The job of the artists is to create expressions. Expressions do not need to be tweaked, they are birthed into the world for others to interpret however they see fit. After shipping, the artist is then done and moves on to the next expression. The saying “real artists ship” makes a ton of sense. If an expression isn’t shipped it's only a thought in the artist’s mind. If it's only in their mind, no one can interpret it and it's not art.
The job of a Web “product” designer is to create frameworks for others to express themselves. Thats a huge difference. Shipping is only the start of a long process. We need to make sure that users don’t interpret the product however they see fit because they may not understand how to use the product to express themselves. After shipping, we continue iterating and improving the product so that the user interprets less and expresses more. The saying “real artists ship” doesn’t really apply to us designers. I would say “real designers nurture”.
Building a product is a lot like having a child. Most children grow up at a normal rate, and the parent’s job is to nurture their growth and mold them into a good human being. Some succeed, some fail. Sometimes the child grows up quickly. Some children go to college at the age of 10, though that doesn’t happen often. When it does happen, it’s a combination of luck and parents that nurture the child’s potential. No one stops being a parent at birth, you actually become one.
I believe that, in a way, the same applies for the designer.
I have a lot more respect for designers that have the same excitement after shipping a product as they did before shipping it. Because, at least in my mind, real designers nurture.
Written in New York. © 2013