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"File, New..."

10-26-11 Andy Rossi

Andy explains the value in starting over with a blank slate.

Not every idea is a winner. This is especially true for your first go-round. A blank canvas can be both a powerful and daunting thing to look at. On one hand, staring at the great white void of a new document can be overwhelming. It’s very high pressure if you have no idea where to start. On the other hand, the blank canvas can be your best friend.

Nth Time’s the Charm

Now that you scored on that first design, it’s time to forget about it. Close the window. Go ahead… While it may be a good solution, this first design is only a stepping stone to the next one. An idea solidifies over several iterations. Small individual parts of an idea come together over time; therefore, your current solution is not quite ready for primetime, even if you think it is.

Yes, it is difficult to just scrap the first attempt. You may feel like a massive amount of time has been wasted creating it just to let it go. Worry not! Many things have been learned from that first design. The second design will go much faster with some of the problems already solved.

This principle doesn’t only apply to design. The written word can only get better time after time. Write a paragraph, delete it, write it again. The thought has already been written. The ingredients are there. Now find a more efficient and succinct way of saying the same thing.

Do photographers take a single photo then move on? No, they work with different lighting, swap lenses, change locations, and adjust the exposure. That perfect shot is eventually captured after several changes and adjustments. Design should take the same steps to show more and more polish.

“File, New…” takes a different meaning when it comes to writing code. Instead of deleting blocks and rewriting them, it’s a good idea to investigate alternate solutions to the same problem. For example, does it make sense to control animation of a UI element with JavaScript or CSS? Have you actually tried both? “File, New…” doesn’t automatically take you to your destination, but it does drive you to try different ways of getting there.

Getting Closer to Perfection

“Rossi’s Law” is defined as this: The quality of a solution is exponentially increased by the amount of times “File, New…” is invoked. Don’t go overboard, though. There is no need to endlessly uncover and destroy a solution. Even if only two solutions are created, know that the latter option is the more polished one.

The point is to never settle on a design right out of the gate. Take the time to perfect ideas and their execution over several iterations. “File, New…” can only make your solutions that much stronger.

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