Why I Document My Work


I had several readers respond to my first newsletter (thank you!). It was great to connect and learn more about you. One reader said they were interested in my process and I have been working on a way to make my process more transparent.

Process is very important, it is the foundation to what gets created. Mick Gordon, music composer for Doom’s recent games has a 1-hour long talk about how he created the music for Doom. He consistently reiterates how important it was that the Doom team allowed him to experiment how he works:

“If you want to get a different outcome, you must change the process”

Mick Gordon composed music for Doom (2016) and Doom Eternal (2020). His work fascinates me, especially this heavy metal choir.

Process is hard to see, it’s usually experienced by the creator as they work away at their desk. It’s nice to flash the final product in its full mock-up glory. But, I think people want to hear about how, not what. And this makes sense. Look at American Idol, the whole show is about showing the how, not the what. It’s all about the making of a star.

In 2016, my friend showed me a video clip of a rugged entrepreneur telling viewers the following:

“document, don’t create”.

If you recognize this reference, then you know Gary Vaynerchuk. I thought it was a strange concept and I didn’t understand what he meant. “Don’t create? Are you kidding me? I am a designer, all I do is create!”.

It’s been four years since then. As I work in social media and market myself to the world, I finally get it.

When I was coming up with a section heading for an article, I was going to use “Show your work”. As I was writing, I realized that showing your work isn’t the end goal, it should be a means to show how you think.

I try to show my process as much as possible. I tell people what goes through my mind as I am trying to execute on an idea out of nothing. I’ve been documenting my work since the very beginning. I wasn’t good at it, but I’ve gotten better over the years. Showing my process helps me build trust with the viewer. I tell them my intentions, how I made certain choices, challenges I had and how I overcame them.

I usually document my process after I am done with a project. Because, what if I don’t finish it? What if I tell the world about this project, then 2 months later have to call it quits? That feels embarrassing. But, I’ve changed my perspective on this.

I didn’t like the idea of documenting stuff as it happens. I think it might be from this fantasy where we tell ourselves that “I’ll tell the world about my journey after I’ve made it”. There’s something scary about failing at something after announcing your aspiration to make it work. I now approach this with an attitude of:

“If things don’t work out, at least I have something to show for it.”

I’m taking a leap and for the first time, I will be documenting my work as I create it. I’ve been testing it through small steps. I’ve decided to commit to it and published a blog post on a new project I am taking on. I am going to try and visualize fighting game mechanics from Tekken 7. This project might not work out because it’s a huge challenge to tackle, but, I know I’m going to learn so much from this.

I got a new microphone! Maybe you noticed the audio quality has significantly improved (or maybe you didn’t). Substack has a built-in feature to add audio. I am testing this out and I am going to use audio as a quick summary of the newsletter. What do you think?

About Jane

I am an independent data visualization designer and social media strategist based in Toronto, Canada. Through personal projects, I have taught myself how to create data visualizations. To see my latest work, check out my website.

Ever since I became an independent designer in 2019, I’ve had many insights about life, work, data visualization, design, and creativity. I have been documenting these insights as much as I can through various mediums. In 2020, I decided to start a newsletter where I can put all these insights in one place. This newsletter is meant for people who want to learn more about what it’s like to be an independent data visualization designer.

Please feel free to send me questions or topics you’d like me to explore by replying to this e-mail or by commenting to this post.

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