October 16, 2014

Selflessness in Design

I put a lot of myself into my work. When I start a project, I usually make a mood board of things that excite me. After that, I put together a pitch, posing a solution to the problem I was hired to solve.

If my pitch gets shot down or my work gets killed, I have a tendency of retreating back to my desk and hanging my head in shame. My initial reaction is that my work isn’t good enough, but then I realize, conveniently, that I’m terribly wrong. Of course my work was good enough. The problem couldn’t be me, it has to be the client. I know what’s best for the client and, truthfully, the client doesn’t even know enough about design to make these types of decisions. Right? Wrong…sort of.

Granted, it is fair to assume that my client is not as educated or experience in design as I; after all, if the client knew enough about design she wouldn’t have hired me as her designer. However, I must also acknowledge that the client possesses a unique knowledge, one which goes beyond the designer’s skill-set. And this knowledge is particularly crucial to the project. The client knows the problem.

The hard part about coming up with a great solution is that it can often be for the wrong problem. For me, the problem I tend to solve is my own problem.

I spent a lot of time fresh out of college chasing Twitter fame, Dribbble likes, and the promise of becoming an award-winning designer. This meant a lot of my work was geared toward an audience that validated that kind of thinking. That selfishness caused my needs to become my top priority and, in a lot of ways, hindered my growth as a designer. Every project I worked on had two goals: showcase what I like to make and showcase how good I am at making it.

This year I have tried to put a lot of that thinking behind me. In response, I have become a better team member, a more open designer, and an overall happier person. I no longer have those moments when I’m angry at my employer for not presenting me with engaging opportunities, and I have since recognized my place as an in-house designer. Sure, frustrating things still come up every now and then, but today I have the perspective to deal with these situations and, most importantly, I know what I should really be fighting for.


  • I am not a selfless person, but I sure as heck would love to be.
  • Being a selfless designer doesn’t mean being a style-less designer. I really believe that there are always opportunities to showcase your personal style, even as an in-house designer.

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