Proverb: “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”
Translation: Even when lacking in execution, design with a solid idea will be infinitely more memorable than a bland design that’s polished to perfection.

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Proverb: “Be on a horse when you go in search of a better one.”
Translation: If you’re in search of a better job, you’re more likely to find one when already in employment.

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Proverb: “A hasty man drinks his tea with a fork.”
Translation: Don’t rush through a project thinking the next one that comes along will be better. Every project you undertake can be your best yet. It’s up to you to make it so.

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Proverb: “A young doctor makes a full graveyard.”
Translation: Equally, a young designer will make more mistakes than an experienced one. It’s normal.

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Proverb: “A fall into a ditch makes you wiser.”
Translation: Olympic medalists don’t win every time, renowned authors rarely win the Booker Prize, and Oscar winners are unlikely to repeat the success. Similarly, designers can’t always produce award-winning work, and when the outcome isn’t as good as you hoped, there’ll still be important lessons learned along the way.

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Proverb: “A bad word whispered will echo a hundred miles.”
Translation: Rather than vent about a client, remember that you’re the expert, and the client is likely to be unaware of how the design process works. It’s up to you to keep the project running smoothly.

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Proverb: “Happy people never count hours as they pass.”
Translation: If you find yourself in design employment, counting down the hours until the end of the day, you’re either in the wrong profession, working for an idiot, or need to become self-employed.

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Proverb: “A bird does not sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.”
Translation: Just as you must hear a song before making a judgment, don’t rule-out a design idea before it’s been fully explored. Express your ideas in a studio meeting or when brainstorming, even if you’re unsure about the effectiveness. It’s rare when anyone’s first thought is the idea that’s chosen.

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Proverb: “A book holds a house of gold.”
Translation: No matter how long you’ve been in the profession, there’s always something new to learn. Design books are an incredible source of knowledge.

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Proverb: “A day of sorrow is longer than a month of joy.”
Translation: That’s how it might seem on a day when things go wrong, but remember, you’re doing a job you love. The vast majority can’t say the same.

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Proverb: “A wise man makes his own decisions, an ignorant man follows public opinion.”
Translation: If you’re asked to produce a design based upon current trends, explain to your client why trends should be left to the fashion industry, and why great design is timeless.

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Proverb: “Cheap things are not good, good things are not cheap.”
Translation: Designers have a tendency to undersell themselves. Value your skills. You’ve spent a great deal of time building them.

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Proverb: “Customers are jade; merchandise is grass.”
Translation: Without clients, we’re designing for ourselves. Treat your clients with respect, because they can be your best salespeople.

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Proverb: “Don’t build a new ship out of old wood.”
Translation: You might have a stockpile of unused design concepts, but every new client should be afforded the new ideas they’re paying for.

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Proverb: “Don’t stand by the water and long for fish; go home and weave a net.”
Translation: The ideal client won’t jump into your lap. Launch a blog. Freshen-up your portfolio. Get out there and market yourself.

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Proverb: “Everyone speaks well of the bridge which carries him over.”
Translation: Regardless of experience, if you’re asked for design advice, don’t ignore the question.

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Proverb: “Forget the favours you have given; remember those received.”
Translation: Don’t do it because you expect something in return. Do it because it’s who you want to be.

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Proverb: “Govern yourself and you can govern the world.”
Translation: No matter how busy you are with client work, leave some time for you. It won’t do anyone any good if you’re too burned-out for work. Reward yourself after a successful project.

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Proverb: “She who asks is a fool for five minutes, but she who does not remains a fool forever.”
Translation: It’s easy to spot designers with passion — they’re the ones asking questions.

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Proverb: “He who hurries cannot walk with dignity.”
Translation: Project deadlines (or live-lines) are good for motivation, but if the outcome isn’t right, don’t force it. Better to spend one more week on a design that will last a lifetime, than spend a week less and live with mediocrity.

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Proverb: “One step at a time is good walking.”
Translation: As tempting as it may be to jump straight onto your computer, don’t underestimate the value of research, brainstorming, and sketching, when it comes to a complete design process.

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Proverb: “Make happy those who are near, and those who are far will come.”
Translation: Concentrate on the clients you have, rather than those you wish to attract, because doing a good job for a good client will lead to more of the same.


Update:
Authentic, translated Chinese proverbs and philosophies, via @jzy.

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August 17, 2010

Comments

This reminds me of a fortune cookie I got a couple weeks ago, it said, “Ability is not something to be shown off.” I thought that was pretty funny. Kind of hard to display a portfolio if I were to listen to that fortune!
A lot of good proverbs here though.

thank you for sharing this list… it’s a great list to keep as a constant reminder of why i am a designer. “a book holds a house of gold”… yes it does! your book is very resourceful.

Awesome list – this is definitely going to get a Digg!
My favourite is definitely “Don’t stand by the water and long for fish; go home and weave a net.” – it’s possily the best tip for those newly into the profession, and useful for those still here!
It’s incredibly important to realise that not every client will come to us just because we’ve got our own domain name, we need a brand name, and some work to show it!
Cheers,
Joe

I love this list! It got me thinking about Scottish proverbs. My mum always says, “You’re not put on this earth to be happy, you’re put here to work.” So I reckon that if you’re doing a job that makes you happy, you’re fortunate indeed.

I love chinese things. This is a great list.

Would be interesting to know how many designers are influenced by eastern philosophy, proverbs, way of life and art. I’ve just been reading about Herge who was heavily influenced by chinese philosphy and buddhist way of life.

Here’s another for you, actually from martial arts but works well for pretty much everything. My karate club uses this all the time.

“The Art is both a Science and an Art
Knowledge of the Art is the Science
Doing of the Art is the Art”

In reply to Chris “Ability is not something to be shown off.”
I would take this to mean good skills speak for themselves, you don’t need to tell people they will be able to work it out. Usually people who brag a lot aren’t very good. I don’t think displaying a portfolio would count as showing off unless you made it look like something it wasn’t.

These are great! My favourite is the one about not standing by the water, longing for fish, but to go home and weave a net. I did that. Now I have others in my family that I’d like to say that to, but I know how hard the belief in ones net weaving abilities can be, but of course, we all have the ability to try!

I’m currently looking for a better horse, and that proverb reminds me to keep and appreciate my current horse until I get that better one. Thanks for posting these David. Very inspiring!

Great list of proverbs that are also quite appropriate for baby boomer bloggers not to mention busy Sandwich Generation granny nannies! :) Then again, perhaps that’s what makes for a good proverb – that it is so useful to so many and lasts through the centuries. Two of my favorites are – it’s always darkest before the dawn and do to others what you would have them do to you. :)

Best quote I ever heard was in a class I was attending taken by Ed Benguiat early in my career. He said, “It doesn’t matter if you work on sh!t, we all do, AS LONG AS YOU KNOW IT’S SH!T”. He is a real character.

Out the quotes above, the first one resonates the most with me.

Thank you, as always, great thinkers from the past old true to the present. I will be guiding some of my daily activities by the words shared.

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