December 10th, 2013

Design Goggles

Are you familiar with the term Beer Goggles?

I’ve witnessed a similar phenomenon in my team’s work and in my personal work – particularly when we’re tackling a challenging product feature. Perhaps you’ve experienced it as well – you’re working hard, but feel stuck. You’re on a deadline to ship, and you push through the struggle.

As you plod on, the day turns into night. It’s now 9 or 10 PM and you’re finally satisfied with your progress. You post your design work to your team’s internal communication tool, or you send it to your client.

Mere Exposure Effect

There’s an interesting psychological phenomenon called the Mere Exposure Effect, which states:

The more exposure we have to a stimulus, the more we will tend to like it. Familiarity breeds liking more than contempt. Things grow on us and we acquire tastes for things over time and repeated exposure.

We can get to like most things, given time. We can even get to like unpleasant things, such as when prisoners miss prison.

The effect happens quickly – onset has been measured in milliseconds.

I think this is what is happening with our work. As designers, engineers and others who work on a craft, we tend to fall in love with what we are making. And we get to the point where we’re so wrapped up, we become convinced we’ve produced good work.

At closing time, everything looks good… AKA Design Goggles.

Sleep on it

The next morning has a way of revealing the truth – in love and in craft. Sleep removes the immediacy of delivery, and provides an opportunity to reconsider with a fresh perspective. In 2009, a research study was released, citing the power of our unconscious ability to recategorize and resolve problems:

In the original experiments, unconscious thinkers made better decisions than conscious thinkers when the decisions were complex.

“Sleep on it” seems like very obvious advice, but it’s a tool that hasn’t been formalized in the design process. Instead of building a culture that delivers at the end the day, build in extra time the next morning to re-evaluate your work via a more sobering critique.