The Creative Squiggle

Do you know that feeling of excitement and certainty when starting a project or venture? It’s a good feeling. Sadly, it does not last. Confusion, distraction, and uncertainty often creep in. After some work, you reach a dead end. You pivot. Another dead end. Frustration mounts. It feels like you don’t know where you are heading. It can feel like you’re moving backwards, or even sideways. It’s not even clear which way is up and which is forward.

The Process of Design Squiggle by Damien Newman,

The concept is beautifully captured in the design world. It’s called “the design squiggle.” The idea is not limited to the design process though. It shows up in all creative work. Whether you’re designing a new marketing campaign, building a non-trivial piece of software, architecting a custom house, or building a startup, the same squiggle illustrates the journey.

After a bit of work, things begin to clear up. You begin to get a sense of direction. You being to sense where “forward” is, even though you may not know how to get there. You eliminated some clearly bad paths, and it’s becoming clearer in which direction you need to move.

Things become clearer. You may have to change direction a bit here and there, but the overall heading remains the same. Eventually, everything falls into place, and it’s smooth sailing. Sure, there’s a lot of work to be done, but everyone is aligned and things are moving towards the finish line at a good pace.

The process is frustrating, but knowing how to talk about it helps. The creative squiggle is a visualization that can help a team come together and work through the tough times at the start of a creative endeavor. When you find yourself in its midst, when the energy drops and frustrations mount on the team, talk about. Call out the squiggle. Make it visible. Knowing the shape of your journey will make the going easier.