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Lessons in Iteration from a Sick SIC

I had the wonderful opportunity to visit the 2018 Seattle Interactive Conference (SIC) recently. It’s a two-day, chock-full schedule of workshops about technology and creativity. The topics were overwhelmingly broad and plentiful. From content storytelling to new and evolving technologies in the digital world to deep dives into Google Analytics. The list of presenters was amazing, too. I got to listen to Moz cofounder Rand Fishkin say its name out loud, which is something I’ve always wanted to know … is it pronounced like “nose” or like “paws?” It’s the latter. I (and you) can now rest easy.

One of the classes that made a big impact on me was called, “Quit Fetishizing Finished Products & Learn to Love an Iterative Design Practice: The 100-Day Project & Making-as-Thinking,” presented by Benjamin Shown, creative director at Blink.

The 100-Day Project isn’t exactly a new concept. It’s a social phenomenon with its own hashtags and online communities. The idea behind the challenge isn’t to learn a new software or skill, but to repeat a creative task again and again and again, improving along the way and learning something new with each slightly different result. This process is called iteration.

For example, Shown decided that he was going to create a new design in Adobe Illustrator each day for 100 days. During the challenge, it’s important to make rules for your creative task. He decided all his designs would be geometric in style; would use only black, white, and pink; and would be square (they’re more Instagrammable that way).

Sharing your 100-day creative journey on social media adds a layer of accountability and hearing how others respond to your work can be a great motivator in itself. And who knows, putting your creative process out there could pay off in other ways. A Seattle-based band loved Shown’s 100-day designs so much they partnered with him to create tour posters and a stage backdrop inspired by his black, white, and pink creations.

The real point of Shown’s talk was to remind us that iteration is a vital process to improve the quality and function of design. But he cautioned that it’s most beneficial not during creative execution – where we’d be most likely to iterate – but during the early discovery and concepting phases.

I left his lecture committed to rethinking the design process, especially where to focus my efforts when it comes to iteration. I’m planning to start my own 100-Day Project on January 1. It will be tough with my busy schedule, but I’m looking forward to strengthening my creative muscle.

It was amazing to be around so many peers that share a passion for what we do. I’ll admit: I was geeked out of my mind for 48 hours and I’m still living off the energy. But that’s ok, because sometimes we all need to let ourselves geek out and be “sick” about something.

Jess Ward | Nov 16, 2018