If It Doesn’t Work, Don’t Fix It. Start From Scratch Instead.

Sometimes the best way to solve a design problem is to take a step back and start over.

Piotr Bakker
2 min readMay 23, 2023

Early in my design career I’d spent countless hours trying to solve some obscure usability problem. I would come up with various gimmicky ways to squeeze an extra button or cram another text field into an already crowded screen. But no matter how hard I tried, or how many ideas I threw at a problem, none of the solutions felt right. I found myself going in circles.

At the time I failed to realize that whenever you get bogged down like that, banging your head against the wall rarely is the answer. Instead, you should take a big step back and start from scratch.

Starting from scratch means letting go of any pre-conceived notions of what the solution should be. It allows you to give yourself permission to see the user interface as a blank slate, as if none of the existing layouts and components existed. It is only with this mindset that you can start to imagine what the true solution to the problem should be.

But it’s not just about the state of mind you are in. Starting from scratch helps you also in practical terms. Armed with the experience gained from your initial attempts at solving the problem, you can better identify the flaws and errors in your earlier work. You have to recognize these underlying issues first, before you can address them in a more structured and thoughtful way.

That’s not to say starting from scratch isn’t going to be painful. It often means dismantling the work you’ve already done, no matter how much time and effort you’ve sunk into it. There is a psychological cost too: you have to face the fact that you are not this omnipotent deity that eats design problems for breakfast. It can be a humbling and uncomfortable feeling.

Starting over is not a panacea for all design problems, nor is it a painless process. But when you feel like you aren’t getting anywhere, it might be a sign that, well, you won’t. So the next time you find yourself wrestling with a design problem for too long, maybe stop searching for a quick fix. Try starting from scratch instead.



Piotr Bakker

Product designer and occasional writer 🇪🇺🇺🇸