The design community, like any community, has its problems and issues that need to be resolved. It’s going to take a lot more than a single blog post (or even an entire blog) to solve them, but, bit by bit, if more and more designers are vocal about the problems, we can perhaps all reach a solution.
There are some glaring issues that we’re going to discuss in today’s post which I’ve noticed over the years, that I believe should be addressed by the design community as a whole going forward.
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With the advent of the internet and its huge role in today’s design industry, it’s become far easier for designers to share their work with one another. This is mostly a good thing, but sometimes, designers can become slaves to the trend bandwagon they’re seeing at the moment, and they’ll begin doing everything they can to stay abreast of it.
Making your work look like everything else out there because you want to be more popular with clients or because you want more likes on Behance is never a good idea. Firstly, clients who push you to make designs that look like everyone else’s are not good clients.
That would be fine if that were truly the extent of the problem. But many designers, mostly inexperienced ones (but not always), will take things a step further and actually outright copy large portions of other designers’ work. This goes beyond merely keeping up with trends, and lands squarely in the land of intellectual property theft.
Ego has a legitimate place in design. After all, you’re being commissioned specifically for your creativity, and a designer has to have at least a basic level of self-confidence in order to believe that he or she is capable of such a task. Similarly, a designer will want to do the best quality work that they are capable of, and often that means noodling with tiny details that ordinary folks wouldn’t notice.
Your attention to detail makes the entire project look better, and your client will be happy with your dedication.
However, it’s important to remember the bottom line: no matter how creative you are or how good you make your designs look, you, the designer, are essentially a commodity. You’re being hired as a designer to make the company money, not to showboat your beautiful designs around for praise and compliments – that’s what your personal projects are for.
The feedback given to you by good clients is to help you help them make more money, not to tear down your creative work of art. Hurt feelings are a byproduct of ego that needs to be put to the side while you’re working professionally.
This phenomenon is part of what I like to call the Dribbble Conundrum. Many designers are valuing form over function, and forgetting the actual point of design, which is to solve a problem for your client. Even when the client is yourself. Posting work online and having others gush with praise over it is enough to give anyone the wrong idea about what design is all about.
“Creative” is good, but so is “usable” or “functional.” Before polishing the outside of a car, it’s important to make sure it has an engine first.
I believe this problem stems largely from design schools, which manufacture designers who have been trained to seek the praise of their instructors and classmates, rather than a potential client. They design according to expectations that are unrealistic, and which almost no client would agree to.
Don’t get me wrong, I believe that being a student is the best opportunity you will have to explore your creativity and be as crazy and experimental as you want. But the bottom line is, you’re going to eventually be working to someone else’s specifications. Otherwise, you’re creating art, not design – in which case, call it what it is.
Here’s a good one. Many designers today see their computers as all-in-one workstations where they simply sit down and leap straight into Photoshop or Illustrator and take a design from the idea stage all the way to completion. I’m not saying this method doesn’t work for some designers, or that it’s not a good way to save time when you’re really pressed to meet a deadline. It can be a hassle to scan in drawings or fiddle around with analog materials when your tablet is right there.
But it’s important to remember that software doesn’t have all the answers – technology doesn’t equal creativity. If you’re finding it hard to get real, quality work done completely on your computer, perhaps it’s time to take a break and dust off that sketchbook. I don’t really know any designers at the top level who don’t make tons of sketches and notes on paper first, before ever touching their computer.
Working on paper forces you to actually think about your design before you just dive in. When you sketch, you have to slow down, let the ideas filter through your head, and spend some time going through the duds before you get to the right one for your project. 99.9% of the time, this results in a much better result, plus you actually save time on the computer because the majority of the work has already been done.
This is something that many, many designers, including myself, struggle with at least occasionally. After all, it’s much faster and easier to hop on the computer and start clicking away. But a lot of things simply fly out of the window when you design this way, including, sometimes, even basic rules of design. You forget about composition, details, color theory, and the purpose of each design element.
Designers can get so caught up in the world of beauty and perfect functionality that is design that they forget they are designing for “regular” people who may not know as much, or care as much about design as you do.
Instead of thinking that these people aren’t as inclined in design as you are, this may mean that you aren’t spending enough time outside of your little design bubble to have a broad perspective on the human experience. As a result, your design ideas will eventually stagnate, and you will find yourself churning out the same uninspiring ideas for client after client.
Do me a favor: next time you get a new client, before you do any sketching or browsing through Design Served, just get up from your computer, go over to your bookshelf, and pick up a book. It doesn’t even matter which one – the more off-topic it is, the better.
Read about philosophy, science, history – whatever. Just sit down and soak in something non-design related for a moment. Do this on a regular basis, along with going outside and interacting with people, and I guarantee you will see an upsurge in the quality of your creative ideas.
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This may sound harsh, but bear with me for a moment. I don’t mean that your clients don’t care about good design, just that they, and most people who will encounter your work, will be looking at it with an outsider’s perspective, rather than with the deep love and reverence that you have.
And don’t think you’re not just as guilty about other industries whose products and services you use. Most people who own a car don’t really care about the specifics of how the engine works. You just want the darn thing to get you where you need to go, and you want the mechanic to fix it if it’s broken. Nobody wants a long, boring explanation of how the human body works when they go to the doctor, either; just fix me and let me get out of here.
Do you agree that these 6 things are problems in the design world? What else do you think is lacking among designers working today? Or, if you’re an optimist, what are some things that designers are doing right?
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