Designing is a mindset first, and a skillset second. I love it when I find the designer’s mindset in people – it gets me excited. They’ll identify the typeface before they read the word, their favorite genre of music is “anything that is good”, and they never fail to mention how much they love or hate the packaging of a product. The world desperately needs those kinds of people.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it – you in an industry that is both challenging and competitive. If you want to survive, you need to be skilled at more than just design; you need to understand the arts of communication, branding, psychology, marketing, and more. Above all, I implore you to guard yourself carefully. I have seen talented people get put in a box, and have the creativity pulled right out of them. That designer’s mind that you have – never lose it. It goes beyond your ability to create a nice website or logo. Designers are the innovators, the artists, the doers; the ones who analyze a problem and feel compelled to fix it. That creative energy is so valuable, and deserves to be recognized.
If you want to survive, you need to be skilled at more than just design; you need to understand the arts of communication, branding, psychology, marketing, and more.
Most jobs and client-work can put you in a creative box. It wasn’t long before my business partner and I realized that most people didn’t hire us for our mindset; they hired us for our skillset. In other words, we weren’t asked to create something original; we were asked to put our creativity aside, and just do what we were told. A large portion of my job was to communicate to our clients that what they were asking for, is not what they needed, and that we were hired for our creativity, not for our complacency.
This was fine work for us, and we were very successful. We would do the work, collect a solid paycheck, and then repeat the cycle. However, there was a problem; it never fulfilled the creative desires inside of us. If I could go back in time and tell my younger-self one thing it would be this: “Only work with people who appreciate who you are, and not just what you do”.
I love designers. When most people aren’t happy with a product or service they give it a bad review, toss it aside, or find something better. The designer sees why something doesn’t work, and how to fix it. You are the innovators, the doers, and the ones who actually improve things. You do for a living something that is almost divine – you create something out of nothing.
You were meant to create! It breaks my heart to see a designer’s creativity locked up. Have you ever noticed how you education changed as you grew older? Think back to when you were a kid. We wanted to be astronauts, ballerinas, businessmen, professional athletes, and in my case – a fire truck. We would paint, dance, sing, play, and using our imagination was rewarded, not discouraged.
Then came the box. The arts took a backseat to maths and sciences. We didn’t explore anymore, we were limited to a room, and a desk, and a pen. You were taught not to think of a creative solution, just learn the equation and do the work. That mindset of “I can do anything I set my mind to” changed to “get good grades, attend a good college, and get a good job”.
In my experience, I have found that the most successful people around me have the mind of a designer; that creative mindset that refuses to be locked up. Often we are often taught to play it safe, and not to take risks – I say “to hell with that”! Where would we be if Einstein, Da Vinci, or Edison didn’t take the risks? Our entire world could be set back and we would be living in the 80s (I shutter to think about that possibility).
Please understand, I am not saying to avoid working for clients, or to quit your job and start a business in your garage. What I am trying to say to you is that you have value far beyond what you can do; you have value in who you are. Find people who not only respect your gift as a designer, but encourage it (and are willing to pay for it). If a client wants someone who will just do as they are told, they can find someone else – you are a creator, you are the professional, and your mindset is just as valuable as your skillset. That wonderful mind of a designer is something to be treasured.