Working Through Difficult Projects & Pushing Yourself

Swimming duckling“Be like a duck. Calm and collected above the water, but paddling like hell under the surface.” This means that on the outside you’re doing great, but on the inside you’re scrambling to get things to work and come together.

I love what I do, but there are days that are a lot more stressful and stormy than others. You’ll find this in any job, but it’s these days that you really see what you’re made of. Your knowledge, emotional reserves, and problem solving skills are tested to their breaking point, but when you come out on the other side you will have grown in leaps and bounds towards becoming a better designer.

These are the days that you stay late to get a little more done, and come in early the next day. This, by the way, was my whole month of December 2012; intense days full of stress and pressure to get the jobs done right and out the door.

These are the days where all you seem to do is hit your head against the proverbial wall, stuck in the mud with no idea how to proceed. I had this while working on a web project last summer through early fall. This website was built in an open-source program I had never used before, and created by developers whose code I had a hard time deciphering. I’ve built a lot of websites and done some pretty cool programming work, but nothing like this before. Thankfully, the programmer(s) who I got this project from already built the framework and a lot of the functionality.

Besides digging through multiple folders and even more lines of code, here are a few of the outlets I used to get answers to many of my questions and dead ends:

  • Fellow team members: They’ve probably been where you are right now; ask them if they have any insight. Learn from those who have been around the block a time or two; they have a wealth of knowledge. Ask them even if they aren’t designers / programmers; you’d be surprised what creative solutions and workarounds you might get.
  • Online tutorials: These can be either free or paid tutorials. One place to look for free tutorials is on YouTube. I’ve stumbled upon some really good options there. A good tutorial website is; they have tutorials on subjects from Dreamweaver to Perl and PowerPoint to Photoshop.
  • Online forums: They’re great resources for searching and asking questions to find answers and solutions. One of the many great things about the internet, is that there are millions of people out there at all times of the day and night, that have answers and solutions to pretty much ANY question you may have.

After a lot of trial and error, patience, perseverance, and late nights, the website was finally finished and launched. I was so happy to have that project off my desk.

It’s days and weeks like these that your character and resolve are tested. Yes, you may make mistakes along the way, but how else do you learn? The mistakes stretch you and not only make you a stronger person, but a better designer. Don’t be afraid to be wrong, to try something new, and to not know how something works. Some of the things I know are because I have taken something apart to see how it works. Be adventurous in your design. You never know what you will end up with.

Ultimately, it’s up to you to come out victorious or crash and burn. And don’t worry, we’ve all been there, you’re not alone. If you have questions on a design or website, shoot me an e-mail at I’ll do my best to answer your question or to point you in the right direction.