It doesn’t matter what you design, but how you design

by / Saturday, 29 March 2014 / Published in Philosophy

I don’t buy into the idea of “right and wrong” when it comes to creative work. I learned early in my career, that the best poster I can possibly design will NOT work ANY more effectively than an 8.5×11 printout from the average word processing application created by a non-professional. As long as all the information is there, I can’t claim that my “high design” will be more effective. In fact, sometimes it’s the opposite. I also reject the idea of “design errors” – I don’t believe in them, provided everything necessary is on the page. I could MAYBE make a valid argument that my “professional” placement of the phone number or website information in my layout is more quickly seen than in the word processor 8.5×11, but that’s still weak sauce.

Ultimately, the design itself is NOT important, as much as I and other pros labour endlessly to find the sweet spot for the headline, the perfect crop of the image or the colour that sets the page on fire. Bottom line – how many ads do you remember? How many youtube commercials really stuck with you, or were you just waiting to hit that SKIP button? Exactly. So, do good work, but keep things in perspective. I overheard a comment from a creative office once (I sat in close proximity) that went something like this: “Listen, I want my opinion heard, because we do very important work here. This is very important.”

Wrong. It’s not.

What IS important, is HOW we design. By that I don’t mean Indesign vs Photoshop – I mean, rather, how we approach the creative process as it relates to others. You have a client who may not understand the nuance of design and typography. You have an account exec or business partner who’s reputation hinges partly on the work you create. You may have a writing partner who likes to be part of the design process, just because she enjoys it, or a studio artist who has to turn what you create into a final set of files, and he can’t stay late tonight.

Sometimes a good idea comes from the junior intern who’s sitting in the brainstorm meeting, or a great headline can come from the account exec who’s totally tuned into the brief and has seen enough good work to have sharp instincts. Everyone loves the creative process, whether they understand it or not. It’s like magic. I’ve often heard the creative department of most agencies described as “the place where the magic happens”. That’s an accurate description. And magic is infectious.

It’s tempting to keep the good stuff to yourself, but when you spread the fun around and let others on your team share in the process, you make them feel good, and most importantly, feel good about working with you. Don’t just be a designer, but be an ambassador of design. There’s enough magic to go around.

2 Responses to “It doesn’t matter what you design, but how you design”

  1. larry says : Reply

    “Don’t just be a designer, but be an ambassador of design. There’s enough magic to go around.”

    love that line:) thanks for sharing your insights.

  2. Hi @Shawn I really like the tutorial… and have a few questions.
    Iam motion graphics designer and I design and animate explainer videos, the most trick part for me is visualisation and building concept from the given script and putting it on board to make the idea ready for animation. Although when I move to animation part it is easier for me to animate IF any idea clicks. Otherwise it takes me hours to brainstorm sometimes, that what should be the picture of what is written on script, (concept development). In short I feel it hard to visualize thing and develop a storyboard instantly.
    You can see my previous projects to analyze the problem.

Leave a Reply