I was once involved in a big theatrical installation for a commercial brand in London. They'd overtaken and entire warehouse to showcase the reveal of their latest product.  

When you're involved in the making and production of these huge events, there's a lot to learn because you're dealing with real, phisical things. Usually, my role doesn't overflow into this stage of the design process, but I find that the combination of having the ability to visualise the real thing and seing it built, multiplies my understanding of so many other things.

In this case, amongst the other great things I learnt, one simple lesson stood out. As always I like to look at these lessons from many different points of views, so the lesson sticks. I learnt about the importance of dependencies.

Right in the middle of the building process, something went wrong, which created a knock on effect on the majority of the build. In theory nothing went wrong, but in reality it did. 

Two crucial elements of the design were misplaced by about a metre, which is big. The two elements had to be installed by to different contractors, who had to depend on each other to place the elements correctly. The first contractor regarded his element as not that important in the grand scheme of things, so he 'roughly' placed it and left the site. The second contractor had to depend on the first element in order place his element correctly. Of course if the first element is misplaced and is the point of reference for the second, the whole thing is wrong. 

This small error took us many painful hours to correct. So the moral of the lesson was, look out for the elements on which other elements depend on. In architecture, structural elements are often the main points of reference. I have heard many stories about deleted structural elements in the design process that lead to disasters.

Of course I can generalise on this point. Many things around us are pillars from which other things depend on, from design, to activities and even stories. So if in doubt, look for dependencies.


Repetition is the key...

 'Repetition is the key to success'.


This phrase is the standard explanation for anyone who wants to become an expert at anything. I noticed it again recently on a creativity blog. Only this time, it caught my attention as I began to cross examin it against what I do . As a 3D designer, I  digitally manipulate physical elements for a living. Putting together something that looks impressive in this very competitive field often requires an original approach. An approach that usually makes a difference between average and professional work. It doesn't seem like the phrase 'repetition is the key to success' applies here, because every project requires a new approach.


To get better at their craft, rappers don't rap the same songs over and over. They need to continually invent new raps. That's incredibly hard to do consistently. That's creative.


In my field for example, what generates expertise is deliberate practice. You simply cannot become an expert unless you put in the incredibly exhausting hours in, just to understand the intricacies of dealing with a large amount of variables (lighting, materials, form, colour,  texture, depth, composition etc...) all at the same time. What's more , these elements keep evolving. New materials emerge, new ways of lighting a room are created etc... As a result, most 3D designers give up in the effort to keep up with the cutting edge in their field. So you simply cannot repeat the same thing over and over again, especially in creative fields. However you do need a huge amount of deliberate practice.

So the phrase 'repetition is the key to success' needs to be taken with a grain of salt


Deliberate practice sharpens skills, and you need cutting edge skills in most creative fields. You cannot be the person with the fancy ideas expecting others to execute them anymore. Don't get mad at me, that's just the way it is.