Have you ever noticed how much similar things seems to come up together from time to time? Like a newly learned word that seems to now be everywhere, or a great idea which is developed all around? I just love when that happen.
Lately, I’ve stumbled on a quite interesting serie of those intellectual coincidences. My great friend Samir wrote an article entitled «assuming for everyone». I read this awesome article on echo enduring called «Am I really good at this design thing?». And then, I received a mind blowing mail from Jordan Chenard, discussing the demotivating part of being a designer. Behind all this is one and only one idea, treated in different ways and perspectives by equally intelligent and aware people:
Designers are creatures of comparison. The most intrinsic part of designing is showing part of ourselves and being judged.
We compare to our peers because we feel our clients, and sometimes our coworkers, don’t have the ability to reviex properly our work.
When you’re told for the 3rd time to add blue, contrast, or a picture of a smiling woman by a guy whose mail signature is in purple Comic Sans on a sky blue background, you tend to get a bit on your nerves. Graphic design is one of the only job where clients have the power to deconstruct a work they don’t have the ability to make themselves.
In the end, what the clients think slowly transforms into something not so important, as the designer can be highly dissatisfied with the end result, no matter what.
We like to be judged by our peers because they “matter more”, or so it seems.
Compare what can be compared.
Being exposed to other people works all day long through the deforming lens of the internet can to some confusing feeling. “Am I really good? Why does this guy got so many good projects? This trendy style must be applied to everything in order to produce great work” In the end, you end up struggling with a mix of frustration, jealousy and even sometimes a slight feeling of superiority.
As a matter of fact, there’s quite a gap between a senior designer working for Nike and a junior designer in small agency working for local clients. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe we’re not born equal in talent (don’t beat me, let’s be honest) but unfortunately, even the greatest talent can’t save the day on a crappy project. When reviewing other designers work don’t forget to take a look at their about page: their position, age, and status (senior, junior, CD, AD, freelance…) might give you a hint of what kind of experience they have. And compare only what can be compared. Don’t scourge yourself with being «not as good» as someone else. Just ask yourself: would I be better than him/her if I had this project that I love so much? And if you’re not sure of the answer, just give a try at thhis layout on your free time.
Compare what needs to be compared.
With the Dribbble fad roaring in the background, people tend to compare their technical execution of a design more than the essence of if: answer to a problem. I like Dribbble. I like seeing other people work. But I also want to hear about the context and the real work behind the technic. If it’s all a matter of great execution, anyone with a lot of time and a lot of tutorials would do. Designers are more than people making pixel perfect stuff. Do not stick to comparing style or photoshop skills. You’re more than the hand using the pen tablet.
Having people you admire and compare to is not the same as comparing yourself to everyone in the world.
I believe in mentor and inspiring people. Actually, I think having one or more inspiring people in sight, to whom you can talk about your ideas and hesitations is surely the greatest way to evolve. He/She might posses a set of skills you know you have or want to have. You must respect him/her enough to trust his advice, even when it hurts. This very reference might be your goal, your achivement point, and a great help to grow as a designer.
((Working alone, I have yet to find this person, but am actively seeking it. Wherever you are, old CD, I’ll find you)
In the end, never forget: context matter. You are one unique designer in a sea of others, may that be a strenght or a flaw. Cultivate your uniqueness, even tho it doesn’t fit the standards or appreciation of the peers – if your guts tell you it’s right. And eventually, compare, but compare well.