Design is a field with many subdivisions—from print to web and everything in-between. When I’m asked, “So what do you do for a living?” and respond “Graphic Design”, people normally follow up with, “So can you help me design my website, some brochures and a logo?” As if anyone in the business of Graphic Design is automatically proficient in these sub-fields. But are designers really expected to be a master of every aspect of design?
We are constantly growing and looking for different inspirations and always trying to adapt to new skills, get an edge on the next guy or girl. But on the way we can lose perspective of why we chose this career. We learn things we don’t enjoy doing and then take on projects we really don’t enjoy working on, just because we assumed a graphic designer should provide these services. I’ve been caught up in this awful web a few times, but now I’m fighting my way out.
I think designers fall into expectations, like a bad relationship, of wanting to be the best at everything design-related, eventually leaving us feeling overwhelmed and producing mediocre work. If a person can focus on one aspect of design – say magazine spreads or illustration or logo design – and specialize in that niche, we’d enjoy our work, we’d find fulfillment, we’d produce great work. I’m not saying we should give up learning new advances. Far from it – a basic understanding of everything goes a long way. Recently I’ve met designers so caught up in learning CSS, Ajax, Action Script or even learning to illustrate, that they’ve become discouraged. What they once loved has become just something to do for a paycheck.
Now what if you wanted to design a website or create a great ad, but it required skills you didn’t yet have? You could just make an attempt at it, producing something usable and learning along the way. But what if you wanted to make it amazing? Collaborate. You would produce an excellent product, and you would learn first-hand from an expert in that area. On a commercial level, collaboration is where design needs to be. Designers can unit, play to their strengths, and produce a product of amazing value and detail. If we stop limiting our visions to only those areas we already know, we will push the industry forward and create more compelling work. So ask yourself if what you’re doing today is taking your life in the direction you want to go? Because to most of us design is not a job; it’s our life.