Legendary furniture designer Charles Eames famously said, “The details are not the details. They make the design.” That is to say, those unobtrusive, ordinary things ever-present in whatever you do, add up to make a whole. Once zoomed out, the larger picture is then revealed through the connections made by these details working in unison.
What are the elements in your work and life that are so common you might stop noticing them?
I’m a salsa maker. Over the course of about a year I perfected an “original recipe” by constantly fine tuning the details. Should the corn be roasted? Is this too smokey? What do black olives (bad idea) do? I went through these steps until I reached a point when everything had a place and a purpose. In the end I developed something to be proud of. On the other hand, the same goes for writing ad copy. When we work to establish a brand’s unique voice, every word is carefully considered, small or large. The quirky small town charm of a community bank does little for an aviation parts manufacturer who pilots trust with their life. Turn a blind eye to the small things and you’ve likely set yourself up for setbacks, or worse, failure.
Now substitute the word “design” for whatever it is you do and reconsider Eames’ rumination. What are the elements in your work and life that are so common you might stop noticing them? It is important to reflect on them frequently and be mindful of their potential. Focus is illuminating.