I love steak. To be honest, I could eat steak wrapped in bacon for every single meal and I would be extremely content. My wife loves steak too. That's a huge bonus for me. Why? It means I get steak more often. It's a win-win situation.
But when it comes to steak, I'm very particular about how my steak is cooked. Growing up, I would get my steak cooked just like my parents...because I had no idea what I was doing when I was ordering a steak. For a while I was terribly afraid of steak that had any red in the center. I was afraid I was going to die if I ate it. I don't know where I learned that from, but that was my view on steak.
When I was probably a freshman in high school, my dad and I took a weekend trip to see an IndyCar race in Michigan. We borrowed my uncle's pop-up camper and truck, and hauled up to the track. We made camp, and ended up making friends with the people in the lot next to us. The night before the race, they invited us to have dinner with them. We (meaning my dad) gave them some cash, and the mom made a trip to the grocery store to get...yep...steak. I was thrilled. My dad offered to help prepare the meal, but this family was in the business of taking care of us that night.
The steak was cooked. The sides were prepared, And we were ready to feast. We all sat down around the fire, plates loaded with amazing piles of food, and we dug in. As I cut into the steak and prepared to take my first bite, I began to realize that this steak was still...well..pink. If I had to put it on a scale, it was between rare and medium-rare. I was so nervous to eat it... "What if I get food poisoning so bad I can't go to the race...and then I die or something?" That was my thought process.
But. Wanting to be a polite guest, I ate the steak. And I discovered something on that night. I discovered what good, well cooked, and beautifully prepared steak tasted like. I had been eating overcooked steaks for so long that I had been missing out on what good steak tasted like.
Since that night, I've become kind of a turd about my steak. The seasoning. The cooking time and temperature. Yep. I'm a genuine diva about my steaks.
That night has taught me so much about not only steak, but about design as well. A great design is like a great steak. The preparation matters. How you cook it matters. And what goes into it matters.
When you overdo a design, it becomes chaotic. It becomes tough to understand. And it becomes just nasty sometimes.
When you under design, you leave things too open for people. You don't help to create a mood and a feeling. You miss out on an important part of the meal.
My goal in writing this isn't to tell you how to design better. My goal is to challenge you to figure it out. Try things. Learn what works and what doesn't. Ask people to try your designs. They'll be honest with you, if you're willing to let them be.
To be a good designer, you really need to be a good chef. It takes trial and error. Not every design you produce is going to be worthy of sitting in a Brazilian Steak House. But, if you keep at it, one day you'll be creating gourmet designs that people walk away from saying, "That hit the spot."
I know. It's cheesy. But it's true. Design great things. Cook great steaks. Because they both matter.