The IKEA Effect on Creatives

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Written by James Dowd,
• 3 min read

As creatives, we've all been in the position where we wrap a difficult project and confidently share it with the team, only for it to be thrown back for major revisions. “Seriously, what the hell, man,” we silently shout. “Blood, sweat, and tears went into that thing!”

But, we're forgetting one important thing. The work we toiled over for hours and hours that we love so dearly, and that wasn't just complete, it was groundbreaking. Well, it might actually kinda suck.

Our intense confidence and pride in it — whether it's brilliant copy, inspired design, or any other creative output — comes from the fact that we put a little piece of ourselves in it, over great lengths of time. We've stared at it, reached deep within ourselves, pushed and pulled, and overcome obstacles that no one will ever know about. Only we know how big of a challenge this was, and how incredible we are for accomplishing such an impossible task. But, don't forget: it still might actually kinda suck.

That feeling of pride we have over our own work can be attributed to a psychological phenomenon called the IKEA Effect. It's where ones comes to find deeper appreciation and disproportionately high value in the things we have put effort into, like the IKEA furniture we assemble. The IKEA Effect further suggests that when someone uses their own hands to create something, they holder it in higher esteem, even if it was done poorly.

With an IKEA bookshelf, for example, we painstakingly assemble a range of unidentifiable pieces over hours of our day. At the end, we have a perfect bookshelf (no, the perfect bookshelf) that we proudly display for all to see. But, we forget that it's still a low-cost bookshelf (if you're as cheap as me). It's made from particle board and lacking any upgrades or frills, and to others, it might actually kinda suck.

Like our bookshelf, the work we create holds a higher value to us based on our time, effort, and passion that went into turning randomness into a “final” product. However, eight hours of hard work does not mean it's the best it can be. That's why we all need an unbiased eye to help add the little details that make it a higher-quality product. We all need that senior creative to teach us how to turn our particle-board monstrosity into something more intricate and compelling.

Maybe your bookshelf needs glass doors, recessed lighting, or a trim that gives it the illusion of being built into the wall. Whatever is needed, it's important to remember that a major part of creative work is understanding that there is still room to grow. Your finished work, no matter how seemingly perfect, might not meet everyone else's standard, and certainly no consumer will accept it as compelling just because you worked hard on it.

Especially if it kinda sucks.

Embrace your creative spirit. Let''s build something together!