Active Design transforms inspiring ideas into compelling visions.
Even though it’s at the core of my work right now, part of that statement that I’ve found myself struggling with the most is tthe word “vision”. Most people don’t really understand how important a strong vision is for their creative projects, and why having a clearly defined statement is often one of the most vital components of success. That’s a shame, because not only does having a vision statement increase chances of your project getting completed, it can also smooth out the production process, focus you (and your team-if you have one), and increase your sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when your project is complete.
Defining what your intentions are seems obvious, but I’ve worked with numerous companies and individuals that either ignore or avoid taking the vital first step of detailing a clear vision for their project. I’ve watched millions of dollars and countless hours of work thrown into the bottomless pit of directionless development. What makes it such a tragedy is that it could have been avoided with a single day (or less) of vision building.
Without clear direction hard work ends up becoming an end in itself-a weak replacement for a real goal instead of a means to reach one. At some point in the careers almost everyone I know who has done creative work in a business environment has found themselves involved in a broken project that’s gone wildly off the rails, barreling towards nowhere with no one able to grab the wheel.
When you hit the inevitable fork in your path to completion how do you choose what step to take next? Without the clearly defined inspiration and direction that a vision statement provides it’s easy to turn your time and attention towards short-term tasks that feel like they’re helping but don’t get you any closer towards your actual goals. And once a project has lost its way it’s easy to have the focus shift from tactical to political as people try to shift blame or cover their asses. For many of us, our instinct is to put our heads down, focus on the closest task at hand, and hope we survive the inevitable train wreck. Sadly, ignorance is rarely a good defense in the aftermath.
But if vision is so fundamental to what makes successful projects work, why is it a step that’s so often skipped, or even actively avoided?
I think one of the main reasons that vision so often gets ignored is that it’s humbling and challenging to open up ideas to criticism at such an early stage. Project managers tend to dismiss vision
as “woo woo” or “airy fairy” distractions from the hard work of scheduling and task completion. Stakeholders and creatives want to avoid the challenging and humbling task of having to defend and re-focus their ideas on a daily basis, especially once they’ve already convinced people to fund their ideas. Deep down they’re afraid that defining the project will reveal that the experience they’re intending to create *won’t* actually work as they originally imagined it. They think that clarity will rob them of inspiration (rather than providing it).
It’s tough to have to compromise early and often, especially when the original dream seemed to be so powerful and seductive. But vision is the best tool we have for confronting challenges early on’ when solutions are cheap and easy to implement. As you hone your visioning skills you will not only become better at defining your projects you’ll also become more effective at rapidly creating concepts will succeed in the long run.
A strong vision can do more than simply get you out of trouble-it defines your destination and concentrates your ideas. The vision statement becomes the standard by which you can measure whether the work you’re doing is defining the experience you’re intending to provide.