As my time in the the design industry marches on, and as I continue to pile more and more diverse projects onto my resume, I’ve attained certain viewpoints on the industry as a whole, and on the thinking behind what we call ‘graphic design.’
Early on, if I envied any attribute that I saw in more seasoned designers, it was their wisdom. Design wisdom allows us to be more efficient with our work, and to arrive upon the best solution quicker. Solutions that once took layers of second-guessing, worry, and confusion now come much quicker and simpler, with a far more impressive end-result. The wise designer makes things look so easy.
So that was my hope. That someday I would attain the wisdom that I saw in so many of the designers that I looked up to. As time progressed, I started realizing that that day would not arrive at my door, but instead be bestowed upon me, little by little, throughout the duration of my career. It’s even possible that I may never realize the design wisdom that I possessed, when I actually possessed it.
So then, the only tangible reward was the journey itself. The excitement of becoming better, and the effort put forth to get there, that was the reward. The true prize wasn’t being better. It was getting better.
I spent quite a few years of my life writing music in a band. Writing a song was a wonderful journey. We were creating four minutes of music and sounds that no one had heard before, and it was happening right before our eyes. We would then take these songs into the studio, and even more levels of creativity entered the mix. We toyed with how we could arrange all of the different song parts, what type of pre-chorus could most effectively build up to the chorus, and what bridge could contrast best with the rest of the song – there were so many options, our minds would race.
The time in the studio was full of those moments when we come up with an idea, try it out, and all look at each other with the same reaction: “Holy Sh*#! That’s freaking awesome!” Something that we came up with was giving us a rush of excitement, and for that moment, we felt pretty darn creative. That’s the feeling. That feeling alone is the single best high that I could get with music. Not playing in front of packed venues, or people singing your song – it’s the feeling of being immersed in the creative process, and impressing yourself.
Any recognition or reward that came after writing a good song would never really please me the way that the process of creating it did. The greatest reward was in the journey of creating.
The idea translates perfectly to design.
When I receive a project, an image pops into my head, immediately. Whether it’s a apparel graphic or a logo, there is some type of visual that accompanies any assignment. Ideally, those images pop into my head, one after another, and I get a chance to jot them down. On the same token, I hope that each new project allows an opportunity to try something new. Maybe it’s as simple as a new font that you bought, or a technique that you came up with – the hope is that you’ll get a chance to go on some journey with this project.
Often times, projects evolve into something very different than the initial intention, and if we are wise, we’ll allow the diversion to take us some where new. I like to think that there is value in the distraction, and I must respect where it may take me.
But what stands out to me the most about this type of thinking is that the craving is for some new journey. As a designer’s career ages, the path from point A to B gets more and more worn, as it’s been traveled countless times, and for some, every day. I’ve created a few paths, myself, which I travel quite frequently. But now, these paths are boring me, and I’m anxious to take a new journey.
While I am an advocate for creating an effective system, I’m an even bigger advocate of completely ignoring the system, from time to time.
I encourage you to place your value in your journey, and the excitement of actually creating something that impresses you. I have a feeling that this concept will help our design careers stay fresh, and for our work to not only make our living, but truly fulfill our need to create.