Creative Freedom is Lazy

The design industry is full of inspiring quotes like “don’t compromise” or “solve your own problems” or “passion never fails”. Motivating right? Totally. But not because they’re universally true.


Phrases like that are the equivalent of looking in a mirror and saying “You’re a goddamn genius!”

We read “don’t compromise” but we think: “don’t compromise on my vision.”

We read “solve your own problems” but we think: “If I want it, it must be valuable.”

We read “passion never fails” but we think: “If I am passionate about it, it must be important.”

Creative freedom is the same. We think: “Without obstacles, I can make the greatest thing ever.” And we consider this self-evident. No proof required. Why would we make something shitty when we can make anything?!

In reality, creative freedom is masturbation. It feels good, but it achieves nothing.

The opposite of creative freedom is very clear strategies, self-editing, metrics, and the guarantee that your creation will be measured and tested in the real world. People who value their own vision more than the needs of the audience are easy to spot too, because they will irrationally defend any opinion that saves them from being tested (see quote).

Go ahead and A/B test the hell out of your UI. Leave your fate to the crowd. We’ll put it on your gravestone. Your kids will be so proud.

Doug Bowman
Creative Director, Twitter

The only thing an A/B test leaves to the crowd is proof of whether your design works or not. If you agree with the quote, you don’t understand how to do A/B tests and you’re suffering from the Ambiguity Effect.

(Think about that next time you like something “because Twitter does it.”)

When you read “don’t compromise” try to think: “Don’t compromise quality to satisfy ego.”

When you read “solve your own problems” try to think: “To fully understand a problem, make it your own.”

And when you read “passion never fails” try to think: “Love is blind.” The more you love it, the more reason there is to get objective information.

Now… get away from that mirror and go prove you’re a goddamn genius.