It may seem that I write these blog articles for the benefit of others, and I do like to believe that someone may read this and find some encouragement or be inspired in some way. However my motivations aren’t entirely selfless. Often times I write these articles to serve as pep talks to myself. It helps me to reaffirm my convictions by putting pen to paper, or fingers to keys, and this time is no different.
As a Designer, or any practical creative really, justifying your decisions may be one of the largest parts of your job. It is certainly one of the most important skills to have. Your decisions will be questioned, day in and day out. A good creative director will pose such questions to you every chance he or she gets, in order to challenge your conventions and push you to ideas you might not otherwise have had. But what if you are in an environment where you operate as the sole creative designer?
I’ve said it before, good designers thrive on criticism. It’s our eggs and bacon in the morning.
However, working in an in-house environment where you are your own creative director and solely responsible for the look and feel of all outgoing branded materials, is a unique challenge. I myself have not come close to mastering this, but I have learned much working with a team of folks from other backgrounds and weighing their input against what I’ve been taught, as well as what I have learned from working in the industry. It can be extremely rewarding, and at times… singularly defeating.
The nature of working with a team of non-creatives, or non-designers if you take offense to that notion, is often one of abject frustration. Your decisions are challenged often, and for sundry reasons. In my experience, this more often than not often stems not from challenging conventions, but from doubt or disbelief in the practicality of your decisions.
Being challenged is a good thing, but we don’t get to choose our challenges. We must make the best of every situation.
If you as the reader are anything like me, you enjoy certain challenges, but there are others that make you cringe. Toeing that line and maintaining your sanity is the tricky bit. It is common for designers to push the bounds of what is considered normal. You may ask yourself, “How much of this letterform can I obstruct before it becomes illegible? How much white space is too much white space? Should I use gradients here?” Your answer to that last one may spark some lively debate.
To others, your decisions may appear flippant and arbitrary, and who can blame them? They can’t see the years of experimentation and research that you have put into your craft. They only see the product you put in front of them. The burden is on us as designers to justify our craft.
Believe me I struggle with this everyday. If there is one thing that exhausts me more than anything, it is debate. It is something I struggle with and work on every single day. In an environment where your every decision is challenged by others from various backgrounds, it can be easy to grow weary and docile when constantly having to “sell” your decisions, but it is the path you and I have chosen.
We are designers.
We are visual problem solvers.
We are dynamic, maverick artists.
We do what we do, and we are what we are because they do not want to do it themselves, and because we do it better than they ever could. Don’t think it… know it. Don’t whisper it… shout it! When the time comes to defend your craft, don’t back down. Push back! Get enthused! Get heated! Get Passionate! Tell the world and everyone in it that you stand behind your work and why, and they will start to believe you!
– Hunter Crawford