottle really popped on the shelf was a hard-earned victory. I'll be honest, I don't really like this label very much. There were other designs that felt fresher to me. At this point I haven't had much distance from the process and my opinion is certainly colored by the fact that the project went on for a long time and I couldn't quite get on board with some of the client's objectives.
Clearly I don't have to agree with the client. And while I may not find the label to be beautiful, it is serviceable. That response in the grocery store was proof. The client was looking for a bottle that would stand out. And that chunky drop does just that—it interrupts the moment and demands attention.
Designers and artists spend a lot of time developing their eye. We look at the world around us trying to figure out what we see so that we can in turn use them in our own work. This constant looking and thinking about what we are seeing is a double edged sword. It makes us attuned to the world but it dulls us to the project at hand. We look at it, look at it, look at it until we can't really see it any more. We lose perspective.
I often forget to do this for myself but I always suggest to clients that when they can't make a choice between a handful of concepts that they need to create a way to surprise themselves with the work. I recommend taking the physical designs and hanging them on a wall somewhere. Not in your office or a place where you spend a lot of time—but say in the hallway or the bathroom. Somewhere you will stumble upon them and see them with fresh eyes. That out-of-context-viewing provides strong answers about your gut response to a design. Last night did just that for me.
I was the typical slightly harried mom running to the busy grocery store at dinner time. I ended up walking out the door with a couple of bottles of spring water that I hadn't planned on buying.
Design isn't only about creating pretty things. Design is about solving problems. It is good to remind ourselves.