What is iteration the mother of invention? Well, because your brain is the seed, aka sperm, of the idea, and iteration is where the idea implants itself into the egg. Once mated, the idea, through iteration, gestates inside the womb of the mother as she craves wine and caffeine for the next 9 months.
Iteration can be seen everywhere in nature, evolution being bar the best example. Over billions of years, small, incremental adjustments to various systems make organisms optimal based on the conditions they are faced with. Phasmids, or stick bugs, didn’t start out identical to twigs. Over the course of a billion years, the stick bugs that looked more like sticks would survive due to their camouflage like nature which allowed them to mate and pass on their superior genetic material to the next breed of offspring.
Designers, on the other hand, don’t have the luxury of waiting 1 billion years for our designs to take shape, luckily we have processes to mimic evolution and essentially evolve our ideas to become the most ideal form of the product through constant prototyping, feedback, and iteration.
Iteration is useful not just for product design, but also for graphic and software design. The best logos usually come about after the graphic designer has sketched out 25-100 different variations of a logo. Then he narrows it down to the best 3-5, cleans those ones up, and shows them to various respective parties for feedback. From there, the designer takes the best one and goes back to the drawing board to rework it again until the ideal logo is ready to be slapped on social media, T-shirts, business cards, letterheads, urinal wafers and anywhere else the business can think to place their freshly designed ultimate survivor.
Product design is not too different, it starts with a few sketches of what the concept may look like. Once the designer has received sufficient feedback from others and his/her own use of the prototype(s) they can then begin work on the final version. All the feedback, along with the trial and error, that is done over the course of the process allows the designer to arrive at the optimal end result with the comforting and sometimes frustrating aid of iteration.
One of the most counter-intuitive and interesting aspects to iteration is what I’ll call mutations, as an ode to evolution. Mutations are essentially beautiful mistakes, moments in the iteration and building process where something goes wrong, yet ends up working in your favor as either a visually appealing design element, or new functionality you would not have ever thought of.
Embrace iteration in your life. Iteration is not just for scientists, designers, and engineers. It can be for you too. Attempt Iterating 100 times on how to optimize your diet just for you, or try 15 different ways to curl your hair in the morning. You’ll never know if there is a better way to do it until you iterate.
So how will you iterate?