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Learn from "Pulp Fiction" to create impactful design

James Huang | 2021.02.02

Design portfolios (on UX/ UI/ Architecture) and blockbuster movies had become more and more generic.  On the design side, reviews and articles shared by “experienced” designers that repeat the same pieces of advice regardless of the project, context and designer’s maturity. Most of those recommendations are followed without a strategy to test and validate its results.

We do it because somebody told us and that should suffice.

It is very common to hear contradictory advice like “add more detail but make it short”. The receiving leaves even more confused than how it all originally started. The perception of an ideal portfolio is a fake creative constrain impossible to measure and subjective to the extreme.

If the community ends up hearing the same recipe for a great case study everywhere, we tend to believe that is the only way, and therefore everything else is wrong.

Over-generalization about what makes a good portfolio kills uniqueness, to the point that we end up with portfolios that fit in two categories:

A) The Michael Bay movie

The portfolio is centred in generic action pieces, that really feels more like a checklist than a cohesive narrative. Every blockbuster movie needs a car chase, well, every portfolio needs user flows. The audience likes explosions, design managers like photos of unreadable post-its in a wall. At the end, what is delivered, even when it could be technically impressive and had interesting ideas, ends up being repetitive, formulaic and tedious… like a Transformers movie.

B) The documentary

This portfolio is committed to show the facts and nothing but the facts. It is so data-centric and dense that forces the viewer has to do the heavy lifting and connect the dots. All those early wireframes are included, every stakeholder presentation, side note, secondary flow and irrelevant detail is in. Deciphering this portfolio feels like homework that challenges the visitor’s attention to details. It is like when somebody tells me “you have to read the book to understand the movie adaptation”.

In MERCURY, we propose a different way, that goes beyond the idea of what makes a good design, and lands closer to the notion of what makes a great narrative.

Your projects and your design portfolio are two very different things. There is a huge distance between the final result of a project and show-casing it.  This is specially hard, if we are used to seeing only the “pretty” results. One of the biggest issues I have against Dribbble.com, is that it makes everybody thinks a cool interface just showed up like magic. There is almost no mention of what it takes to get good work out there. That is what we are expected to do at the end, show the good side of the story. The value of a design project is not how much work you put on it, it is the positive impact your solution made on the user’s life. 

In Pulp fiction, Tarantino is absolutely not shy away from showing pain, because it is part of the narrative, and most of the time it is its climax. He injects context, intention and nuance to it, one drop of blood can have more dramatic effect than a car splashed with brains. He does in a way that is unique, impactful and at times, beautiful.  In the design world, your final result is the narrative of the events that you lived. It is a story of sweat, adrenaline, and tears that not necessarily needs to have a happy ending, but needs to showcase the kind of designer you are. It is your story, show the “blood” in the most engaging way possible.

Make every idea “click”

The magic of a strong narrative comes from curation and interconnection. I have seen many use cases where there is not interconnection between deliverables. The project had a great premise, but the design flows casually forget about it. The user research tells me one thing, the persona completely the does not match.

Do not shy way from errors

I cannot think of a real project where things went peachy from the start.   Show me the “blood”, means owning your mistakes and the series of actions you had to endure to clean up the mess.

Stuff hits the fan all the time, but very few project manager/ architect/ designers take the time to clean it.  The only person that never have challenges are the ones that are not doing anything at all. You will have 99 problems, showcasing them should not be one.

Make yourself Unique

We tend to custom build a unique design for our client, simply because our design tend to solve client's specific requirement.  It make it as our unique proposition in the industry.

Learn from "Pulp Fiction" to create impactful design
MERCURY TECHNOLOGY SOLUTION, James Huang 2 February, 2021
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