In this guest post whiteGrey’s national experience design director, (pictured below), offers his personal “designer survivor tips”…
Sometimes I look back on my career and think “how the f*** did I get here”? I started my career a long time ago, before my first job, before I started college, when I used to pick up a pen and scribble pictures of golf ball packaging, Mavericks F-14 plane from top gun and soccer stadiums.
That for me was the start of my designer career, the work has changed a little, but my passion for it never waivers. However, I now see a lot of young designers being disheartened, particularly because of the commercial side of the business.
I completely understand that design can be discouraging, it can suck the life out of you when you hear “make the logo bigger” or “my cousin’s-son’s-daughter has Photoshop and has put together this wireframe for you”. I get it, that sucks. But it should, because being a designer sucks sometimes, it does hurt when you hear these things, though that is what makes you a designer. You’re empathetic, you ‘feel’ your work, you put your heart and soul into it, and when someone says stuff like that it’s hard not to be offended.
So here’s my guide to surviving design:
- Don’t take no crap from yourself!
If you don’t believe in something, or don’t think it’s the best you could do with what you’ve got, don’t put it out there. Bad work, breeds bad work — don’t put yourself in that position.
“The life of a designer is a life of fight. Fight against the ugliness. Just like a doctor fights against disease. For us, the visual disease is what we have around, and what we try to do is cure it somehow with design.” – Massimo Vignelli
- Know your why
Why did I want to become a designer? You don’t have to be right the first time you define your ‘why’, just having one will help give you focus and get you through the worst of briefs. Mine has been fairly simple for the last few years — ‘To do good sh*t and make people’s lives a little better’.
- Park the ego
Nothing is beneath you as a designer. No job too small or simple. You’re a craftsman/woman. If it’s small and simple, make it amazing. If it’s big and complex, make it amazing. This point was written for me, I can be guilty of a nose turn every now and again and I have to check myself. It’s easy to slip, but holding yourself accountable for your actions will make you a better person and designer.
- Don’t hide you
I’m Scottish, a little sensitive and a little fiery. I don’t mind showing it every now and again, and I don’t mind my team showing their true selves as well. It’s important to embrace your you, and show it. As long as you can again check yourself, be better next time and do good shit, you’ll be ok.
- Have a dream client or job
Mine is the PGA tour, or a big golf brand like a Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist or PXG. (Or doing the digital stuff for Top Gun 2)
I love golf, it’s the fourth love of my life after my wife and kids, design is fifth. So if the PGA or a brand came knocking if would be a no brainer. I know the only way I could do that is to do the very best work for them even to take notice. So I try on everything I do.
- Love what you do
Being a designer is the best job going. Dead-set. I can’t believe how lucky I am. I get to design day-in day-out (some cool stuff and some not so cool). It has shown me the world for FREE! I’ve met friends for life, who live throughout the world. I’ve met the craziest people in the craziest places, and it’s all because of design. Embrace the knot in your stomach when you get feedback from a client or director, and love making it even better.
“There is no such thing as a boring project. There are only boring executions.” – Irene Etzkorn
If you are a designer, LOVE IT. You are one of the lucky ones, if you don’t love it, the designers around you who do LOVE IT will leave you behind. Don’t waste your time doing something you don’t love.
I’m just waiting for the call from ‘Maverick’.
I get that the jobs aren’t always amazing, and some of them as so bad you want to scoop your eyes out, but look at your portfolio and you will realise that only a handful of projects ever make it in there, because they are special, they are incredible and they are rare events. But doing great or even amazing work on the stuff that isn’t in there ensure your name is top of the list when the amazing projects come up.
Being a designer is cool as f*ck, don’t waste it sweating the small stuff.