OOOH, Did i just say ‘masturbation’ on a student blog? How compulsive of me. But seriously, design masturbation, or mental masturbation as it is often known, is a serious problem amongst every level of designer- from the student to the high-end design professional.
Right now you are probably sitting back and imagining an issue of playboy with a picture of an Alvar Aalto stool as the centrefold instead of a buxom blonde- but don’t let your initial impressions get the better of you. Design masturbation does not involve the act of masturbating in any way.
Hmmm, that word starts to get really annoying after a while.
No, design masturbation involves something much more serious. It is the process whereby a designer goes around and around in circles; endlessly procrastinating in an attempt to delay the inevitable design finalisation stage. I’ll admit it here and now; I have design masturbated until I turned blue in the face. I would sit there for hour after hour with a pen in my hand and a sketchbook in front of me trying to justify my ideas to myself.
It is a disgusting feeling and it leaves your project looking worse off than it did before this whole mess started. Looking back, I think thats why I didnt take some of my projects as far as I could have done. I would get an idea and stick with it, and I would fight to the death to ensure that this idea would survive. Its a really dangerous approach.
If you are not willing to open your mind to other ideas then what hope do you have of being a success in the design industry? It is so easy to get caught up in your own little world- and yet often the only result of that is a shit project or failure. I’ve never failed, but I HAVE had shit projects.
Somehow, this year, I have managed to somewhat break the design masturbation cycle; particularly in this final semester. I am a Blue Whale and I am filtering all these iddy-biddy little ideas through my massive gills. It is an exciting feeling and much more productive than being self-centered about my design. I now have the will to actively seek out new ideas and information and not treat them as a threat to my project.
Like a 1970’s flower child, you need to open your mind to new ways of thinking. Then and only then will you have a truly rich project.
Below is an article I found on Design Sojourn. It explains the entire process of mental masturbation and I found it particularly relevant to students. Enter if you dare- it is quite the reality check.