The Process for Great Design and the Mindset of a Great Designer

Hey there friends and followers,

Well, I’ve spent a bunch of time going over what some of my core beliefs are in terms of design (although we’ve yet to discuss thematics which will likely happen within the next few posts), but today I wanted to turn a little bit away from this. Today, I wanted to discuss the actual design process and what makes someone good at design.

When most people look at design, they think it’s just coming up with ideas. Aspiring designers think simply coming up with a cool new mechanic is all it takes to find success in the business – and while it’s important to be able to come up with ideas – that’s not what I would refer to as the core part of being a great designer. Being a great designer is really about being a great problem solver. A designer can come up with ideas, but most of those ideas are for making something better and improving it.

The design process really goes like this:
1) Designer comes up with a great idea.
2) Designer implements the idea.
3) Designer tests the idea and observes what the impact is.
4) Designer draws conclusions from those results.
5) Designer goes back to the drawing board, shoring up any issues, adjusting the idea where necessary, and then repeats.

That process is extraordinarily iterative, and it leads to some great work (you might recognize it as the scientific method). It brings together the ideas, but those ideas are primarily used in service of taking something and making it better – sometimes those ideas are great and fix the problem, but more often than not they don’t. Those misses, though, are essential. Every time the designer misses, they learn a little bit more about how that change impacts the game. Did the game speed up? Slow down? Did it fix the problem I was trying to get rid of? Was the game more enjoyable with that problem removed? Those questions and more are all extremely valuable to have answers to, and every single time one is answered the designer gets one step closer to finding a perfect solution to a problem.

In Pug Life, I ran into this process all the time. The toughest problem I had to solve throughout the game was figuring out a way to implement pug abilities, something I spent some time discussing in my previous post, Seamless Integration. I never would have gotten there, though, if I hadn’t come up with ideas again and again, then tried each of those ideas out and understanding the impact each of those changes had. At the end of the day, I think I finally got something that was fantastic, albeit terrible to start, because I was able to use this process and make my designs better and better.

To really excel with this process a designer needs to have a few qualities. They must be willing to accept feedback from others. They must recognize their work isn’t going to be perfect on the first go, or the second, or the third. They have to understand that the first iteration of something doesn’t need to be perfect – it just needs to be enough to learn more about the game and make connections to other pieces to make the game even stronger. There are truly no bad ideas when brainstorming, and even the craziest ideas can lead to some really neat solutions to problems. The more ideas you’re able to lay out, the better you’ll be able to find the right solution to your issue.

Design can seem so simple yet so difficult to people outside of it. However, anyone can be a great designer with the right mindset and the right tools at their disposal. Once you have that great idea, build on it. Give it a try and see where it takes you. Always follow the fun.

That’s all for today! To see an in-depth look into a lot of my design work and this process, go to my design documentation (another important part of making a great game). For those interested, leave a comment and tell me about a time you’ve solved a great problem! I love hearing innovative solutions to complex problems.

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