Sketch. Scan. Build

Issue 32: My workflow for brute force iteration

I’m intimated by other designers. That’s right, I’m intimidated by how nice and organized their desks are. Their desks are cable-free with their company coffee mug that has an inspirational graphic on it about getting work done on a felt coaster. To top it off, the grammable desks have beautiful plants and organizers that accompany them. My workspace is the exact opposite—piles of books, notebooks, pens, and cables everywhere.

My work style is a lot different than many designers. It’s based on brute force iteration—striving to perfection through thousands of attempts and refinements. I am a hacker by nature, due to the fear I have that my ideas will get lost in the realm of "what if?" and disappear. This mindset helped me develop the only working principle I have: Capture an idea and make it tangible without friction.

For me, anything that is not pen and paper adds friction. 80% of my workflow is on paper today. Nothing annoys me more than sitting in front of a screen, clicking on pixels, and not knowing what you're doing. The only time I want to click hundreds of times is when I play Diablo. This led me to developing this simple workflow: Sketch. Scan. Build.

I've used the LEUCHTTURM1917 A5 dot grid notebook for the last six years. I know it like the back of my hand and if I had to guess, I've filled approximately 50 of these. I often think about Pixar's 22 rules of storytelling, with rule 11 being, "putting it on paper lets you start fixing it. If it stays in your head, a perfect idea, you’ll never share it with anyone."

This is the first step to capture your idea. A captured idea is worthless if you can't find it. This is where Scan is important. I use the combination of a Doxie Go scanner and an app called Scanner Pro. The latter is useful to capture anything quickly since it’s on my phone.

One captured, it's time to Build. I recommend avoiding mediocre fidelity—the thrashy steps of in-between. Strive for low fidelity and bust out high fidelity. Whether it's designing in Figma, building in Webflow, or code, this rule applies.

Often we can get caught up with perfection and making sure things are organized, but sometimes brute-forcing an idea to reality can help build forward momentum.


Note: As someone who is Asian American, the news this week has been brutal. I thought about writing about this, but to be honest, I didn’t have the mental energy. Writing consistently on a weekly basis is important to me, so didn’t want to skip. Your readership is such a joyful distraction for me and much needed. Thank you, and #StopAsianHate.