Design Troubleshooter

Sherlock Holmes in "The Man with the Twis...
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Before I launch into this post, let me take care of some housekeeping:

Yes, I’ve been quiet on this blog. I don’t expect this to be a habit – I’ve got a backlog of over a dozen blog topics I’m sitting on, and those bitches aren’t going to write themselves – but things have been crazy busy since Mexico. Aside from a ton of work from my day job, I’m working out two freelance assignments, and helping with the last bits of house work to get things ready for our housewarming this weekend. There’s also some podcast recording I have to do in the near future, both for my podcasts and for other folks. Things should be calmer around… oh… June.

No, this doesn’t mean I’m going to drop this blog, or any of my other projects just yet. It does mean that I’m not going to be doing a whole lot of extracurricular stuff for a while, but I don’t see a strong need to cut anything just yet.

Yes, I still love you. The sex is too good.

On with the blog!

Since way back in the mists of 2007, I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune to be friends with Russell Bailey. Among his many good qualities (such as being as big of a Doctor Who nerd as I am), he also has two creative preferences that I share: he prefers to write very noir-soaked prose, and he prefers to design in collaboration.

Many times over the past few years, I would be sitting at my desk when he comes into my office and says “I’d like your thoughts on something.” He would then lay out the design problem he’s facing. More often than not, something would pop into my head, and I would mention it to him. He would then smile and rush off to his computer. Sometimes the conversation is over IM and with shared Google Docs. I have to imagine the smile, but otherwise it pretty much follows the same pattern.

I had a similar experience working on Cartoon Action Hour and Tomorrow Knights – Cynthia would email me with a problem, and we’d kick around solutions to it. I remember other conversations like that for Know Your Role as well. But being able to talk it out with Russell in person made me realize that I really enjoy being a design troubleshooter.

That isn’t to say that I don’t enjoy design as well – there’s something satisfying about trying to find an elegant solution to a thorny problem that I appreciate – but I really enjoy taking someone else’s problem between my teeth and chewing it over. Maybe it’s my own weird form of Sherlock Holmes (“Eddy Webb, Consulting Game Designer”), but other people’s problems seem so much easier to solve than my own. Plus, I like helping people and making them happy, so I get multiple sources of satisfaction all at once.

I understand that a lot of people like to write and design alone. I get that. But there’s a lot to be said for getting an outside opinion. Not only does it have the potential to make your own work stronger, but someone might have just the right idea that makes a lot of other things fall into place. And they might even get their own thrill out of helping you.

Have any of you acted as a “consulting detective” on someone else’s creative problems?

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