Aim for timelessness

It’s almost a cliche thing to say, but I believe that the things that draw people in, that inspire new ideas, and that effectively connect people to one another share one important quality—they’re timeless.

An exceptionally great counter-example is the realm of politics. One of the most frustrating things about politicians is that they only ever seem to be focused on issues that fall within the scope of their current term. When they’re incentivised to only focus on the next election, issues that need to be resolved on the scale of decades and generations fall by the wayside. Nobody wins.

This kind of short-term thinking is a direct result of the structures we’ve put in place as a society, but the underlying pattern of thinking extends far beyond the realm of politics.

This is especially true in the realm of internet start-ups (and all-too-frequent subsequent shut-downs). Looking around at what this industry is building, the idea of creating something to theoretically last for a generation is almost unprecedented.

It’s hard. It’s elusive. It’s nebulous. But the responsible thing for us as designers to do is create work that’s enduring. I’m not sure there’s a repeatable formula for it, but to have any chance of success, I believe you have to let the patterns and decisions and structures in your creations emerge as organically as possible. You have to constantly return to first principles and make the best choices for what you’re building. There’s no room for cargo-culling your decisions, for presuming something works because it’s what “everyone” seems to be doing.

If your thing is built with only the current trends in mind, then in two years time (or two months, with the speed our industry moves) there will only be one conclusion: your now-old and dated design simply has to go, and so the whole thing has to be reworked. Do you really want that to be the fate of your work?

Aren’t there far more important things that both you and other people should be dedicating their time, money, and effort towards than redesigning your thing again because it’s no longer in-line with the current trends?

Don’t be like the politicians. Aim for timelessness.

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