I frequently become emotionally connected to my work as I’m crafting it, a practice I’m trying to eliminate. It’s actually quite amazing how I see myself in my work, and when I don’t like something I’ve done I violently discard it. And yet, when it’s something I’m happy with, I nurture it, I envision how it will grow, and how others will of course compliment it. To this I say:
Don’t become emotionally invested in your design until the people who use it do.
— Jesse Friedman (@professor) February 26, 2015
When we start a new project we often work with it one on one, at least in its infancy. Even if you’re working with a team your piece of the puzzle is most likely yours and yours alone.
It’s not until we have matured our wireframe, design, pull request, documentation or chunk of code that we feel comfortable sharing it. It is at this junction you have a choice to release your emotional connection with your work, or risk being bound to it.
One thing I’ve grown accustomed to, is sharing my work with my team (we’re hiring by the way) as soon as possible. The earlier I start getting critical feedback, the faster I can iterate, and the less likely I am to have fallen in love with what I’ve built.
Spending too much time alone with your work may result in a bond that makes it hard to be objective. At that point critical feedback can result in defensive maneuvering rather than logical debates. Fresh and new ideas that have been forked from my own can be seen as an imposter trying to one up my own work. User testing can be clouded by questions that lead rather than uncover. It goes on and on.
Not to be confused with designing for or with emotion
You should bring joy to people through thoughtful design! But, you can’t without empathy, and even then you shouldn’t become overly attached to your work until you know the value it brings. You shouldn’t eliminate emotion from your work, just be aware of your emotional connection to it.
Only after others have had the opportunity to interact with and love your work should you do the same. At that point you become an advocate for the people who use your products, rather than an advocate for your design.
Have you ever experienced an emotional connection to your work that has clouded your judgement?
Jesse Friedman has been building websites for 20 years, and exclusively with WordPress since 2006. Jesse has written several books, taught 100’s of students as a professor, and organized dozens of local meetups along with a few WordCamps.
Jesse has spoken at tech conferences around the world including SXSW, HOW, Future events and many more; and has consulted for a wide array of companies from small agencies to multi-billion dollar international companies.