What Kind of Designers Do You Want to Strangle?

What Kind of Designers Do You Want to Strangle?

If you attended art school, I highly recommend a film called Art School Confidential. It follows a shy, but talented young man as he leaves high school and enters Strathmore College where he runs up against the usual collective of students who maintain “different” personality traits that aggravate him no end.

A fellow student, played by the actor who was the über nerd from the film Grandma’s Boy and blue thing number two in Avatar, breaks down the young man’s frustration with fellow students and describes which student’s personality fits the stereotypical “art student.” He finally points out that the antagonist is the class “douche bag.” Maybe he is, depending on which type you were in art school. Personally, I was in the class “douche bag” as well, so I see him as the sane, talented kid amongst a crowd of weirdoes.

What Kind of Designers Do You Want to Strangle?
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

Everyone is a Designer!

When I applied to go to art school, there was a process of a portfolio review. There I sat in a chair-lined hallway outside the registrar’s office while one-by-one, hopefuls would be called in to their interview. Some ran out crying. Others walked out with a certain cockiness and an air of superiority. While awaiting my dream-breaking chance, I glanced around at the other applicants. Suburban girls with pink sweaters and fancy hair clips, punk rockers with too much make up (at least the boys), obvious juvenile delinquents just out of reform school, and douchey me. Not all of us were accepted, judging by those who ran from the building in tears.

Everyone is a Designer
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

As the computer came on the scene and got cheaper to the point of easy affordability, art school wasn’t a necessary expense. There are the talented few who didn’t need to take the art school route, but more who would be the ones crying at a full run if art schools hadn’t buckled to the need of filling every classroom, and just relying upon the industry to sort out the students who would never make it. The industry, as it were, would be changed by the computer, and easy to acquire design software, and the track star art school rejects were suddenly designers.

Even creative organizations started lowering the bar for membership from portfolio reviews, and a certain number of existing members’ signatures on applications, to a mere checkbox labelled “friend” with a $50 fee for being able to use the organization logo on one’s letterhead. BAZINGA! You’re a professional designer.

From these organizations, and judgement-free, free membership creative groups, to the professional creatives groups on LinkedIn, anyone can join the party… and make their voices heard, usually louder than those who are too busy working on paying projects to spend time critiquing the new million dollar logo for eBay, done by a design firm with seven offices around the globe.

The more I hear from these people, the ones who seem to do nothing, but post pictures of the dinners made for their spouse, taken from the garden they tend six hours a day, after a morning in the park with their dogs, Milton Glaser, Paul Rand and Bobo, the more I want to wrap my hands around their throats, squeezing harder and harder until their eyes start to pop from their sockets, keeping their tongues permanently silent from their critiques and suggestions about what’s wrong with the design industry, and the $10 logos they do for their “big clients.”

Spot the Dilettante

As we age and grow, we tend to shed our preconceived notions. Usually life just beats it out of us. Then, there are the holdouts who just can’t let go of their opinions of themselves, and others. It’s like a bridezilla who watched too many Disney films, and actually believes she’s some sort of royalty.

Image credit: Bigstockphoto

The rest of us must bow… preferably backwards so his/her highness can easily kiss our asses! Well, some girls play princess, and some boys play superhero… and vice versa, to recognize all lifestyles.

The Non-Designing Designer

We all know someone who shows up for every design event, posts on every online group with a loud, and unyielding opinion, and bitches about the cost of software for the new computer they purchase every year, but, we never seem to actually see any samples of his/her work. There may be an online portfolio that has three or four samples done for family members, or student work (and he/she is 42 years-old), but nothing new.

Non Designer
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

When you stand in a group at a design event, chatting about work or client problems, the dilettante interrupts with a story you’ve heard eight hundred times about his/her “Uncle Dave” who wanted a logo for his plumbing supply business/cess pool cleaning business/porn theater, followed by advice on why you’re a pussy for not saying this or that to your client, which won’t solve the problem, except to lose the client… which I suppose does solve that problem, but doesn’t take into consideration that you then need to find another paying client.

The dilettante doesn’t care about paying clients because his/her spouse makes a bloody fortune at their job, and hasn’t gotten to the point where they refuse to buy a new computer, and design software every year, along with subscriptions to every design publication, and Lynda.com, as long as dinner is on the table every night, the shopping is done, and the bathroom is clean.

The non-designer is easy to spot because they think kerning is a Canadian ice sport, and leading is how pencils are made.

Strangle this type of designer by steering clear. Eventually he/she finds another industry to haunt where new people will talk to him/her… for a while, unless it’s group therapy, and even then…

The Attitude King/Queen

Oh, so you’re a designer, and that makes you too good to speak to anyone else? B-b-but we’re designers, too! Yes, we all know this type. Nose in the air, and head up his/her ass! That positioning does make it a little tough to actually see the world around him/her, but the world is beneath him/her. We are mere bugs to be stepped upon due to their talent.

Attitude Queen
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

After art school, I would run into those types, usually working in a copy shop, barely agreeing to make copies of my work as I went to deliver them to the New York Times, or some other client. They were sure to comment on how the work sucked, so I would return the favor, and tell their supervisor THEIR work sucked. They were not there on my next visit, so I guess they had an attitude transfer to another kingdom where they could rule.

Strangle this type by letting his/her world decay around them. Reality is the A-bomb that lays waste to Attitudeville.

Mr./Ms. No-No-No!

No matter what you do or what you say, you’re wrong… and an idiot! These are the people who interrupt a conversation to inform you that you’re an idiot, tell you what is right, roll their eyes, and use other passive-aggressive tricks to belittle you.

No No No
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

The only problem is; he/she is never right…and, usually the previous two designer types rolled up into one delightful package. You can find him/her wandering design events alone, not like a wolf stalking a flock of sheep… more like a jackal lurking around the lion pride, waiting to grab a stray piece of meat. He/she also has 14 friends on Facebook and 13 are relatives (although he/she has 28 relatives on Facebook), and one friend who delivers his/her newspaper, and attends the local middle school.

Strangle this type by just ignoring him/her… and warn others!

The No Self-Esteem Person

We’ve all met a designer with little to no self-esteem. Life as a creative is not easy, and we all have some self-doubt about our abilities but some people have just been beaten down too much by rejection. The key is to NEVER take rejection personally , but some people do, and it makes them incredible pains in the rear.

No Self Esteem
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

The low self-esteem person is always asking people to look at his/her portfolio to give a critique… then arguing with any suggestions made. He/she will then go to the person right next to you for his/her opinions… and argue. This poor soul will also try to piggyback on your success. They will suggest you start a studio together, share assignments you get, ask for client contacts, etc., etc. He/she will ask for your phone number, email, and will haunt your life five to nine times a day. They will send you endless jpegs of their work, and demand you do the same for him/her.

Strangle this type by reviewing their portfolio, shaking your head, and suggesting a new career. It’s the only way to get them out of your life.

Be Happy!

Being a designer is an odd career. We are rarely awarded, except we get paid to do what we love. There are few pats on the back and while people remember the designs we create, they don’t know our names. It’s an anonymous process (despite clients who don’t want to pay because working for them will “get [our] name out there”) and we crave a little notoriety, but, in the long run, it’s just trying to be the smartest kid on the short bus.

Be Happy
Image credit: Bigstockphoto

We elevate fellow designers for their books, articles, one or two successful projects or lecturing in front of a crowd of designers. Yes, their experience gives them information that is helpful to others careers, but in the end, a talented designer will continue to grow and evolve and gain the same experience. Whether you work for Google, or design flyers for your kid’s school bake sales, great, competent design is what really matters. There are no guarantees of making a living, or even being able to get more than one project a year. It is how we uphold professional standards, and how we treat, and elevate the industry.

Not every designer will make it into a book on great designers. Don’t worry about it because most of the designers in those books are dead, and there’s only one way to strangle a zombie designer.


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