Kick faster––Bruce Lee’s advice to master a skill

The pupil asked, “Master, what can I do to kick faster?”

Bruce Lee answered, “Kick faster.”

Can you imagine getting an answer like that from your teacher or mentor? What do you do with that response? Okkaaaaay, I’ll just kick faster.

Oddly, that’s exactly what we should do. Kick faster.

Younger designers often ask me, “How do I design better?” I used to go into long-winded responses about studying color psychology, develop “an eye” for things, and other design platitudes.

Now I simply say, “Kick faster.”

What does kicking faster mean for designers*

*Replace designer with your own craft (winemaker, baker, musician, photographer, accountant, etc.).

The underlying philosophy of Bruce Lee’s response to his pupil involved two key principles:

  1. Develop a growth mindset. Mindfully will yourself to kick faster. You have to want it. You have to want to grow and get better.
  2. Do the work. Kicking faster happens when you kick, faster.

Design better by being a student of design, studying what makes good design, and develop a design taste by observing everything. What are the visual differences between a sign or interface with words and objects mashed together with little to no whitespace compared to one that breathes with whitespace allowing your eyes to focus on what’s important and reducing cognitive load for the user or customer.

Design better by designing. Often. Everyday. Design as much as you can. Design signs, ads, billboards, websites, apps. Improve the design of a Chipotle line and its relative space to the tables and chairs in the restaurant. Design a better layout for your local DMV. Design a better experience at your local DMV.

Design better by making things. We can talk endlessly about what colors to use, fonts, size, shapes, space, movement, etc., but we design better by actually doing the work. Observe it. Learn from how we interact with it. Then design it better. Iterate. Improve it.

Then push yourself to continue to improve it. Make it better for the person using what you’ve designed. Make it seamless. Make it intuitive. Make it make sense. Make it work.

Get ideas out of your head and onto paper. Think with your hands. That’s how you can design better. And collaborate with other designers and other specialists. Get out of your own head, get into the heads of your teammates, and especially get into the heads of your users.

Pick something you want to design and do it daily until you create a body of work over a week, a month, a year. See how your design gets better with each attempt and iteration.

Asking the question, “How do I design better?” is a great start. You clearly want to grow. The next step is to go kick faster.