The Worst Design Advice I’ve Ever Received
Let’s talk about the worst design advice I’ve ever received. It’s story time, folks, and we’re going all the way back to the early 90s. Picture this: 7-year-old Lesley and her neighborhood pals on a summer afternoon, gathered on a neighbor’s front porch to make crafts with construction paper.
One of the older girls on the street was orchestrating this “crafternoon” and had instructed us to choose two different colors of construction paper to make a paper butterfly. We were to accordion-fold each piece and staple them together in the middle to form something that kinda, sorta looked like wings. I thought it was RAD and couldn’t wait to get started. I thought carefully about what colors to use (as only a future interior designer would) and selected red and pink. I thought it looked like a flower and I wanted to hang it in my room when I was done. I started to carefully fold the construction paper, my excitement brewing.
“You can’t use red and pink!”, the older girl suddenly exclaimed, interrupting everyone’s crafting mojo. “They clash. You should choose colors that go together.”
My 7-year-old heart was shattered. I liked red and pink! I thought they looked neat together. But this older, therefore, wiser girl was telling me it was a no-no, so…I carefully unfolded the paper and returned it to the pile. I thought about what colors I knew went together. Orange and black are Halloween colors!, I thought. They must go together! I can use those.
So I made my orange and black butterfly to please the others. And in my eyes, it was a total fail. For a girl who loved rainbow colors, it was mildly depressing to have made a near-goth craft. No one else batted an eye at it – why would they? Orange and black go together. It didn’t ruffle any feathers like red and pink did. But it also wasn’t me – because I listened to what I should have done instead of what I knew to do.
The worst design advice I ever received? The word “should”. That single word is the worst advice out there. “Should” comes from a place of insecurity, of fear, of wanting to please others, of being afraid to let your true self shine. You know in your heart what you should do – don’t listen to the shoulds of others. They’ll “should” all over you – and you don’t need to be covered in that crap.
One of my favorite quotes on this topic comes from the brilliant Tina Fey: “When people say, “You really, really must” do something, it means you don’t really have to. No one ever says, “You really, really must deliver the baby during labor.” When it’s true, it doesn’t need to be said.”
PS. The second worst design advice I’ve ever received is that your large upholstered furniture pieces, like the sofa and accent chairs, should be covered in a neutral grey or beige fabric so that you won’t get tired of them. I adore my teal sofa and mustard yellow wing chairs , thankyouverymuch. Safe is not for everyone and I’m in it to win it with the design risk takers. You with me?