While working on a logo project recently I’ve begun to notice a distinction between two somewhat risky methods of working toward a concept. A lot of the time I will research, sketch and ponder for days before I ever approach the computer and begin to execute a design. Sometimes I even wait until the last possible moment before something is due. This can be somewhat risky if all the sketching and thinking doesn’t point toward a solid solution. But, more often than not, it works. It sometimes feels odd that it works at all—that a last-minute tweak can actually become a final logo is surprising at times—and it can often feel like luck. But it’s not luck at all—it’s experience. Experience and effort, even though the effort is difficult to quantify because so much of it floats around in my head. I like to call this method dialing it in because it feels like concentrating a large swath of thinking down toward a final concept before finishing it off with a quick execution.
Another method I’ve identified is called phoning it in where you, again, wait until the last minute to execute, but this time you are relying on your wits—without the benefit of research, sketching, and thinking. That aha moment in the shower never has a chance to surface because you haven’t given yourself the time to formulate anything close to a concept. This method really does require a lot of luck and it typically falls flat. We’ve all been there: too busy, short deadlines, no time for a creative brief, no time to think. We’re left to phone in the concept and cross our fingers. (See also: pulling it out of your ass.)
I won’t lie, I’ve phoned in a few designs and they have ended up working. But that’s the rare exception. Dialing it in works because even though you are cutting things close—you are setting the stage for success. So dial it in if you have to, but phone it in at your peril.