Recycling Designs

Saving the environment has nothing to do with this article on recycling designs. What it can do however is nothing short of saving the world. If I as a designer spend 20 hours designing and coding a certain project, then that means 20 hours of electricity powering my computer, music system, office lighting and of course the coffee machine and odd gadgets. So if can finish the same project in half the time, don’t that mean I’ve saved the half the power I might have used otherwise? In that case, perhaps this article is about saving the planet after all! Before I continue, let me drop in a Public Service Announcement and say Reduce. Reuse. Recycle If you drive a car to work, either join a car pool or ride a bicycle. Use the services of companies that purchase Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to offset energy use. RECs represent the environmental benefits of wind energy and reduce the amount of electricity in the energy grid that’s produced by fossil fuels. Conserve and care for the resources that we share. More on saving the world another time, if there is enough time left that is. No more distractions! Let’s get right back to the kind of recycling we intend to do.

The Junkyard

This is a virtual dumpsite where dead, dying or discarded designs find themselves in. Most often designs land up here for a multitude of reasons. One of the common reasons is when we as designers and artists present a multitude of designs to clients rather than a single design. While a single design warrants more attention and focus, sometimes clients need to be offered more choice, if they have a hard time making choices. While it’s not my prerogative to make a distinction, I do have my preferences and I choose the former. But how do designs ever land up in the junkyard?

1. Crowd-sourced Design

Many young designers participate in crowd sourcing contests where many designs pitch for their design to be chosen over others. Regardless of the result or the winning entry, what is certain is that all other entries end up in their respective junkyards. Thus if you were to dig into your own personal graveyard, that is if you are the type that subscribes to entering design by crowd contests, I’m certain you’ll find a wealth of designs unused for mostly idiosyncratic reasons. Sometimes even if you have a winning entry, the many iterations or variations that you sent the client but were returned unused in favor of the chosen one can be found in your design junkyard.

2. Incomplete Projects

As rare as it may appear, such incidents are commoner than is often thought. Many relations between client and designer break sometimes mutually sometimes not. Which is a good reason to craft a good Terms & Conditions document to ensure that you don’t get burnt, but that can wait for another article. If the break-up or should it be break-down happens early in the design process, then you may be left behind with mood-boards, outlines, drafts or just concepts. At other times, you may be left behind with the finished product even.

3. Complete Re-design

Many projects call for a complete redesign of existing designs and layouts which leaves only one destination for the old one – the design junkyard. The other day, a fellow designer had a query she shared on Facebook about designers using clipart in designs. Well, that’s a debate for another day, but it got me thinking about recycling one’s own old work in new designs.

4. Multiplicity

Wish you could clone your self and create multiple working copies of yourself that could do all your myriad tasks in the time it takes to complete one single task? Well, we all do but creating multiple designs is what we do when we offer clients a choice of designs to pick from. As a rule, I offer two different designs and 3 variations of the chosen design as a package but many designers offer more options. No matter the number of options offered, only one makes the final cut and the rest end up – you guessed right - in the junkyard.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle

Well, we have unearthed the truth about how designs land up in the junkyard. But the important question is what do we do with them? I’m reminded of the movie Wall-E where the little robot goes around compacting trash and lining up acres of trash. There are fortunately better and more creative things to do with your junk.

1. Pimp up your Portfolio

Get your old designs out of the junkyard, dust them off, add a layer of spit and polish and your designs are good to go. Put them up where they can be seen – on your portfolio, website and your blog. Share them wherever you hang out in the social circles and while many of us would rather not display our old works, a large and comprehensive portfolio is better than a select niche selection of works. Many a time, the works that make me wince are the ones that bring new clients to my doorsteps. Besides they can act as milestones that mark your journey in the world of design besides offering inspiration to the newer generations.

2. Re-use your refuse

While this may appear to be scandalous to many at first thought, consider it with an open mind. Design through the history of man has always found admirers in different civilizations at different points in time. The ancient yin-yang symbol associated with the Orient has been found to adorn Roman shields! One may choose not to use the entire design and re-use only certain elements of the design. You may even use it to write a tutorial about creating a certain kind of design to serve as a template for others to learn from. If you are feeling magnanimous, I’d suggest offering it as a freebie to loyal subscribers to earn you brownie points with your blog fan base.

The End

The Junkyard is the end of the line for your designs, but they can be given a new lease of life in most cases unless bogged down by NDAs and other legal bindings. However the purpose of this article is to open your mind to reducing your labor by re-using your own old and discarded designs and design elements. Remember Dr. Frankenstein brought a dead body to life. You can do the same with your old designs and don’t worry! The towns folk won’t be chasing you with pitchforks if you do so.


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Ritesh Reddy

Dr. Ritesh Reddy, PhD aka Reddy2Go is a Creative Generalist, who uses the magic of the written word and the allure of the visual medium in conjunction with bleeding edge technology to creating communication collateral for the New Media. He believes in the power of the individual & inspires independence through the Freelance Firestarter. In the spirit of selflessly sharing knowledge with the community for the betterment of society, he does not charge any fee for the same.