You're reading Sentences, etc., a design and development blog by Justin Michael.

What We Can See

We compare what we can see.

We see a tall building with wonderful architectural detail, so we compare it to our own sketches.

We see a great website that’s fast and usable and well written with great visuals, so we compare it to the two dozen mock ups we made last night that are obviously not the solution.

We see an app with a silky-smooth sorting animation for hundreds of items, so we compare it to the code we wrote last week that isn’t doing nearly as good a job.

We see a breathtaking photo with perfect lighting and composition, so we compare it to the hundreds of photos we took last month with subpar lighting and composition that just feels off.

We see the finished work of others.

We see our own creative process.

We compare what we can see, even if it’s not fair.

We don’t see the months-long slog the architect of the building suffered through, or the constant pressure of their looming deadline.

We don’t see the dozen people on the design and development teams behind the great website. We do not see the countless number of rejected ideas they had, nor do we see their shouting matches.

We don’t see the app developer with decades of experience sorting and animating on a myriad of platforms starting with the Apple II. We do not see the innumerable sacrifices she made to focus on her work and hone her skills.

We don’t see the thousands of rejected photos taken by the photographer, nor do we see the hours they poured into editing and tweaking the one shot you did see.

So often the only process we can see is our own.

So often the only thing we have to compare our process to is the end result of others.

So, we compare what we can see. We compare, despite the fact that it isn’t fair.

We compare what we can see because it’s easy, because it’s a tendency, because we aspire to greater things.

It’s important to have a destination, but you can’t compare your journey with another’s destination.

We compare what we can see, so look deeper.

Stop looking only at finished work. Look behind the scenes. Find out what was invested. Discover what was sacrificed. Uncover the truth behind the work.

Be fair to yourself. See more than just your own process.

Because we compare what we can see.