Rocky vs. Design

What does Rocky Balboa have to do with Design? Everything.

I, being my lazy self sometimes, just finished watching the conclusion of Rocky III, the epic retribution match between dethroned Rocky and the new Heavyweight Champion of the World Clubber Lang. a.k.a. Mr T. I pity the Fool! Anyway, in watching the fight, with it's ever inspiring music, I realized that the fight was as much about design as it was about sweaty meatheads with ridiculous bodies out for vengeance.

Stick with me here.

The first round: Rocky comes out strong at the starting bell, throwing rights over and over and over again... right in Clubber's Face. The constant battle we designers have with design is one that takes patience, and strategy for the long haul three round fight. It's so easy to come out strong jousting your creative demons, design challenges, or the blank page. Clubber doesn't seem to have too much to say for himself, with all the power and ferocity that Rocky comes at him with. Rocky's got this in the bag. But, what is easy to forget when you've got the high ground early on like that is that Clubber is HUGE.

Clubber is a large, angry, mohawked man, well more than capable of knocking your teeth out of your head. In the second round, Rocky again comes out strong, barraging Clubber with another front of hits. Suddenly, the demon awakens. Clubber, smashes Rocky. Once. Twice. Consistently brutal, and Rocky is surprised. Where did this come from? Apollo Creed is suprised. "Get up man! GET! UP!" Rocky takes a beating. nose bloodied, eyes sent to the back of his skull, and cheeks cut up. Design can do that to you. The second you think you've got the leg up, bam, out of nowhere comes the worst thing you could have imagined. Nose bloodied, eyes sent to the back of the skull, and cheeks cut up. Well, you get it.

The turning point of the fight, and subsequently this analogy, leading to Rocky's (spoiler alert) victory in the third round is when Rocky's trainers realize the genius of the situation. "What is he DOING? Get up! ... wait... he's not going down, he's getting MAD." The whole time, it's a psychological game. Rocky was never getting hit by surprise. He was never down and out. He was never had. Rocky played the game. He knew what inspired him, and played Clubber's arrogance to his strength. He faked him out. Rocky always had the high ground. He went into the fight with it already won in his head. He went into the fight knowing the game better than Clubber. He went into the fight knowing that he had the strength, the knowledge, the wit, and the skills to come out successful. He knew design better than anybody. The point is that as designers, we engage in bouts everyday. Most are not for Heavyweight Champion of the World, but they're fights nonetheless. You've got to know the game better than it does. You've got to be able to have strategy, foresight, and confidence. You've got to play the game better than design itself. That's what made the Balboas, the Rands, and the H&FJs. It's always been a psychological game. That's what Rocky has to do with design.

So, go forth stallions of creativity. You are the eyes of the tigers and at the top of the steps... and computer screens.

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