Better design, the French way

When you go to Paris, you have to make an effort to speak French.

You can get away with speaking English, sure. Out of necessity, the French service industry will accommodate you. But Marcel the Waiter and Jules the Store Clerk will make no effort to hide their disgust.

If you make an effort, though, things are different. You will be treated okay. You may get a smirk. But you’ll also gain a bit of respect.

They will understand: you are trying. You are not asking for a handout. On the contrary: by refusing to burden your hosts, you provide an opportunity for improvement instead of a stubborn refusal to adapt.

Bring It Home, Son

Three years ago, I wanted to redesign my blog. Without a real lick of design talent, I hinted and hoped someone would help me. And by “help,” I meant “take on this sorry project as a favor.”

It didn’t work.

It didn’t work because I hadn’t made any effort on my end. Like some American on vacation in Paris, I had barged my way in and asked for things my way.

Recognizing this, I went to work on my own.

Three years later, after hacking together a design and scrapping a design and hacking together three more designs and scrapping three more designs and, finally, developing something I felt matched the personality and future of this blog, I had a finished product.

It wasn’t a very good finished product. But it had promise.

Only THEN did I begin asking for help.

The Moral of the Story

The process has been a valuable lesson in knowing my own limits and understanding when I can approach others.

I was lucky to receive advice from three very talented designers. Advice turned into updated mocks, unsolicited elements and some very fun ideas. The final site design is not only influenced by these changes and suggestions, but also serves as collaboration between my initial design and the minds of a greater design community.

Major thanks go out to Karla, Mike and Stefan. Even major-er thanks go to Kerrie, whose patience during this process was pretty impressive. I not only appreciate the help, but I understand the process better than ever.

In the end, all it took was a devotion to learning a little French. With help from some great people, I was able to carry on a conversation.

This was lovingly handwritten on April 4th, 2011