Design Dilemma: Dealing With Professional Jealousy

Diane L. Writes: I can’t help but feel jealous of other designers. I feel like they’re better designers, they have better clients, they’ll become famous and I’ll be a nobody forever. Is that wrong?

Yes, Diane, it’s wrong, but human. It’s not a feeling that is limited to just designers but it’s something you really need to overcome. Maybe some real truths about the design industry will help you see that jealousy is not only unwarranted but is getting in the way of your own success. Hmmmm, where do I start? Join us as we delve into another Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design…

What is “Fame?”

I wrote two articles about dealing with this problem. One, entitled “Do You REALLY Want to be a Design Rock Star?” was a look at why designers crave recognition as part of their work in the industry and “Who Are You Trying to Impress?” which was a personal look at why I fell into the same trap and how I healed myself from such a time-wasting, psychological problem.

I highly suggest you read both as I’m told they have changed people’s lives and how they look at the design industry.

Just to outline some important points, to ease your mind before you find the time to read the articles, here’s why you may feel the way you do:

  • Every human wants to be recognized as a part of society. We adore athletes, musicians and actors and wonder why, as those who create the posters, T-shirts and other materials, why we don’t share a certain amount of notoriety along with those “stars.” The simple answer is that while people remember the products we create, our names are not listed on them. Our names are not important… it’s just the objects we design that people respect and remember. It’s a quiet pride we must take in our work.
  • I used the term “design rock star” in the first article to poke fun at the ridiculous label being given by someone tweeting speakers for an AIGA conference. Each tweet promoted another speaker. “Join design rock star, Joe Blow, at the AIG conference next week!” We’re not rock stars and will never be. Get used to it!
  • If you ask the average person who Paul Rand was, they will answer he’s a politician. They don’t know about the great designer Paul Rand because while his designs were inspirational to future designers, it is designers who elevated his name in our industry and not general society. Sure, your work may be viewed as great by other designers but what does it mean in life? We design because we love creating. Is fame the reason we enter the field?

Time to Get Back to Earth!

As with you, and me, and every other designer, there is an ego we have that drives us to crave recognition from peers and that becomes a dangerous obsession. Here’s an excerpt from one of the articles:

  • Think about how you run your day, as you would plan a design project. There’s no time to waste.
  • How much time do you spend commenting on other designer’s work? How much time would that add if you used it for your own promotion?
  • Do you blog about other designer’s work or your own? Shouldn’t your social media efforts be aimed at getting clients?
  • Do you look at other’s designs and think, “I wish I had done that!” and feel jealous or do you take a lesson from the creative thought and apply it to your own work?
  • Do you attend design events and skip business-networking events? How are you going to network with the RIGHT people?
  • Can you not care what other designers think about your work?
  • Can you be happy for what you have?

I’ve held some very high-profile positions in the design industry. I’m happy to say I had learned my lesson about false pride before gaining any of those positions.

A designer once told me, referring to my experience, that she couldn’t believe I was speaking to her like I was a friend. The fact is, we became good friends. My experience was more being in the right place at the right time. My friends lovingly call me the Forrest Gump of the design world. As I tell students who show the same starry-eyed admiration for my experience (which is not my actual design abilities), “you will have my experience as you grow, so don’t look at me with admiration. Look at me as your own future.”

In Conclusion

There is a peace you’ll find once you no longer care about fame and admiration. You will no longer care about other designers nor will you care what they think about you.

There are only two parties that should care about your abilities as a designer; your clients and you. If you can make that your primary concern, and use the time you would spend worrying about other designers and put it into improving your own business, you will start increasing your income and that sure as hell makes anybody feel better about themselves!

Send Us Your Dilemma!

Do you have a design dilemma? Speider Schneider will personally answer your questions — just send your dilemma to [email protected]!

Speider has created designs for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson and Viacom among other notable companies and is a former member of the board for the Graphic Artists Guild and co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee. He writes for global blogs on design ethics and business practices and has contributed to several books on the subject of business for designers.

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