It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve sat down and written anything and I was close to letting it go another week, but let’s put an end to that. I’ve been thinking about what a “professional designer” is. Not so much in the literal sense but what do designers think it is to be a professional. I think it’s quite different from other professions, because there is an unusual pride that comes with our jobs.

When you talk to an accountant they are usually content being in their office, doing their job. When you talk to a doctor they are usually happy being in their office, doing their job. With designers they often feel like a failure if they are not winning those dream clients, starting their own agency, speaking at conferences, or hitting those tens of thousands of followers on Instagram. I’m calling this need to be famous the Celebrity Syndrome. What’s weird is not that we want to be great, but how accessible it seems to all of us. I hate how not being famous can be seen as if you are being a failure. I know I felt terrible spinning my wheels as in in house designer for a small software company. We constantly tell kids who want to be pro athletes how unlikely it is, but designers are so determined to be the next Aaron Draplin that our reality isn’t acceptable. I think this unhealthy mindset leaves designers, often myself included, feeling like a failure even when they are paying their bills by sitting at a computer screen all day. WE SIT AND MAKE MONEY WHILE DOING IT!

Here are some reasons I think this happens:

  1. With amazing conferences like Creative South and Weapons of Mass Creation you sit shoulder to shoulder with your heroes. These designers are just like you and I, they aren’t untouchable like in some other industries. I had an hour conversation with THE Jason Carne… about the NJ hardcore/metal scene. All y’all baseball players try and do that with Jeter or whomever you look up to.
  2. The same tools that Michael Beirut uses… we all use. For something like $50 a month you can get all the tools you need and that can give you a false sense of security. In reality it’s not the tools that make the designer, but it’s easy to forget that on a subconscious level.
  3. There are some serious genetic limitations to careers like acting or sports, but you can be any race, size, or gender and still be a designer. The world isn’t perfect so of course some traits you are born with can help you succeed, but when it comes down to it I think your portfolio speaks louder than your appearance.
  4. Design has become so public you can see a sick logo and have every tool to make that logo.You can even watch a designer make that logo live on stream… but that’s not showing the years behind the skills being shown. It just creates a need for instant gratification.
  5. TV shows like madmen make design look special and exciting, but as we all know working in design can be mundane at times. As we see the “exciting feed” of our favorite designers we forget that between posts they are tackling the same dull times we are.

There are probably more reasons I can come up with, but those are a few that personally get in my head. I sit and scroll through so much talent and get bummed because I’m laying out some dumb graphic none of you will ever see, because they aren’t worth showing… but that unfulfilling work is paying my bills and I should be stoked on it.

I’m not writing this to be like “why am I not as good as Michael Beirut”. I’m writing this to tell myself (and you) that we should be stoked on what we are currently doing. If you are going to school for design or working in some capacity as a designer… be stoked! Wake up… go to your computer.. and do your job. In house, freelance, agency, part time… be stoked!

That’s my goal, no matter if I have fat checks coming in or if I’m worried about next month’s bills I want to be stoked. If for no other reason, because I’m not digging ditches all day.


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