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Confessions of an obsessive compulsive in the world of design

Confessions of an obsessive compulsive in the world of design

If you feel I’m not paying attention when I’m talking to you it’s probably because I’m studying the Cross-T pattern on your skirt. I do want to hear what you have to say, honest, but right now I’m fixating on the way your left sleeve is half a centimeter longer than the right. Or is it just the way you are leaning? I do wish you’d stand up straight and let me get my ruler out!


Yes, I’m OCD, but a few years back I decided to harness my affliction, put it to work for me rather than against me, and become a graphic designer.

It worked! Great design is about attention to detail and for me, no detail is too small. Every nthhhhhh of a millimeter affects the overall experience of the design.  I’m in my element. A great brochure, book cover, logo, packaging or retail space doesn’t  just happen. It’s a triumph of order over a chaotic world. Nothing I do is perfect of course, because let’s face it, to someone like me nothing ever is, but I’ll work on every project, fine-tuning the fine-tuning until my boss prizes my fingers off it and drags it away to show the client.

Since I “came out” I’ve discovered I’m not alone. All the great designers I know are relentless when it comes to alignment; they sweat over the smallest details and even though the client may be satisfied and impressed they can always point out things that need more work even when to everyone else the job is done.

Being an obsessive compulsive in the world of design remains both a blessing and a curse. I love it when my clients consider the outcome to be something beautiful, but getting there for me is stressful and full of self-doubt.

Perfectionism may not sound like a first-world problem, but it can suppress creativity. I’ve had to develop my own techniques to overcome its constraints and give myself elbow-room to elevate my solutions beyond unoriginal and literal translation. It seems to work.

There’s a big difference between order, simplicity, assembling, editing and the product of good design.  It’s about making the functional emotional, applying the fundamentals with imagination and inspiration. Things like perfect alignment and font size to logo ratio mean very little when there’s no imagination and creativity.  After all, isn’t the purpose of design to represent the ordinary through a lens that inspires?

A good designer knows where to strike the balance between seamless execution and creative application.  They are dedicated to create something that both needs no explanation and produces a smile for a person looking at it.

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