In one of my University modules, I have to learn about how a camera operates. The purpose of the lens, the way in which light travels into the camera, and other surprisingly confusing stuff. But in the first lecture, the professor sat down and said the most reassuring thing I’ve ever heard from somebody in an educational institute. It went something like this:

The problem with schools and teachers is that they show you some scientific theory and say “This is what you have to learn. It makes sense. It’s easy. Now prepare for the test in X months time.” But what they seem to forget themselves is that it took the people behind these theories years and years to formulate these ideas. It took geniuses several years to learn something we’re expected to pick up in a few months.

This realisation made me completely forget years of feeling inadequate in the academic realm. I’d never been particularly good at schoolwork, but it never occurred to me that that’s OK. That in reality, the ideas I was expected to pick up took someone much smarter than me years to formulate.

Design is a tricky one. It doesn’t quite have the same rules and theories as science. There isn’t really a design equivalent to the theory of relativity. I suppose the closest things are rules like “Don’t letterspace lower case,” but even those are subject to change. It’s a big old “it depends” in the world of design.

I suppose the point of my talking about this here is to have it said out loud that it’s ok for us to take our time to understand a certain principle or idea. We don’t have to just accept it. And when it comes to design, we can change or break those rules if we don’t understand them fully, or even if we do understand them fully.

The same can’t be said for gravity, however.