What Milking a Cow can teach us about a Design Process

A design process is just that, it’s a process. You start at the beginning, work through and end up with a finished product, whether you’re working on a website design or logo design. Most designers have different processes which they work to during a project, a process which works well for them so they can get the job done in the easiest and most inspiring way as possible.

Designers can learn a lot about a design process from milking a cow. I know, I know you’re saying “pull the udder one” but we really can. Everything involved in milking a cow can teach us something.

The Short Stool – (A comfortable inspiring place)

The short wooden stool lies at the heart of the process, enabling the ‘milker’ to be in the best place for the job, at the correct height to use his tools and achieve his goals. Just like a ‘milker’, we designers need to be in our creative zone when doing our job. The short stool for a designer is that office, desk or coffee shop where we start our process. It is that one place where we should start our journey where we feel most inspired and comfortable to do our job to the best of our ability. Don’t forget that you also need to be ergonomically correct and take plenty of breaks during the design process so you don’t strain your eyes or hurt your back.

The Pail (Tools)

The Pail or milking bucket is the one thing used to collect the milk, it’s one of the only tools involved in milking a cow. It needs to be big and strong enough to hold the amount of milk that you need. For a designer, the pail represents the tools needed to do the job, whether it’s an iMac, Moleskin or pencil and paper. If we don’t have what we need then the process is already broken. Make sure before any design process that you have everything that you need, there is nothing worse than getting so far and having to stop because of an unnecessary interruption.

Your Hands  (The Work)

The teets aren’t going to pull themselves and your hands need to be clean and warm so as to not shock the cow. You’re not exactly going to pull any teets during your design process but you will be using your hands a lot. No matter what kind of design you are putting together you need to find out what things need to take place during a specific process. Many logo designers have a design process that works and these can be suitably changed for other designs. Once you figure out what works best for you, every job you take on thereafter will be ten times easier. Take good care of your hands, and your hands will take good care of you and so will your work.

Be Gentle (The Client Communication)

As you’re pulling the teets you need to be aware that any one pull could make the cow uncomfortable. You have to be firm but fair with your cow to get the best out of it. The love and care that you show your cow is well represented in a design process. It appears as the communication elements of your process, be careful not to call your client a cow as it could bring unintended offence and loss of earnings however you should be aware that in any design process the communication between the client and yourself is paramount. Both the client and the designer need to understand what is to be achieved during the process and in what way payment is going to be transferred at what time.

The Milk (The Finished Product)

Ah creamy goodness! Just what the client ordered! When the ‘milker’ sat down on that small wooden stool, this is what he was aiming for. Even though the ‘milker’ sat for hours on the stool and filled the pail with milk with those warm hands making sure they were gentle throughout the process, they still had to make sure they knew how the milk would be made ready for consumption. In a designers process, they must make sure that all files are prepared correctly for use and are sent to the client in whichever format they require. This will not only increase the relationship between the client and yourself but will possibly increase the amount of opportunities you have in the future.

We as designers have a lot to thank cows for, their entire milking process can teach us more about design processes than we would have ever thought.

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Lead Interaction Designer at DigitalDWP. Organiser of Industry, The Practical Web Conference..

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