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To Push or to Pull Your Design

I’m sure we can all agree that for any creative working out there the deadline is the promised land of any design job. Nothing brings about relief and satisfaction quite like delivering the finished product to the client, especially if you’re doing a job for tinkerer clients. You know, those clients that love to make endless changes and are never totally satisfied (we will talk about types of clients later). So finally delivering can provide you with quite the joygasm. But before that the journey to delivery can be perilous, complicated and fraught with many missteps even more so if you do not know what is driving the process. So today, we’re looking at the push and pull approaches to the design process. So loosen those shoulders. It’s CRUNCHTIME!

The best way to know which process we use, and which process we should be using, it is important to understand the characteristics of both approaches. You can either pull the design process or the you can push it, and here’s how.

The Push Process

The Push Process is that one that we are often taught in school, apprenticeships even in the school of hard knocks. This is where the idea comes first then you figure out how to make it happen. Imagine this: You wake up in morning and have an epiphany. The light bulb switches on and the floodgates open and the creative juices start flowing. The idea is exciting. It could be sweet new app, a cool motion graphic ad, the perfect kit design for the Warriors (or whatever team you choose to insert). Everything is clear except for one thing – how do you get it made? The push approach places the method of production as secondary while prioritising the idea or concept that pushes the process along.



If you meet any designer that outsources his production, know straight away that he or she is applying the push principle. It is not wrong. It just leaves you with less control of your production process, which is not ideal but not wrong either. The push principle does teach you trust though and how to really identify people you can work with.😅😅

The Pull Process

This approach works the other way. This is where you first learn something new and then look for a place or idea to apply it. For example you decide to design a tracksuit because you discovered the perfect ribbing for tracksuits. Or you find out there’s a company that does wire binding and you decide to do sketchbooks. You will experience this a lot if you’re dedicated to personal development like me. Some time in 2017 I decided to learn After Effects. Instead of just blindly and purposelessly (if that’s a word) doing tutorials I decided I would animate my company logo. After learning After Effects I found myself asking, “What else can I animate?” and sought ideas in that regard. It was the same when I learnt Adobe Premier, when I discovered cardboard furniture, and many other new developments. The common denominator is that the new acquisition, be it in skillset or hardware or equipment, then pulls the process from the other end. The concept comes only after you learn how to produce as the availability of new means opens room and widens the scope of creativity.


Oftentimes these are pet projects that turn into new enterprises after someone really begins to explore how to exploit it. This is not wrong either. It just helps you widen your skillset which gives you more opportunities to satisfy your clients or even get more clients, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So which one are you? Are you a push designer or a pull designer. Try to be both. The truth is there’s no perfect science when it comes to these approaches. You have to take it on a case by case basis. You need to know when to push and when to pull. Like I alluded to earlier, pushing tends to be the default setting. Zimbabwe, especially,  seems to have infused in many of us a “hustler” mentality where we will agree to anything to deal the deal and get our slice of bread for the day. Then we run around frantically to try and make it happen and deliver. It would hurt from time to time to try and pull the process along. But that would mean making decisions to increase our skillset and capacity a bit. And there isn’t anything wrong with that. This has been CRUNCHTIME. See y’all next time.