Design Not Known
Let me cut to the chase. There’s a growing trend among graphic designers to create a name for themselves among their peers. And it’s not healthy.
Usually it starts off with good intentions. Some designer at company x or freelancing y begins reading design blogs. Then they get the idea that they could do the same. They stretch their wings out a bit and start their own blog. People start reading it. Traffic to the site rises. They promote their work. It’s good. They get featured some place big like name-your-favorite-design-blog.com. A bunch of people start coming to their site and leaving nice comments. After a year or two of this, the designer comes up with something that gets their foot into the door of design stardom. Might be a Web 2.0 application or a really helpful tool or the-next-big-thing insight. They’re invited to speak at SXSW-NXPDQZ conferences. They appear in HOW. They write the book everyone wants to buy. Shoot, maybe their “style” actually starts a design trend. How wonderful.
I know I’m over exaggerating a bit here, but the spirit underneath it all is to exalt the self…your self. How do I know? I’ve been tempted to travel this road too. You won’t find it slapping you in the face like the story above, but you will see “Your Way” road signs in more subtle ways. Take the term “personal branding”. Personal branding involves discovering our selves, our passions, our goals, our capabilities, our mission, our focus, our target, our customers, etc. We set it to paper. We try to live by it. Personal branding can manifest itself in branding statements for yourself that look an awful lot like the mission and vision statements of old. Personal branding comes to life in carefully sculpted clients, work, websites, articles that bolster and enhance one’s personal brand. There’s just one problem with all of this: us.
You see personal branding and all the other forms of exaltation you find in designdom today are centered around self. How does MY site look? Here is MY playlist? MY blog’s now in 9Rules. So-and-so even bigger named designer reads MY blog. MY work was just featured on umpty-ump. And the list goes on. I should know. I’ve fallen into most all of these myself.
Design is all about others, not us. Design is a servant, not the star. Design is outward focused, not inward. So, to all those designers who no one knows or will ever know; who are slogging it out in the trenches day in and day out serving others without a note of “look at what I’ve done” fanfare being played: I salute you. Keep going. Resist the urge to jump onto the “try to get myself noticed” wagon and keep serving others.