The Instant Now, On-Demand
I hate computers. In fact, I hate any electronic device that promises improved performance, faster download times, breathtaking capabilities, a more productive workflow and any other number of turbo-tastic descriptive phrases. I hate them all. Seems wrong doesn’t it?
In 1997, I was on the verge of completing my graphic design education. My portfolio deadlines were so tight that I decided I needed a computer to help get my projects done in time. So I buy my first Apple. It boasts a blazing fast 300MHz G3 processor and a whopping 128Mb of RAM. I was in awe of its raw power. Even my modem was fast – taking me to the Internet at 56K per second. Remember that sound? When the Internet had a sound? (It’s going through your head right now isn’t it.) That sound made you wait 30 seconds to even to hear the words “You’ve got mail!” 30 seconds?! What a waste of time! These days I get irritated when my 18Mbps connection takes 3 seconds to load a site. And sadly, I know I am not alone.
These devices have seduced us all. They get faster and more powerful. Their capabilities constantly surpass our expectations. And they offer the world at our very fingertips. We can quickly connect to whomever we want and navigate to whatever video, song, book, document or information we could possibly imagine. We can have it all instantly. Or can we?
Our need for instant gratification has persistently invaded every aspect of our lives. Fast food, on-demand TV, next-day shipping (truthfully, that last one is still a little slow at times), the list goes on. However, the need for instant corrupts our personal lives as well as our business lives. The obsession for getting stuff when we want it drives us to no end and as a result, damages the quality of the things we do.
As a designer, I constantly struggle with that fickle mistress – creativity. It comes and goes as it pleases. It marches to the beat of its own drum, and I never know what it may have in-store for me. It depends on the phase of the moon – I think. But business, these days, waits for no one. What should take 10 hours was needed in 2. And why wait for tomorrow, when it can be done today? So instead of nurturing and developing creativity, we rush it. We push it. We cause it to be a shell of what it could be.
How many times have you completed a project just to find out that it is wrong? Just to find out that it missed the mark. Just to find out that you have time to do it right…the second time. What were the reasons? Time constraints? Budget constraints? Poor planning? It couldn’t be any of those because now you have to come up with a plan to do it over again, which takes more time, which eats into more of the budget…you see where this is going don’t you? Did the push to get it done now override the steps needed to make it great?
I must be honest here. Even though I “hate” them, our devices allow us to do incredible things. Ideas come to life quicker. We can share them with anyone at any time, enabling us to collaborate and make these ideas even bigger and brighter. But we have to learn to control the beast and not let it get the best of our impulse to get it done quickly just because we can. I’m not saying that every project needs to be mulled over with creative agony. Everyone huddled around the white board, brainstorming for that eureka moment. But sometimes, if we slow down and give it a second, great things can happen.