Mistakes are not an ending, but an opportunity to learn, change and improve.
– From Learning How to Right Your Wrongs by Gace Bonney
Earlier this week, I had a conversation with a Montessori teacher about making mistakes. She feels that it’s important for students to know that mistakes are okay. Instead of erasing those mistakes and pretending they didn’t happen, she recommends crossing them out, in essence ‘owning that mistake’, and putting the correct version next to it. So, I’m going to own up to some of my past design mistakes and how I (and you) can avoid them in the future.
Calendar holes: A few years ago, we decided to make an art in the state parks calendar for the upcoming year. I really got to run with this design. It was a fast, but fun project. I even had the great idea to add a fact at the bottom of each month about the site featured. The mockups were a big hit. Off to the printer it went. About halfway through the run, I got a call from the printer. Those fabulous facts I added were a little too low, and the hole for hanging to calendar was hitting half the bottom line of text. Did I ever think of the hole in my layout? Not even once. I’m lucky that it wasn’t worse. We made some adjustments and reprinted.
What did I learn from this? Two things: 1) It was a reminder to always consult your printer on new projects. In school, we were always taught the value of talking with the printer about the best options for projects prior to starting. 2) Do some online research about guidelines for new types of projects. A lot of printers have put out templates to help designers set up files correctly.
Phone number: While this error wasn’t mine alone, I will never forget it. I made an invitation for a fancy donor event. Others looked it over and gave the okay. It was printed, mailed and received. A sweet older gentleman called a coworker a few days later and informed us a phone number for one of the hotels provided was incorrect. And not just incorrect. He said, “I listened far longer than I should have,” meaning it was a “pay to hear more” kind of number. Nightmare mistake! Turns out the last two numbers in the phone number were transposed. That was all it took to send our donors to a very wrong number.
What did I learn from this? Again, two things: 1) Always, always check phone numbers, addresses and titles. These are easy to ignore. One of my coworkers said when she gets a proof from the printer, she physically dials all the phone numbers to make sure they’re correct. 2) Always have a fresh set of eyes check things over and give the okay. Honestly, even if things slip past you all, at least the blame can be shared.
I think that’s enough owning up to mistakes for one day. 🙂
My designer takeaway: While incredibly painful at the time (and often costly), mistakes help us learn and improve our process. Own it, apologize for it, and learn from it. That’s really all we can ask of ourselves.