To explain this better, I want to tell you a story...
The professor of one of my design classes in college had us work on a project. It was a logo project, and we all got very excited. He gave us a fake business name and some details about the business and said to us “Create 5 logo concepts for this new business. You have the rest of the class to work on them, and they are due the next time we meet.” Keep in mind that our design classes were 3 hours long. So we worked hard on our logo designs and created some concepts that we were proud of. The next class we all brought in our artwork to show off and the professor glanced through the work, then promptly throw them away in the trash.
We were shocked and a little confused that he would do that. Then he said “Good job. Now create 5 more logo concepts for the same business. You have the rest of the class to work on them, and they are due the next time we meet.” So again we worked diligently throughout the class and even at home. I was even more proud of the new designs than the first ones. The following class, we again brought in our logo designs, and again the professor glanced through them, then throw them in the trash.
Now we were getting frustrated and irritated at him for trashing our precious artwork. Then he said, “You guys are on a roll. Now create 5 more logo concepts for the business. You have the rest of the class to work on them, and they are due the next time we meet.” Of course, exhausted from the work we had done already, we were a little drained, but we pressed on anyway (after all, grades were at stake).
I had to get really creative to come up with the last 5 logo designs. I thought outside the box, beside the box, and beneath the box. What if there were multiple boxes, and could I open the box? I thought of everything under the sun to get those last concepts created, and wouldn’t you know, I thought they were my best designs yet. I proudly brought them to the next class, and this time it was different.
The professor collected the designs and displayed them up on the wall. He highlighted and praised them, and said, “I want you guys to realize why I threw away your past ideas. The first designs were cliche ideas, always dismiss your first round of concepts. The second ones were better as they were more creative, but not quite there. These last concepts are beautiful, and I can assure you that a client would be very happy with these. You should be proud.”
Just like the fact that a university with a high applicant rejection rate directly influences the value of the diploma (Harvard doesn’t let just anyone in), the rejection of your own designs directly influences the quality of the end product. The more ideas that you throw away (even what seems like a good idea), the more opportunity there is to create more creative ideas. And you will likely be surprised at what comes out of your mind once you challenge yourself to do so.
If you are a freelance designer tracking your time on client’s projects, be sure to include the ‘rejection’ time in with your bill. Clients don’t realize everything that happens ‘behind the scenes’ in order for that masterpiece to show itself. Much like making a movie; there were probably 10 takes of a single scene, but the viewer only sees the one perfect one. The director had to reject 9 takes to get the one that he wanted.
So don’t be afraid to toss your good ideas as better ones are likely to evolve from it.