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Sarah Martinez

Organizing Chaos Through Design

With the New Year at hand, lots of people are resolving to get organized— out with the old, in with the new. It’s a great way to start 2015 knowing where things are.

I can understand. I live for organization. From the neatly organized pencil cup on my desk to the bins for each kind of my kids’ toys. I love organizing and being organized.

I dislike messes and chaos, but I’ve come to accept that kids come with a lot of both. My boys leave a trail of coats, book bags, socks and shoes the second they walk in the door. An hour into their playtime, toys are strewn around the house.

At home, I control the chaos by organizing toys and clothes—categorizing and putting them in the places that make the most sense so they are easy to find when we need them. Legos have their own bin, as do cars, musical toys, puzzles, transformers, blocks, etc. Clothes are organized by layer, season then color. When Optimus Prime is missing his weapon, or Thomas is missing a track, I’m the one my boys seek to find it.

Organization at home has a purpose. It keeps me sane, in control and avoids a lot of meltdowns. Everything has a place. It works the same way for design.

When a brand project begins, it’s inherently a mess. Clients have clear goals, but countless details and conflicting priorities can make the path to reaching those goals unclear, and messy. That’s OK. It’s what we’re here for.

At Monaco Lange, we distill the assignment into a brief where we know what we have to create, with some of the elements and the strategy.

Then, it’s in my hands as a designer. I start trying out different solutions to the brief. Doing so leaves a scrappy mess of drafts and ideas: virtual cutting room floor of things that didn’t work—ideas when at first instant, felt perfect and wonderful, but simply fell flat.

I have to harness all those ideas into some that might work.

There’s no set formula when you start but as I work it reveals itself. Sometimes this is intentional and conscious, and sometimes, when I’m lucky, it just comes naturally, seemingly effortless, without thought. I get in the zone and everything comes together and starts to makes sense. It all fall into place.

Of course, there are design principals at work, such as alignment, balance, contrast, proximity, repetition, and white space to give the work structure like the clear storage bins I have at home. These concepts are tucked neatly in my mind.

Being organized via design lends to a better user experience. It was the thinking we used behind our design for Welvie. People don’t want to have to figure out the technology when they go the website.

Organization is invisible in the final design. The grids, the guides, the relationships—in a good design you should be able to feel it, to sense the consistency but not necessarily know why or how it is there.

Here are some tips to keep you organized when you’re about to create something:

  1. Enjoy the process: Trying out things is fun, like a kid with a puzzle.
  2. Remember the goal: Don’t remove things for the sake of removing them. Don’t add things if you don’t need them. Flow in the direction of the brief.
  3. Less is more: Try to really hone in on one concept.
  4. Don’t let others mess it up:  Feedback is wonderful but make sure the project isn’t cluttered back with others’ idea.

And remember, keep it clean.