Art and building product

There are many ways to build a product, there are many opinions floating around. Some say go after the market, while others say create your own market. Some believe that design thinking helps, while others push you to follow the graph.

What is the right way to build a product?

I tried to explore a little bit, instead of looking around and asking people, I asked myself what will make a good product?

Be close to the problem, not the solution.

Building a product is like painting, you need to be very near to your subject. If you are familiar with “Working in layers” concept, building product is almost exactly the same.

These are some common patterns that I see in people who create literally “work of art” and people who build products.

Yes I should paint it

This is a golden rule for the painting, If you are not feeling it, don’t do it. As simple as that.

You get hundreds of ideas every day, how do you know which one is worth trying? you see hundreds of subjects in a day, which one deserves a painting? Its subjective. Do not force your heart to like something.

There is a reason why people in college and school start world class products then people working in the same domain for years. Think hard and long about the problem, make sure that it is the problem that you want to solve.

Empty canvas

Start with a reference and an empty canvas. The reason why an empty canvas works so well in painting is because you can imagine any picture in it.

Same with the product, start with no dependencies, no legacy. It gives you the freedom for creating anything. Think everything in skeleton.

Layer it out

You need to break the idea into layers. The first layer is pale color, a blueprint of sorts, you sketch the edges and boundaries. This layer is very thin and it can be done quickly. You don’t see this layer in the final creation, but without that a perfect painting cannot exists.

The “Underpainting” for product is when you see what the product, and It is not how the product is going to look like. Layered is often misunderstood with Modularized. Layering is like a timeline, you cannot afford to go back, if you do you have to start from empty canvas. It is about understanding what the final product needs. and working towards it.Modularising is the way of executing this plan.

Blending and cooling

You start adding more shapes and starts refining so that it is blended in the canvas. Blending is very important aspect of painting, you should give the canvas some time, pause, to blend the layers. Initially it will not look good, but as you do the fine-tuning the softness will come out.

In the product development also there should be a cooling period, do the cleanup step back and look at what you already have.

Details and highlight

The final part of it of painting is details, pay attention to every single pixel. This is the tricky part, you never know what is enough.

Every time you add a layer make sure that it blends into your painting as well as keep looking at the reference so that you do not deviate from your original idea.

Most of us relate with this. Often when you are on a roll, you just keep your head down and want to do everything at once, but when you come out of it you will realise that it did not look like you had imagined or it is not blending the way you had imagined.


Its pretty hard process to take an empty canvas and put the right mixture of color, feel, meaning and beauty to it.

After these repeated process, that night when you sit next to the painting and look at it. You carefully retouch those highlights. When its dawn you think, of all the ways it would have turned out, it finally turned out to be pretty OK.

You sign it and move out to have a cup of coffee, searching for the next subject.

Next time when you are building something cool, imagine a perfect painting.

Featured image © Jess Hurley Scott