When Not To Recycle

In my hometown, a smallish blue collar midwestern city, everyone recycles. You see, the city takes away recycling bins, which they give away for free. Recycling in my hometown isn’t necessarily about being eco-friendly, green-minded or environmentally responsible – it’s about saving money. The city charges a dollar a bag to take away the trash. No matter how you look at it, recycling is good.

But not when it comes to graphic design. We’ve all seen the blog posts about the latest website, brochure or postcard design trends. At some point, all of us have looked up “design web 2.0.” We all want to stay abreast of the latest design trends – we don’t want to be outdated has-beens, after all. But the problem I see is that so many designers continue to recycle the same designs. That makes the world boring.

Stop recycling, please.

It sucks the creativity out of you. It leaves no challenges to conquer, no discoveries to be made and far too many stones unturned. It breeds design dullards; copycats who don’t care about invention, innovation or ingenuity but only about the buck. It’s easy to copy. It’s easy to recycle. Contrary to popular belief, it’s easy to re-invent the wheel (albeit a complete waste of time). Just look at a wheel and copy what you see. It’s not easy, however, to build a better mousetrap.

But it can be done, and you’re the person to do it.

Stop using wireframe software that dictates 960 grids; and if you can’t get away from “proven” frameworks, at least fill in the grids with something original, something different. I want you to stop recycling the same old designs, yes, but there’s nothing wrong with taking ideas from existing designs as inspiration. Use the resources available to you to craft truly unique designs that wow your audiences, command attention and motivate action.

Create something bigger and better than what was before. After all, soda bottles become education-supporting tables and chairs, scrap paper becomes award-winning novels, and glass bottles become life-saving windshields. Melt down what you know, refine it, and birth something new and great and incredible.

If you must recycle, be bold in doing so. Otherwise, you may as well stick to creating trash.

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