I write about design, freelancing, product making, and more. I also post some of the articles from my weekly design newsletter, Critique, here. To get all my articles, sign up for the newsletter.
Why is designing a website for yourself or writing your professional bio so much more difficult than client work?
Why are there so many designers with terribly out-dated portfolio websites?
Why are there so many articles on the web about “Personal branding”?
The answer for each of these question is the same: humans have a blind spot.
When I was a kid, I’d use words like “sellout” when a band I liked found bigger success or when other people started listening to them.
Looking back, of course, this was a childish and arrogant way to think. More people discovering great art is only a positive thing.
As an adult and having been a working designer for over a decade, I still see that same attitude directed towards other creative professionals, not only musicians.
Every few months all the tech blogs brag about a new thing that will replace designers.
But we designers are still here.
Why is it that technology has proven unable to replace us? The answer is simple and has everything to do with our history.
I write about how designers can establish ourselves as experts,
persuade people to follow our recommendations, and build trust so that we can avoid revisions and other frustrating aspects of working with non-designers.
But sometimes you have to do what they say, and there’s no avoiding it.
You are only reading this sentence because you are angry that I called you petty.
*cough* petty, not pretty. *cough*
And you should be angry. Because, if you are a designer, many of the people you work with have thought you were petty at one time or another.
If a guy’s necktie width or a gal’s skirt hem length is wrong, each is the object of scorn.
People think your tie/skirt is horrible and therefore you are a horrible human. They hate you and your shamefully narrow/wide/long/short cut of fabric. Go hide in a hole, so they don’t have to witness your awful taste.
This is exactly how many people see design.
How excluding others from the design process prevents them from respecting and appreciating design.
Your client is the lion hiding in a bush, and you are the gazelle.
You’re having a great afternoon, grazing and soaking in the sun. Doing your gazelle thing.
But pop, out leaps the lion, and that nice afternoon turns gory and painful.
You were making a design for your client/boss, and it was going great. Then they leaped from the shadows with new information and eviscerated your design—after you’d already spent a ton of time working on it.
Early in our careers, many of us designers compare our work to the best in the profession. We look at awards sites and top-tier creative agencies and strive to be that good at making design.
Comparison is valuable because it helps you get a neutral perspective about your skill. Especially for newer designers. But it can be damaging to even the most experienced of us.
The truth is that you will never be as good as other designers. Not like you want to be.
When you critique a design, what kinds of issues do you usually bring up?
Earlier this week, as I was critiquing the work of another designer, I was thinking back to when I was a junior designer and had to endure critiques of my work. I was remembering all the comments I used to hate.
When I was the one doing the critiquing, I found myself saying all those same things I used to hate hearing.