The hardest assignment

In my first graphic design class in college, we were tasked with a branding assignment. Before we were allowed to get into the design work, we had to come up with a fictional company and build it out- The company’s mission, goals, audience, location… everything. Only when we knew our business inside and out were we allowed to proceed to the design process.

My professor introduced the next phase: “Your first assignment for the design portion is to sketch 50 unique logos for this company in pencil. Not one logo with 49 small changes… I’m talking 50 unique logos. No two can be similar.”

Difficult but not impossible

This was the most daunting assignment I had in college. This was my first design class- how was I supposed to create 50 unique logos? I worked all weekend, and it took a lot of time and effort for me to complete the assignment. I arrived at class the next week with my 50 logo sketches. Not all of them were good, but I had pushed through and done the work. None of the other five students in the class completed all 50. They stopped at 10, 25, 38… They gave up when they hit the first wall.

It’s not about the quantity

I didn’t realize it until later, but the point of the assignment wasn’t to sketch 50 different logos so we could choose the best option, it was to show us what it meant to work hard and push through resistance.

Push through resistance

Something amazing happens when you do 50 unique iterations of something. You start confidently and get through about 10-20 ideas pretty quickly… then you start wondering how you’re going to do 50. You hit a creative wall and eventually figure out how to get past it. Then you get to 35 and it happens again! Another wall. You learn to get past that one, too. Creative blocks pop up, and you get past them because it’s habit now. Don’t be like my classmates who gave up after they hit the first wall.

The Rule of 50

By doing 50 unique iterations of something, you:

  • Force yourself to get past your default ideas
  • Push through creative blocks, and
  • Create better work in the future

Real life example

To help illustrate the point (pun intended), I went though this exercise with some of my own drawings. I tend to draw the same tree in my sketchnotes over and over- I’m stuck in a habit of defaulting to one thing that works. In a pinch, this is a great skill to have for sketchnoting, but if I want to grow and do better work then I NEED to push myself.

When I drew 50 trees, I wasn’t trying to discover 50 different ways to draw trees in my sketchnotes, though I did get some new ideas. My main goal was to get my brain to think beyond my current capacity. I had to draw 12 different trees before I hit a wall. That’s12 tries until I encountered resistance and pushed past it.

 

It’s not about the quantity of your work, but the quality of your character. Push through and use the Rule of 50 in your own life and work! I guarantee you’ll learn something about yourself.

Takeaways:

  1. Good work requires you to know the problem inside and out. You can’t jump in to fix something without knowing the history and the trajectory.
  2. Your first ideas are rarely your best ideas.
  3. The Rule of 50: Do 50 unique iterations of something to:
    – Force yourself to get past your default ideas
    – Push through creative blocks
    – Create better work in the future

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