17 responses

  1. I think that’s great advice David. Especially when there are a lot of designers, such as myself, hoping to eventually get bigger contracts and more recognition. I think we get so caught up in what you bigger designers are doing, that we forget to incorporate our own voice into our designs. I think it’s important to follow the bigger designers, and learn, but to make sure that we are using our own voice versus being too influenced.

    Take dribbble for example. Big designers got the first invites, and the rest of us have been trying to get noticed ever since. It’s a good networking tool with other designers, but how often does it lead to actual work? But a lot of us are trying desperately to get that invite, and focusing on approval versus our voice in design. I think once you start designing for approval, your voice is watered down and you join the masses that are also following design trends.

    So, thanks for the post. It’s well received.

  2. Along the lines of Jason’s post and to further my own post in the Coke Conspiracy article, I wonder how we decide if we are using other designer’s work as inspiration or whether we are flat out stealing.

    I have seen many package designs and logos duplicated so that generic store brands can ride on the success of popular non generic brands. One example that comes to mind is the packaging for Fructice hair care products in their distinctive green bottles and jars. This packaging has been duplicated in color and font for cheaper brands. Who are the designers who do this kind of work? Where are their morals?

    What about the use of clip art? Do you tell a client that you slipped clip art into the design or do you lead them to believe you did the work yourself? What about photoshop?
    I entered the design field at a time when there were no computer shortcuts. We did use press type fonts but that was still time consuming and difficult work. Now “designers” go to the computer and simply make a collage of other people’s work and call it their own.
    (even incorporating the work of fine artists who have spent weeks on their original pieces.)
    Artistic talent and skill used to be a requirement for designers now it is just computer skills and the ability to duplicate others art work. If you have artistic talent and are creative then great, but it is no longer a requirement.
    Is duplicating design work ethical? Should a graphic artist be an artist? Where is the line that is crossed between getting inspiration and stealing?
    One other ethical question. Nike’s swoosh was designed by a woman who got a mere $35 in 1971. Should a company be forced to be ethical about paying designers their due?
    I am curious what others think about the ethics responsibility of designers.

  3. This reminds me of something an old favourite teacher of mine told my parents at a parent’s evening – “If Laura didn’t exist, these creations wouldn’t exist.” Although at the time he was referring to a shoe I had made in 4th year art, and it took me a couple of years to fully understand the truth of what he said, it’s the most concise summing up of a person’s talents I’ve ever heard.

    During my time at university I spent a daft amount of time worrying about being mediocre compared to my much more outspoken and confident classmates. Some of the others’ work was very “on trend” and although I sometimes found it a little pretentious, I was intimidated, because my work wasn’t the same way. However, particularly during my final year, I slowly came to realise that my vision was every bit as relevent.

    I believe now that it’s so important to design with conviction – if you don’t believe in your vision, how can you expect anyone else to?

  4. Hi David. I’ve been following your blog for a long time now. I used to wish I were like you until I realized why should I be you when I could easily just be me?

    Wise words.

  5. After 10 days of Spring Break, I am back to work as a Design Teacher … I always get stressed preparing for my classes after the break, making sure that things will go the way I planned!
    After I read your post David, I realized that I need to think of communicating my experience with my students and get them to choose their own path … I sometimes get frustrated as a teacher, because students tend to do things differently, different than what I expect!
    I have to accept that as they are also different in their own ways … I need to encourage them to find the “you” in them!

  6. Jason, worth adding to your comment is that we can learn a lot from less-experienced designers, too — those who aren’t so “set in their ways.” Try picturing others as teachers (regardless of status). Even those who make us angry or frustrated can teach us how to be more patient.

    Meredith, lots of valid questions. Thank you. I’m going to revisit the topic after I’ve read ethics: a graphic designer’s field guide (it dropped through my door earlier in the week — thanks again, Eileen).

    Laura, good teachers can have such an impact on us, can’t they? The dreams we chase were planted by the people we’ve learned from, and with everything we do, no matter how mundane, there’s a lesson in there somewhere. All the best with your final year at Gray’s.

    Grace, well said. There’s no reason why Grace Oris can’t be the designer name associated with a hugely influential career.

    Ruba, I used to get stressed preparing my English lessons back when I briefly taught the language. I think it’s a normal part of the profession. Seems like you’re onto something with your realisation. Even though you have more experience than your students, each of them can contribute something to help you grow at the same time. And again, if you want me to help with what we were chatting about, feel free to send over those questions. It’d be a pleasure.

  7. A very timely message – thank you. I’ve been carefully considering rebranding myself as well as starting a freelance business (or just doing my business under my own name) and been facing many questions for myself. I’ve been looking at a lot of other companies and designers to see what they do, but this is great advice. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Powerful post, David, and something I wrestled with for years. I think deep down, most of us try to be someone else because we are admiring a quality in them we don’t see in ourselves. But the more I got to know myself, the better I liked myself. No one else can write like me, create like me, be a friend like me, or do anything like me. We are all unique – and it’s better to just be ourselves than try to mimic someone else.

  9. Great article, Mr. David, I used to be creative, but now?
    I feel kinda useless. Hope to get back to designing…

  10. Bloody do-gooders! In response to Meredith, why shouldn’t we steal? We steal inspiration all the time! When I first set out on my path I used to think that I was some kind of pop-designer, regurgitating other peoples work who were far more talented than I. It wasn’t until I read a quote by Jim Jarmusch (See below) which completely changed my perspective. It’s OK to steal! Do what you want, anything! As long as when you stand back and look at your work you have the sense of satisfaction that YOU made it, then job done! Creatively you should have no constraints, absolutely none. I myself put my work out there to be stolen, have it if you want, I’d prefer it if you did.

    “Nothing is original. Steal from anywhere that resonates with inspiration or fuels your imagination. Devour old films, new films, music, books, paintings, photographs, poems, dreams, random conversations, architecture, bridges, street signs, trees, clouds, bodies of water, light and shadows. Select only things to steal from that speak directly to your soul. If you do this, your work (and theft) will be authentic. Authenticity is invaluable; originality is non-existent. And don’t bother concealing your thievery – celebrate it if you feel like it. In any case, always remember what Jean-Luc Godard said: “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to.”
    — Jim Jarmusch

  11. Too many web designers and developers try to replicate other great works. More people need to be more willing to “go with their gut” so to speak and take a chance…if you want a big reward, you need to take a big risk.

  12. Thanks for sharing this! I’ve re-blogged this. This empowerment reminds me when I am too other-centered or too out of center myself!

  13. My story is only just begininning but I hope that it’s filled with an abundance of learning and knowledge building as well as lots of sugar, my partner, beautiful paper stocks, milk , family, colour, entertainment, quality print finishes, laughter, music, friends, typography and trainers to name a few. It’s not really the answer you were looking for I’m sure but thinking literally about ‘my story’, this is my answer.

  14. Brilliant talk, Bernadette. What a strong woman.

    Timothy, go for it. The only thing that can stop you is doubt. If it’s what you want, and if you think I can help, feel free to send a message.

    Jason, so true.

    Kelly, your story is no less important than those of anyone else here. It was the answer I was looking for, and a great snapshot of you.

  15. Hi David. Just noticed your comment about learning from less experienced designers… spot on in my opinion. If you spend years working on brand identities and design in general, it’s possible to become subconsciously grooved into a certain way of working/thinking. I gain as much inspiration looking at the work of new up and coming designers as I do from the the biggest agencies.

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