I’m on break. Inside in a fire temple, a gigantic stone door has just sealed me in a room with some monsters holding swords – really big swords. I need to destroy them in order to unlock it again – but what item should I use? Pause. Break over, back into studio mode. I’ve got a client brief for an animation that needs to communicate a message and be socially sticky – what’s my best approach?
Design can sometimes feel like a game. An overriding parallel between the creative process and the way we experience games can be found in the form of objectivity. You can’t progress or move forward without knowing what you’re doing. Striving to effectively evaluate your workflow or adventure sets up a collection of targets and player motivations. These intrinsic elements create a sense of progression for you to ultimately reach the extrinsic goal of mastery.
Scattered within these thinking spaces are smaller tasks that leave the answers discoverable. There have been a number of times when I’ve felt like design is just a series of simple logic puzzles with an interpretive solution waiting to be unlocked. Much like a game, there’s a click moment where it all comes together and you know what to do. It’s also a case of using the right tools, whether it be the polygonal marquee, magic wand or ice arrows.
On a grand scale, maybe it’s not just about what you are pursuing. It could be that you need to level up and learn some new skills within the creative overworld. With a little lateral thinking and a certain savoir-faire, that surprise mid-afternoon miniboss brief will be taken care of in no time.
Looking at your design life objectively is important too. Our hero may be at a stage where they don’t have a hookshot to lift themselves upward toward a new area. Could this be a designer dreaming of a change into motion graphics perhaps?
Experience points – whether they be a large numerical value in an inventory or key accolades bulleted on a cv – are something everyone has had to grind in order to ascertain a foundation of knowledge in their career. There are no shortcuts or cheats, just lots of hard work.
Blow the dust from your cartridge, continue your game save and work out where you need to go next. Later, when you receive an email with some kind words from a client (naturally), listen carefully for a small fanfare sound in your head, as if you’ve just discovered and unlocked a chest with a valuable item inside.