Lead Visual Designer (Brand) at Mozilla, Transmogrifier of vectors, animator of GIFs, CSS eyebrow waggler, ketchup chip expert, lover of thick cut bacon.
I’m going to talk to you about being a designer, but of course this applies to [INSERT PORTION OF LIFE HERE]. There are other articles out there that speak to what I’m about to say, but hey, I want to talk too and this is my article. Many voices.
As a designer, what an age we live in. People everywhere are coming online within social networks, blogs and other sites sharing ideas and inspiring the masses with a collective outpouring of creativity. As a designer, it is amazing to have the ability to play and be inspired by thousands upon thousands of my peers just by simply seeing their work tweeted or shared in a portfolio site online. What an awesome resource the Internet is for creativity and anyone first stepping into the design world.
As a designer, it is also terrifying.
Why would any designer out there want to become high enough profile in their profession that thousands or millions of people get to see their work? How badly would that person have to hate themselves to put up with the onslaught of feedback that can be defined simply as deconstructive? Maybe someone might think they ripped off another designer and their career would be over before it even started. Do they even have any original ideas or are they just interpretations of what others have already done? What if everyone hates their work? Wait… who is “everyone”?
I know, right? Frig that. I’m just going to stare at this wall for the rest of the day.
Imposter syndrome is something lots of us are talking about these days. It leads to fear in one’s abilities, fear in being excited about your work, fear in the impact your work may have, fear in the lack of impact… self doubt is a huge gronk of a beast as a designer. So when I see current events like the deluge of hate towards the iOS 7 redesign or someone ripping apart #the #latest #design #story, I can’t help but think that all this deconstructive criticism and rage is simply unfiltered bullying. What else is it? Are these haters doing anything to offer guidance or help with any of the concerns they may have? No. Are these people at the very top of their field in design that they now know the One True Way to design a product, brand or piece of art? Mostly no, but sadly sometimes they are damn close and should know better. Do these haters actually care that there are individuals behind these designs and not just faceless companies? Again, in most cases, probably not.
Here’s something I learned over the years. The haters are the minority. They shout to be heard and unfortunately the haters sometimes become the majority in numbers within the feedback you do get. That is only because everyone else is just enjoying your work, or respects it enough to not offer criticism without purpose. If they over-the-moon love it, they’ll comment. If they want to offer constructive advice, they’ll comment.
So as a designer, what can you do?
Lead. Lead by example. Learn to love the helpers and ignore the haters. Inspire others, don’t belittle them. Be constructive, not destructive. Embrace fear. Allow the challenge of taming that fear to lead you to that amazing creative spark that everyone sees shining through the final piece. Love what you do, regardless of what others say. If you love your work, it shows. Don’t be afraid to show it off, but remain humble – allow some of that imposter syndrome to keep you in check so you’re not seen as a diva.
If you’re just beginning as a designer, be it through school or just as a side experience, welcome! Embrace any fears you may have because for the most part they stick around the whole way through your career. Love them and they’ll keep you humble and a designer others want to work with. You’ll find your place.
If you’re a designer now, I salute you. Keep all of this in mind and be sure to inspire, nurture, mentor, aid, encourage, all other designers. We’re not competition. We’re family. Don’t let a paycheque make you a hater.
As a designer, don’t be a bully. Just play.