Perfect: the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects (Google definition).
Since I was a child, I have always been competitive to the point of becoming a perfectionist, a person who refuses to accept any standard short of perfection. Not only did I want to be better than my peers in sports, academics, and in social circles, I wanted to be remembered for my superiority. Despite those ambitions, I did not come close to those desires. Not even a fraction. I was good at sports but certainly not the best, and, socially, I was (and possibly still am) an awkward butterfly. However, that is not the point. The purpose of this piece is to share my former definitions of perfection and my realization of the existence of perfection based on time.
Cultural definition of perfect
The term perfect has been used in ethics, mathematics, sciences, theology, in media, ontology and aesthetics. You can read more about the history of the word perfect in this wikipedia article.
As a designer, one of the many sentiments that I’ve adopted from the design community is “no design is ever done.” A task can be completed. A design can be deemed usable enough to be introduced to the market. A design can meet certain criteria and heuristics, but “done” implies no further changes are necessary or needed. A design that requires change is one with faults. A design that does not require change is free of faults. The design is perfect. However, no design is ever “done”. Thus, no design is ever perfect.
The definition of perfection that I hold in regards to design implies perfection as an intrinsic quality. This is one that I have only adopted recently. Prior, perfection was a marker of comparison. It was the equivalent of superior. The prettiest…of them all. The smartest…of them all. The bravest…of them all. The best…of them all. I hope, dear reader, you are seeing the trend by now. This idea of perfection led to significant emotional strain over the years. I never felt good enough because there was always someone more experienced or better than me.
The existence of perfect
Many sources both address perfectionism and denounce the existence of perfect through various means. Some use encouragement. For example, when defining perfect as a comparable term, perfect becomes as variable as the group that is being used for comparison. Therefore, the standard of perfect is based on individual preference, background, experience, beliefs, and history. In this case, perfection exists, but it many forms.
Another approach to reducing the anxieties and inefficiency of perfectionism is to denounce the existence of perfect all together. In particular, perfection, in the traditional sense, is static. It does not change because there is no need to change, but nothing in life is changeless. Actress and singer, Nia Peeples states,
“Life is a moving, breathing thing. We have to be willing to constantly evolve. Perfection is constant transformation.”
Perfect and space-time
When I think of something changeless and motionless, I think of a singular point. By geometry definition, a point is a location having no size (i.e. no width, no length and no depth). When I think of perfection, I think of this point. A point, without context, is faultless. Perfection, without context or comparison, is also faultless.
When I think of time, I think of a series of points creating a timeline. This may get into space-time, a “concept that recognizes the union of space and time, first proposed by the mathematician Hermann Minkowski in 1908 as a way to reformulate Albert Einstein’s special theory of relativity (1905)”, as stated in Britannica. As my knowledge of space-time extends to 5 minute overly-simplified but highly helpful TED animations, I will not (and cannot) get too in depth with this topic. However, for the sake of this writing, I see perfection as this point that moves from one destination to another (changing spaces) over the course of time. This perfection’s movement and appearance changes based on various perspectives.
Think of making a cake for the first time. There is an expectation, like a rating of deliciousness, of how this cake is supposed to taste. This expectation, in the context of this conversation on perfection, is one point. Not comparing this cake to anything else, this one mark will deem this cake as perfect. Later (now including time) we make this cake again. This time, the cake tastes better. Now this expectation has a new point (a new destination) that exceeds the original mark of perfection.
Now, maybe there were changes to the recipe that aided in the cake surpassing its original mark of perfection. This then opens the debate as to whether this cake counts as surpassing perfection if it is not the same cake. anymore. Does adding an extra teaspoon of nutmeg suddenly no longer makes this the same cake? I don’t know. For me, these slight changes do not change the cake. It is like changing my hairstyle or gaining or losing weight. I am still me.
Perfect and me
As I look at my past writings and designs, I remember the feelings I had when I first created them. You could not tell me that my first draft of my novel, Sprint Dreams was not perfect. You could not tell me that my earlier portfolio designs were not perfect. However, as I learn and grow as a creative, my mark for perfection changes. It may sound arrogant to say that in this very second as I write this letter, I am in a state of perfection. However, as I move on to the next sentence, I have now moved on to a new mark for perfection. Every breath is a point of perfection that could be significantly better or worse than the point of perfection before. Every project is perfect until the point of expectation changes.
In short, we are always perfect because we are always stagnant and always moving.
Let me know how perfection fits in your field and how it is measured for you.