If you’re doing something for the glory and attention, you’re doing something for the wrong reasons. We work in an industry that has a very rare facet to it compared to many others. Many people work all day at a job they’re willing to endure for the sake of payment, in exchange for their time invested. However, as designers and creative, there’s a pretty good chance we’d be doing what we’re doing whether there was payment or not. We love what we get to do.
When you really break it down, we draw pictures for a living. We have the jobs people wish they could quit their jobs to do. We do all day what people go home to do for fun in their spare time. Take just a moment and ponder on how awesome that is. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Seriously, we have so much to be grateful for with our line of work. What a gift.
It’s easy for us to get caught up with the fact that we want credit for what we create. After all, the music, film, and art industries have filled our heads with the concept of “make sure you’re given credit for what you’ve created, you’ve earned it.”
Brand name clothing exists to let you be their walking advertisements. Logos and copyright symbols are on everything to assure credit is given where credit is due. Photographers watermark every stinking photo they take (pet peeve…), and even traditional painters famously sign their every work to assure all who set eyes upon it know who created each masterpiece.
Can you imagine if we as designers pretentiously placed our name in the corner of every web element, screen, website, and print piece we created? We’d be laughed out of our chairs (or standing desks, if that’s your ergo-preference).
We designers exist not to bring glory to ourselves, but to keep the focus on the problem or need our design sets out to solve. If the focus comes to us, the designer, then we are likely doing so at the expense of the message we were hired to communicate. It’s not about us. We’re simply the strategic messengers.
Now I realize that by now, most of you are thinking, “Duh, we get that you idiot.” But I’ll venture to challenge you even further.
Have you ever caught yourself trying to over-design something to make it look like it had your touch on it, instead of simply communicating the message in a distraction-free, clear way? Have you ever found yourself saying, this works, but it needs more “wow, pizzazz, pop, ‘other buzz-word’ from my bag of tricks”? It’s tempting. I get it.
It’s tempting to toss in a little something from your digi-quiver in the hope that someone you trust/respect will recognize it and give you that little glimmer of praise. But it’s not worth it—especially when it’s at the expense of making the content more confusing or harder to read because you just had to add that texture behind the text, or use that questionable signature free font you always fall back on?
Realistically, there will be times you will be hired for your illustration style, or for your understanding of keyframe easing, or for your wizardry in Cinema4D. In those times, run amuck. After all, they came to you for your specialty. Those times are few and far between, so savor them when you’ve got them.
But more often than not, your client, communications director, boss, or what-have-you just wants their idea communicated in a clear, understandable, and beautiful way. We’re there not to just give people what they want, but to show them what they need. They’re paying us not to simply show off our design skill, but for our ability to think and make the best choice for them. Keyword: them.
Some people will want you to make something that’s over-designed or poorly styled, but when you give them something that’s right for their need, that they couldn’t put their finger on, they’ll thank you for it. Be the best in your clients’ eyes for what you bring to a project. Don’t try to do that through your work itself. It’s about making sure you’re someone worth coming to for the best solution—not for showboating yourself around. It must be appropriate to their needs.
Do work worth repeating and people will want you to repeat it on their behalf. Don’t just create for you, do your best to serve others. Create with a bold simplicity. If you don’t, you may end up being your only client, and I guarantee you don’t pay well. Be known for who you are, not for what you make.