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Check it at the Door

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Check it at the Door

Gates Godin

The influence of negative attitude and behavior on design by Johanna Westby – Prov RGD

“Ugh… I can’t believe they used Helvetica… It’s so played!”
“Can you believe my client? They actually asked for the logo to be bigger!”

If you have practiced (or been in the remote vicinity of someone practicing) graphic design, you have probably have been privy to the kind of snide remarks designers are often guilty of directing at clients or other designers. Maybe you have been the designer who has uttered these kind of phrases, or even been the target of a rant (“Uh… yeah *cough*… What kind of designer would ever use Arial?). While there is slight momentary satisfaction and sense of superiority attached, negativity towards design work and client interaction can lead to unfortunate consequences.

Expressing your judgment at the cost of other designers and clients must be approached thoughtfully, and your overall attitude when approaching design can dictate your overall success.

Consequences of negativity can have an impact far greater than you may expect:

1. You will alienate fellow designers.

Unless it is solicited, an unwanted direct critique about design can be met with bitterness. When approaching indirectly, nasty comments about design can and often do spread, labeling you as a potentially judgmental design snob. If you must comment on design, assume your comments will be heard by the designer. As with gossip, often keeping your opinions to yourself is the prudent course.

2. You will alienate clients.

Imagine a pharmacist raising an eyebrow and snorting in superiority at your ignorance when you ask them about the difference between salbutamol and ventalin. The general public does not have the training in pharmacology to recognize that both drugs are the same thing (one name is the trade name, one the generic for the same medicine).
Your client has not been trained in Graphic Design. You have. As the expert in the situation, it is the designer’s duty to educate your client about your design choices and execution. (note – do not mis-interpret this as a statement that the designer is the expert in the business of the client. Do not underestimate a client’s knowledge of their own business. Learn from them, as they may learn from you.)

3. You may lose potential opportunities.

Social media is a powerful communication tool, often mis-used as ranting forums by temporarily annoyed designers. It is dangerous to express a foul opinion (especially regarding a specific client) online. Word (especially when typed) travels quickly, and your reputation can be tainted irrevocably in only a few moments on Facebook.

4. Negativity about your own work: instantly turning the cold water on a client meeting.

Clients do not want to hear apologies about your work. Pointing out the flaws in design makes it difficult for the client to see anything but. If there is reason to be apologetic about the design, fix it before it goes to the client. Own your work. Be proud and confident. The success of your work will reflect your attitude.

5. You will waste time and energy.

Slay the jealousy dragon. Clinging to an attitude of envy towards other designers work is counter-productive. Instead, admire the prowess of their design, or the ingenuity of the solution, and learn from it. Become inspired, rather than begrudging. When the bar gets raised, it is time to train harder in order to jump higher.


So how do you cultivate and maintain a positive attitude?


Immerse yourself in new design : Magazines, expos, books, online… wherever you get it, it will help give you a fresh outlook and reduce stagnance in your own work.

Retro-inspiration : Remind yourself why you got into (and fell in love with) graphic design… Hit the history books, and resurrect some of the classic designers and artists to use as revived inspiration for concepts. Or go back to basics – rejuvenate design based on fundamental principles.

Work, work, work : The best way to dig yourself out of a rut is to grab a shovel. The busier you are, the more you’ll get accomplished. You won’t hit the target everytime, but odds are greater the more arrows you shoot. Enough one-liners to prove my point?

Invest in a punching bag : Managing stress can be as simple as getting it out of your system in a physical way (which also releases endorphins, the transmitters of a sense of well-being through exercise).

Dump the sarcasm, and adopt the compliment. Your peers will thank you. If a critique is requested, be sure it is genuine and constructive.

Appreciate and be grateful for the talents you possess, rather than resentful about the ones you don’t.

Still finding it hard to heave yourself out of a slump and get excited about your design work? Do something philanthropic, There is no easier way to feel good about your accomplishments than by helping others. Create a donation campaign for a worthy cause, or donate your time as a designer pro-bono to an organization that needs it. Or simply volunteer to do something out of kindness – whether it is design related or not, doing good always yields positive results.

Nothing can ever be gained by being negative, and a positive attitude will guarantee positive results in your own design work. I’ll spare you the cliche “Don’t worry, be happy” line, and leave you with this: Don’t let negativity put up unnecessary barriers holding back you from success in design. Everyday holds an opportunity to make something great. Attitude determines success.

Post Script — This writer does not claim to be a perfect ray of sunshine at all times, and has been caught in a moment or two of cynicism and judgement – but she’s working on it