As designers, we all have processes, systems and tools that we use day in and day out. Each one employed to solve a specific problem in a specific way. As we attempt to automate our design process and optimize our methods we invariably realize that our answers are becoming more and more generic—formulaic, if you will.
As we utilize frameworks and design patterns to help us move faster, we are accepting that a certain level of our design decisions have already been made for us. And in the process, we begin to bypass the moments that, while often frustrating, lead to incredible discovery or innovation.
We tend to try and automate everything in our lives so that we can achieve more, faster. However, the power of design is its ability to make the inanimate more human. This is not something that happens when design becomes a checklist, a process or a formula. Inevitably, as the designer yields to the design system, we find ourselves faced with products that don’t emotionally resonate with us as human beings.
One way to break out of this rut is to challenge yourself to solve the problem in a different way than you normally would. If you regularly build functional wireframes in order to test your design solutions, try paper prototyping and sitting with real users as they interact with a paper version of the design. If you normally jump into Photoshop/Fireworks, it may be worthwhile to bust out some pens and markers and see what results you get from approaching the problem from a different angle.
Regardless of the level of success, no one should assume that their design process “just works.” We must understand that no design system is or should be perfect. No one gets it right 100% of the time.
What we can do is diligently apply the appropriate process to the appropriate need and not allow ourselves to become overly dependent on the tools and systems we have put in place for ourselves. After all, it is not the tools or the process, but a usable product that we care about.