Maybe? Try That Again

I have one important piece of advice when I teach our authors to take photos, junior editors to design book pages or students to design chairs. Here it is: Never trust your first instinct. Force yourself to take another photo from a different angle. Make an alternative page layout. Try a different arrangement of sticks.

Sometimes my first instinct is correct. But (for me, at least) I’m batting .500 with my first instincts. So I know that if I make a second attempt at something, then about half the time I will make that thing better.

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Here’s a real-world example from earlier in the week. I’m working on a new stick chair design that has seven back sticks and three short sticks under each arm. After working out the spacing and splay of the long back sticks, I began playing around with the short sticks.

I do this with bamboo skewers and sticky putty. You know, the stuff you used to hang the “Daisy Duke” poster over your bed.

The position and angle of the short sticks changes the way the chair looks. It can look formal. It can look like it’s about to pounce on a victim. Or that the sitter is in a Maxell cassette commercial.

I worked out one arrangement that I liked on one side of the chair. Then I forced myself to make a second arrangement on the other side of the chair.

After that, I walked away for a bit to do something else pressing. I always do this if I have the time. It’s ideal to walk into a room and “encounter” the two designs after a break. That usually gives me my answer. 

Sometimes, however, the best design is obvious, and I plow forward at full speed.

I’ll leave you to decide which of these two designs you like better.

— Christopher Schwarz


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