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The Unseen Revisions

15 February 2013

In the relatively brief time I’ve spent learning to design and develop, I’ve learnt a great amount but the most scary and humbling thing I’ve learnt is what I still have left to learn. It seems to be a rabbit hole of knowledge and understanding. Constantly feeling stupid whilst looking at what others are producing and achieving both drives and grounds me.

The key thing that struck me very recently, and subsequently sparked me into putting these thoughts down, was that we constantly see results. Results of people’s hard work, obsessive iterations and revisions. We see the popular page on Dribbble, 12 highly perfected designs, we see the Backbone source on GitHub. We see the end of a person’s journey. The very gleaming, shiny version of their hard work, frustration and pain.

Something that Jonathan Ive said has always stuck with me, from this video Objectified he says that (not a direct quote) the light on the side of the Macbook (to indicate that it’s sleeping), which slowly “breathes” by getting lighter and darking continuously, this feature took the engineers and industrial designers months and months to perfect, yet made it so that customers couldn’t see the months of deliberation and frustration, they wanted it that way. Design should feel effortless to the user. However, this is all well and good, but to someone else, ie. another developer or designer, it causes the bar to be continually raised and standards set higher. What do I do when I look at great design or amazing code; 20% admire it and 80% feel daunted by it. However the whole point of this post is that we have to remember that we don’t see the hours, days, months of crap iterations and awful revisions that people go through the reach their Nirvana.

The next time you open up the popular page on Dribbble or browse the Underscore library or jQuery source, just think of the crazy amount they would have changed since their first iteration. In fact, more transparency would be very beneficial to everyone, ie. to see the starting point of a project. I would personally pay to see the first line of code that John Resig wrote for the jQuery library.

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