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I once had a professor of a creative writing class tell the class this: “Kill Your Darlings”. This phrase is adapted from Arthur Quiller-Couch, a British journalist, critic, and novelist’s original quote “Murder Your Darlings.” He was initially directing this towards writers, but I think it’s just as important for designers.

It happens to the best of us: we’re stuck on something, some problem, and we can’t for the life of us figure out the solution. Whether that solution be in our code, or just a simple design element that doesn’t look quite right, it alludes us. Then, all of the sudden, like a slap on the face, you got it! You’ve figured it out, and it looks awesome! Or so you think. Design Darlings, the elements of your design that you really love cause you to have what I call “design blindness” need to be murdered. You lose the ability to be objective about your work. You lose the ability to critique honestly and without bias. This often means they may not be quite as “perfect” as you think they are.

So should we automatically abandon any design that we become personally attached to?

Yes. And no.

Yes, because of the lack of objectivity and the potential for that to erode your better judgement for the remainder of the project. Yes, because you will begin to design things that may have no place other than to support your “darling.” Yes, because there is almost always a better solution waiting for you once you get rid of your “darling.”

No, because the process of creating this “darling” of a design is extremely important to the over all process. No, because it might actually be really good. No, because we are humans and we are irrational and emotional and sometimes that is exactly what is needed to find the right solution. No, because maybe, just maybe, others will love it too.

Being able to break your emotional ties with the things you create is the sign of a mature designer. It is essential in any collaborative design process and can open the door to discover answers you wouldn’t or couldn’t have seen otherwise.

My advice: Kill your darlings, after you back them up.