A Mindful Approach to Design:How I Deal with Disappointment

I started my day off by walking my dog and enjoying a few deep breaths of the crisp winter morning air. While going through my to do list in my head, a thought struck me – the thing that brings the most disappointment in my work as a designer is the attachment to certain ideas. This made me take a step back and analyze my whole design process to figure out where frustration comes from.



Where exactly in the course of receiving a brief, researching, sketching, creating, presenting a proposal and getting feedback do I end up feeling irritated or dissatisfied?



I see design as a means to find solutions to problems, not as a way to bedazzle or impress clients so that I boost my own ego. It all starts with connecting with the client and trying to understand as well as I can what they need. I know my work is supposed to help them, to offer them long-term, sustainable solutions and this alone brings me a great deal of satisfaction.


However, no matter how smooth the process goes, there comes a point when I find myself biased towards an idea and start anticipating that yes, this will be the one. But so many times, it is not. Many times I have to go back to the drawing board and leave that idea behind, because the client decided to go in a different direction. And this is the moment when disappointment hits. This is the moment when ego takes over the rational mind and I forget how this whole process started.


Over time, I found that applying the Buddhist concept of detachment to the way I deal with my work and feedback has proved to be very helpful. While in Buddhism detachment means freedom from desire and cravings, I believe practicing detachment towards my work can be done by accepting the ephemerality of an iteration. Finding the right idea usually means going through a lot of versions of it and letting go of the ones that don’t make the cut. A piece of design is only valuable if it fulfills its purpose on all ends of the process.


Developing this kind of distance towards my work helps me avoid feeling down when a proposal gets rejected and brings me a sense of clarity in the long run. It also helps me keep an open mind when it comes to listening to other people’s opinions. Being very attached to an idea can lead to a lack of empathy when people share their feedback, especially when it comes to negative feedback.


At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of perception. Changing one’s perception towards the iterations that they produce along the process of designing something and learning when to take a step back can go a long mile. Looking at iterations as mere parts of a bigger process brought me some much-needed clarity. It helped me avoid unnecessary frustration and laid the groundwork for making the right choice.



Illustration by Andrada Haș