Something you may not know about me is that after high school I attended a local university and got my BFA. During my late nights I mostly hung out with the fine art kids (like the sculptors and painters). It was mostly due to the fact I was working past midnight and they were the only students still around, but also because I found them more fun and maybe even more interesting that the other design majors. Even the design students I became friends with were taking as many fine art classes as possible. Maybe we all wanted to be traditional artists, but our want to make money with our craft was more important.

Something I often heard at school, in addition to “you‘re just an artist who sold his soul” was “the main difference between an artist and a designer is the fact a designer has a client and an artist only creates for themselves”. The older I get the more I realize that isn’t true. I might sign a contract with a client, but an artist is creating to try and sell to someone. We all want to eat and pay rent, right?

I do think there is one main difference between designers and artists. I think that artists make their profession questioning everything and working out a conclusion, but designers need to come into a scenario knowing everything or at least pretending like they do. For someone in advertising it could look like knowing techniques to increase conversions or for a UX designer knowing that certain colors have to be used for accessibility and to drive a specific reaction from the user. Often we are called into meetings and are asked unexpected questions and either have to know the answer or make up one up on the spot because “I don’t know, let me look into that” seems unacceptable. I’m going to list out a couple reasons I think this pressure to “know” everything is problematic in our industry.

Knowing is analytical and Questioning is emotional

Coming at a problem with questions allows an emotional journey. This can take a long time, but always pays off. It will create a workflow or graphic for a user that won’t be sterile. It will help your work not be a xerox copy of someone else’s solution. If you ignore the questioning stage and start with answers you are going to have work that is just pulling answers from someone else’s project. We shouldn’t allow someone else do the questioning for us or worse yet… assume another designer made their work as a reaction to questioning their situation first.

Designers can be unbearable in person

Ever have an interaction with a designer where they just assumed they knew everything or that they had the best advice all the time? If so you were probably talking to me… As often as I see it in other’s I see it in myself. I think this needing to constantly perform with clients or bosses forces our brain to work like that with our friends and family. If we can learn to go into situations not knowing and with wonder than I think our relationships will be much stronger.

It makes us overly critical

Another scenario you may see a designer fall into is when they see another designer’s work they immediately judge it… hard! If we could look at someone’s work and allow our first reaction be “Wonder why they did this?” or “What kind of problems is this solving?” we will not only be less cruel, but may learn something from other people’s work.

These are just a few things I see from a culture of knowing. I’m hoping I can learn to question more and go into a project not pretending to know all the answers. I believe it can only improve my work and improve me as a person.

The header graphic is a part of my new website redesign I am hoping to launch shortly. Hope you enjoyed it!

As always if you’re reading this and need help with a web or branding project please reach out!

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