Overcoming Projects That Go Awry

I love the retro Apple logo with six colors (sure, I bleed six colors). For a few days, I thought it would be cool to design a set of background pictures for the Focus Collection with a six colors theme to it. It seemed promising, but in tests I found that I simply disliked the results. Click the images to see them enlarged to appreciate the concept a little more:

This was my attempt to wed the design style choices of the Focus Collection to ‘six colors.’ If the original six-colored Apple logo belongs to the eighties, then these proposed background pictures belong to the nineties. They could be the precursor to the abstract background wallpapers that are vestiges of early iMacs.

The images resemble fractals in the color spectrum. This is all a simple illusion I made starting with a set of colorful photos. I took everyday pictures, like this one (below), and with a few simple filter effects, I reduced it to colors shining out of darkness.

This image was the basis for one of the colorful concepts in the assortment above.

There is something attractive in their style, yes, but the part of me that hates the style is stronger than the part of me that likes it. The visual is overwhelming when they fill up the background of my displays. In theory, they should be mesmerizing. Instead, they come across as annoyingly abstract and amateurish. Prime colors tend to be strong attention-getters. My tastes would be offended to make these available, as the end goal of the Focus Collection is to offer backgrounds that avoid calling your attention.


I shared this case study because I’m a designer. We often get excited about an idea for work that looks good in our imagination — all in our head. But after we see it with our own two eyes, we realize what a mistake we’ve made. This is a normal part of the evolution of good creative work. Along the way, we create some very ugly things.

How do we deal with out misguided attempts? Professionals forgive themselves quickly, move past them, and pursue something else in its place; some other solutions that comes closer to achieving our goals.

But one necessary step in the journey to doing something great is to make a few mediocre things along the way that we come to grips with. Creative face this annoying part of our process day in and day out. 

I’ve been in one design field or another for 15 years. Since I’m still encountering flops, I figure I’ll still be making them 15 years from now. But I can’t let them stop me in my tracks. They must be eliminated hastily, so that I can press forward.

Learn from the mistakes swiftly, then find a better iteration on the project. Just keep moving, as they say.

Joe Darnell

Joe is a UI and graphic designer with prior experience as the creative director for three media-based businesses. Joe’s passionate about web design and graphic design with about 15 years of experience in the media industry. Additionally, Joe is the host of the Top Brew and Techtonic podasts, both featured on iTunes.