Beware design fatigue on long projects Jason 04 Oct 2006

21 comments Latest by Dave Rau

The longer the project the greater the chance you’ll look at something great and say “ugh, this sucks… I’m sick of this already.” Been there? We have.

It’s a challenge to remember that what may be old and tired to you will actually be brand new to the outside world when you finally release your product.

One technique we’ve been using is to stay away from screens we’re really happy with. Just put them away. Check ‘em out again just a bit before launch. That way there’s no time to get sick of them. No time to change something that doesn’t need change.

Remember, there’s always time for change later. Premature change can be a problem. Once you’re really happy with something just stay away from it. Shift your focus to other things that need your attention.

21 comments so far (Jump to latest)

Chris Shepherd 04 Oct 06


I often find that when I’m designing something. I will just keep making minor tweaks to perfect a design, and the more I go on to make it better, I suddenly realise that I don’t like the design in the first place because I’ve got bored of the sight of it!

Noah Winecoff 04 Oct 06

Bravo! Great post…its good to see this problem put into words.

Brad Madigan 04 Oct 06

I find that I’m getting more tired of a design much sooner than later. It usually would take weeks or months, but now I’m tired of the design within days. Not for all projects mind you, but most it seems.

The problem may be that its because I’m not a designer, but I play one at work. Maybe if I hired a ‘real’ desginer, that my ‘getting fatigue’ problem would disappear. Who knows.

Great idea though Jason!

Nathaniel 04 Oct 06

Best. Tip. Ever.

Keith 04 Oct 06

Damn that’s good advice.

Erik 04 Oct 06

Speaking of which, how is Sunrise coming along? Inquiring minds want to know.

Erik 04 Oct 06

Speaking of which, how is Sunrise coming along? Inquiring minds want to know.

JF 04 Oct 06

Speaking of which, how is Sunrise coming along? Inquiring minds want to know.

Until we proactively say something about Sunrise there is no news to share.

Ken 05 Oct 06

Oh, god, I’ve been so stuck in a rut just like this, i’ve redesigned my blog 3 times now, and I’m on the 4th revision as of late, just because by the time I’m done with the code and its ready to go, I hate it.

Such a great idea, just put it away. My only objection is that I find I cannot put it away, because I’m constantly having to browser check it and code it etc etc, so I see the layout all day long, every day until its pixel perfect in all the browsers I can handle, BUT by then, I’m so sick of the site I can’t even look at it anymore.

So my question is, what do you must look at the site all day long and cannot put it away due to coding the layout? The layout’s code is definitely something you can’t put off, atleast not for long, and sometimes those bouts of coding can take weeks. Any thoughts?

All in all an awesome article.

Umesh 05 Oct 06

I have done this. After creating screens which I’m happy with, I keep away from them for a long time inorder not to get bored of it make changes.

When I read your blog and the book Getting Real, I just understood that I have company :-)

Nice work. You people are real inspiration for us

John Topley 05 Oct 06

Great post that would have been even better if you’d have expanded a little bit on the “Been there? We have.” part.

Kevin Navia 05 Oct 06

Nailed it right there!

Nice to know that I’m not alone. I, most likely, go start working on a new project that refreshes my mind, then come back to it later in the day/night.

Mathias 05 Oct 06

If you get bored so fast with your design, how about your visitors?

psibay 05 Oct 06

True. Yeah were not alone! I guess all Designers get bored with their design for about a week even it’s cool in the first day. That’s we i just want it done right away so don’t get the bored effect so soon.

Sinker 05 Oct 06

I’ve found that I actually get nervous when I DON’T hate something by the time I’m done. It usually means that the idea hasn’t really worked its way all the way through and then, looking back on the piece later, it looks unfinished.

The magazine that we work on, by the time we go to press NOBODY feels very confident that the thing is anything more than terrible.

Thankfully, when it comes back from the printer we totally fall in love with the thing again.

That’s just the nature of design, or of any work that you take seriously, you’ve got to hate it to let it go.

Tim B 05 Oct 06

Glad to know I’m not alone … :-)

Alex Bunardzic 05 Oct 06

I rearely find myself disagreeing with Jason, but this time I’m of the exact opposite opinion.

I tend to force myself to keep staring at my design while building a web site. The reason is that only a design that can withstand weeks and months of intense staring is qualified to be pushed on the users.

The novelty always wears thin rather quickly. Your customers will be expected to stare at your design for months (think Basecamp). It must, therefore, be somewhat bland and non-exciting. Or, non-intrusive. And I think you did a pretty decent job with Basecamp.

But if you purposefully avoid experiencing the long hours in front of your product, how are you going to know if your design is abrasive or not?

Lance Shields 05 Oct 06

One idea to keep fresh is to take on a mini project that has a different design approach. I’ve found this to work as long as the other project is manageable and doesn’t interrupt the other work. It can also be a personal or non-profit project. The key is work needs to be interesting so that your design is too.

Josh Santangelo 06 Oct 06

…but 37s doesn’t have long projects, right?

Dave Rau 06 Oct 06

Lance hit on something interesting: variety. I find when I get tired of design I’ll jump onto a bit of PHP, do some MySQL stuff, or maybe edit and refine some content. Having a variety of small things to work on is a nice change of scenery when you’re feeling stale.

And when I get bored of all of it I go make art. I use it like my Google 20% rule; except it’s my 120%, but that’s OK i guess… as long as it’s mine. Having control over the entire piece is a lot more liberating than just variety alone.