‘Lean’ (re: Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup) is a notable buzzword these days, perhaps inspired by our recession and everyone’s obsession with trimming fat, getting rid of waste, stop resting on your laurels, that’s-what-got-us-into-this-mess-in-the-first-place mentality. I recently mentioned Lean UX to someone and they perked up: “What can you tell me about that?”
I can tell you that I owe my career as a graphics-visual-ui-ux-whatever-you-feel-like-calling-it-guy to this methodology, if you even can call it a methodology. I was lean before it was a trend - and I’m not just referring to my BMI. I’ve held graphic design positions (regardless of what the actual titles were) at all kinds of organizations huge and small for decades, yet I still have a hard time referring to myself as a graphic designer. My late father was one of the few real graphic designers I’ve ever known. I should be so lucky to have but a fraction of his raw talent. At least, I am assuming he had raw talent, although he did actually go to school for it. Nevertheless, I can hold my own. The fact that I know the de facto software inside and out may help, though that should be expected of anyone in this field. However, when it comes time for a design meeting, no one cares about what software you use or how clever you are while using it. It’s all about the product.
The idea is simply to get something in front of the stakeholders as early as possible. This is the product. It will be, by definition, imperfect, raw, and in need of revision. Unless you work in a vacuum, this has to happen. Ideally, there will be a few (three is a great number, never less than three) versions to review. Listen to the comments. Absorb all input. Get over yourself.
Keep iterating. Incorporate suggestions, revisions, diatribes, everything is fair game. Do not stop iterating until the product is shipped, printed, published, posted, tweeted, and of course, Pintstagrammed. After that, keep iterating, unless it’s a one-off project, in which case iterating means using all this knowledge thus far to help streamline future projects and meetings with this cast of characters who have entrusted you with their naked souls.
Whenever possible, draw.
This falls under the “I should take my own advice” category, as my own manual drawing has taken a back seat to the computerized variety for far too many years. Why draw? If a picture is worth a thousand words, a lousy picture could become a cacophony of insults. Without a doubt, this is why most people refuse to draw in the first place. Again, get over yourself. I’ve been told that I can, in fact, draw. We all can. We can all make pictures using whatever tools happen to be around. I developed whatever abilities I have over time, with practice. Pictures are far more efficient than words, and drawing by hand can still be far more efficient than using a device. There are finally some electronic tools these days which can replace pen(cil) and paper, but they cost a lot more money. Until tablets are everywhere, lo-tech can prevail.
After all this reading, I’m feeling like going back to the drawing board. That’s right, I said it. Enough with the overengineering already. Time to put pen or pencil or marker or blood to paper. Kill some trees - as long as the paper’s recycled. Maybe notes from my next design meeting will have no words at all. Maybe there won’t even be wifi. Back to basics, keep it simple, return to the roots. Feel free to insert some Buddhist-sounding cliché here.