hammer design – a new look at excellence in graphic design

An obsession with detail is an obsession with excellence…

People seem to often associate a relentless pursuit of detail and excellence with perfectionism and there is a tendency to label graphic designers as obsessives. Sure I haven’t met many colleagues who won’t straighten your pictures on the wall, align the pens on a desk in a parallel fashion or study a restaurant menu for type errors before actually ordering but they generally mean well and probably haven’t even noticed they are doing it.

The questioning point of these notes is to express a few personal differences between seeking perfect, the pursuit of excellence and actually having a medical condition that may need treatment as an obsessive.

Firstly, lets deal with perfectionism. In my opinion this is not necessarily a good thing and may be indicative of a personality disorder and that an unhealthy pursuit of an impossible goal may suggest the pursuer has psychological stuff they may want to deal with. Alternatively, it is possible they may just believe in something with a misguided or religious type of faith and a simple break will allow the clouds to part and all be revealed.

Whatever the cause, perfectionism and creeping perfectionism the sub group of the principle disorder seems to be about the spending of ever increasing amounts of time on smaller and smaller matters of ever decreasing consequence to the project as a whole and while this lack of perspective may be amusing for outsiders and may even impress certain interested parties it is largely a very different thing to the pursuit of excellence.

After too many years of chasing business, doing what the client wants and biting my tongue… it is truly a grand thing to arrive at a slightly more senior age where I can do my own thing in my own way and what a surprise it is when the doors of truth open to reveal the real person you were underneath all the packaging after all the years.

The truth, it would seem is, whether this is inherited or acquired, that I am indeed a detail person nowadays. Whether this is a great strength or a great weakness is really for others to decide, but part of a designers personality it certainly seems to be and proud of it I am now young Jedis.

What this realisation brings is, the determination to do things thoroughly, to follow a process and make every step a project in its own right. The detail is everything, the completeness, the 360 degree examination of consequences, questioning and reasoning is a fulfilling reward in its own right.

The great thing is having the time to do this.

As a younger, responsible business owner with the time pressure of a huge payroll, needy clients and all the other distractions of an ambitious small business, there was never enough time, it was always glimpses of a strange land faraway or the occasional tease when you worked through a bank holiday to find some special free time, but now…

Excellence and totally in depth approaches to professional process, delivering work and customer satisfaction are delivering different some new and surprising work.

The pursuit of excellence is an Olympic ideal.

I recently did the BBC’s ‘are you an Olympian’ test. It turns out, quite nicely for my occasional poor self esteem issues, that I am.  Excellent.  The major features of becoming an Olympic athlete seem go way further than athletic prowess and the simple act of breaking a world record time.

The true Olympian, it is revelaled is as equally about the tenacity, the motivation, the goal, the competiveness, the routine stoicism and the now legendary Dave Brailsford ‘marginal gains’.

Graphic design, commercial design and the artistry of being the best designer you can be, are quite similarly about the complete and thorough approaches, revisions, insights, analysis and the uncompromising pursuit of excellence not perfectionism.

So, if you would like to rent my services and add a little something ‘special’ to your commercial offering. Just shout.

Si Homfray

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *