I was once told an inspirational little nugget of truth that I have clung to since, and allowed its influence to guide me along my path. The saying was told to me by an old manager whom I worked under for only a short time, but whose simple words stuck with me. He said, ‘Good is the enemy of great.’, and the words took a second to wash over me and for me to fully grasp what it was he was saying, but it was simply this. If you are content with being good, then you will never by great.
I thought about this for a while, as we often do when things strike us profoundly. In essence, we get to a point where we consider ourselves, or say our design skills are good and rather than continue to allow ourselves to grow, we stay stagnant. Satisfied with our progress to the point where, even if we don’t realize it, we stop progressing. We are good, and we know that, and as long as we are happy with that label, we will never strive to improve and possibly become great.
At one time, we are all beginners, but it is where we take ourselves from that starting point that matters. We all have different abilities when it comes to design, and though our strengths and talents may fall in different areas, it is how we play to and outside of these strengths that really set us apart. It is a case of good vs. great, and here is a look at what I mean.
A good designer has taken the time to learn the basics of design, on which they will build their foundation, and they settle comfortably into this place. They nurture the developed and inherent skillsets they have refined into a good fashion with which they begin to make their mark on the design world. A good designer listens to their clients and does whatever necessary to meet the demands made of them. They take few risks that might upset the norm and challenge the trends currently shaping the community.
A good designer takes on clients that do not ask them to reach outside their settled comfort zone, allowing them to not dare beyond their safety netted borders. They are never the best at processing and handling constructive criticism, seeing it more of an attack and reason to be defensive. A good designer is fine with being a good designer as long as it is paying the bills and keeping their portfolio stocked. A good designer is just that, good, and they are happy with that. Which means, they will never be a great designer.
A great designer is always taking time to learn more about the complexities and subtleties of design, never resting in their pursuit of knowledge. They do not settle into a comfort zone, because their passion pushes them to keep delving into, and trying new things. A great designer engages their clients guiding them towards the right design, overdelivering on the expectations placed on them. They are always taking risks in their work allowing creativity and ingenuity to lead them over the trends that are steering so many others.
A great designer takes on clients that challenge them to reach beyond their comfort zone, and dare into new territories and unexplored landscapes. They welcome feedback and use those critiques to further hone their creative skills and efforts. A great designer does not consider themselves to be great, as much as they see themselves as successful with a gallery of interesting and varied work. You see they are always striving for more and pushing forward, knowing not that they are great, but just that they are designers.
Defining – Where It Gets Tricky
Defining this is where things can tend to get more than a little tricky, because good designers can assign themselves the title as they deem themselves worthy and a success. But alas, great designers are defined by their work and by others, merely deeming themselves a success based on their line of satisfied clients. And though the cybersea is densely populated in the design arena, there are so many various levels of professionals working in the field it can be hard to get a barometer reading as to just where it is you land. Lots of people get hung up trying to figure out where it is they are, forgetting the most important part.
It does not matter where we are, just where we take ourselves from any one point that matters. Remember that this is a journey, and as such, the wheels should never stop turning. We all have within us the potential for greatness, however, some of us get sidetracked along the way by being good at what we do.
Where Do We Go From Here?
If the question is good enough for Buffy and the gang to poignantly ponder in song, then it is certainly good enough for this path to greatness, I mean, hello, she was the chosen one. Anyway, where do we go from here, is certainly the better question to be asking yourself, than where am I at? It indicates that desire to press on and keep moving forward, which a big first step on the path to greatness. There are a few things you can do to ensure that you are heading in the right direction and they are listed below.
Keep Moving Forward
Never be satisfied with where you are at in design. It is always changing and you should be growing along with it. You should effectively never stop learning. Keep challenging yourself to learn and do more, never let your skills and talent stagnate.
Be A Leader, Not A Follower
Guide your clients to the right design choices do not let them lead you to a subpar, phoned-in performance. Yes, listen to their suggestions and know what they want, but find the best way to give it to them without compromising your talent or reputation.
Try To Set Trends, Not Be A Slave To Them
Design trends come and go almost with the seasons, and there is no shame in designing in that theme, especially if you never have before, but do not let these whims become your only bearing for what to do. Think outside the proverbial box, and find new directions to veer off in.
Critical Thinking Accepted
The design community is available to garner valuable feedback and insight regarding your work, but you have to know how to take and use constructive criticism and not let it bother or deter you. Learn to identify true criticism from callous comments intended merely to upset you, and this will be easier to do.
Collaborate, A Great Way To Reset The bar
Working with others in the community is another invaluable tool you have at your design disposal for sure. This always challenges you to step it up a notch and push yourself more so than working with a client on a project can. This can also be a fun way to learn new things from other designers, good or great.
One thing that separates the goods from the greats is passion. Our passion keeps us inspired as long as we keep it fed and the flame fanned so it does not burn out. Always turn to new avenues to find inspiration so that your creative mind stays revitalized, and your perspective fresh.
That Is All On This End
So what are your thoughts on the differences between what makes a good and great designer? What else would you add to the list of things to do?