January 25 2013

Designer Ups and Downs

Designer morale can be a roller coaster ride with incredible highs as well as depressing lows if not managed correctly. Finding myself in a minor low, I'm writing to stimulate my current state of mind.

The Ascent

It usually starts with a refreshingly new project or projects that come across your desk. Immediately your mind races through vast and amazing ideas. Research, sketching and mocks are put together with little thought of being actual "work."

In some cases (rare) the communication with the client is great, ideas come together, work is spot on, and the feedback is gratifying. The project is completed, morale is high and work begins on the next.

While majority of projects usually find a slight hiccup, completing projects will always boosts your morale.

Boosters

Morale boosters can come from a couple of different sources. Posting work for feedback or recognition on Dribbble or Zurb's Forrst, receiving an award, or receiving more work from existing or new clients.

  • Design Community, posting to Dribbble and Forrst can be very beneficial in regards to feedback. Many times, especially in the case of Dribbble, work is posted to receive recognition from the community. These communities are great at embracing each other and sometimes can propel a designer to an elite level with work that goes viral.
  • Recognition, local and national work can be submitted or nominated for a variety of marketing and design awards. Winning an award can be one of the most satisfying events in your career.
  • New Inquiries, great work and beautiful design will never go unnoticed, it wouldn't be great design if it was. New projects or even a job offer is a significant boost to a designers morale.

These boosters have a wide range of results, from the nice little pick me up to the catapulting of your career into a new echelon of the community.

A Climax

The last couple of weeks you have been running on caffeine, pushing through projects and receiving great feedback and recognition along the way. You sit back and admire your hard work and the countless hours you put into it. As designers we all have a bit of narcissism and that is completely ok. The problem begins when we ease up and coast off our recent success.

The Drop

A drop in morale can't be avoided, it is part of being human. The severity however can be managed by taking steps to avoid some of the following factors.

Exhaustion

It happens to everyone, working yourself to exhaustion is ingrained into our society with the ultimate goal of coming out ahead.

Over exhaustion can leave you uninspired and not motivated to return to a high quality of work. Increasing the risk of losing new or current clients, losing your job or even removing yourself from the career field all together.

Negative Feedback or Client Fustration

Unlike the climax described prior, the climax you may have experienced was a small one prior to receiving any outside feedback. The process was going smoothly and you were pumping out ideas and great concepts. But presenting your work to the communities or the client came with negative or fustrating feedback.

The ideas weren't embraced or the design wasn't what they were expecting. There is a big list of off-putting things we have all heard that I'm not going to get into.

Ultimately this can be a gut punch that knocks the spit out of ya if you aren't prepared to handle the undesirable outcome.

Comparing Work to Others

While a lot of recognition can come from the design communities, it is easy to compare yourself to other well established designers that can significantly decrease your positive outlook. Comparing yourself to others in the community is a great driving force, but when the goals of recognition aren't reached it can be demoralizing.

A Healthy Morale

It is easy to see that a healthy morale reflects upon a person's success and a person's success is attained from a steady and healthy morale. Maintaining a steady morale can be accomplished with some simple steps.

Steady Climb

Everyone wants to be the best designer known throughout the community. But over working yourself is a risk that could leave you with little recoginition and over exhaustion.

Focus on your work while maintaining a balanced lifestyle. Give yourself breaks and explore new interests to increase inspiration. It takes time to establish a presence with your brand and a steady climb to your goal should include many reachable benchmarks.

Avoid Complacency

It took two months, your penicl is smaller than your pinky, the delete button on your Macbook no longer springs back, you increased your followers by 200%, and a handful of new projects boast your portfolio...

Now take a break and recharge your batteries, go on a mini vacation or work on one of those hobbies that you have been neglecting. Continue to feed your mind with inspiration and not on late night infomercials or leftover fast food.

After a week or couple days of bringing yourself back to sanity it is time to get back to work. Becoming complacent in an industry that moves forward every six months will quickly leave you behind.

Stay Positive

It's a simple concept that can have the greatest affect on your social well being. Make the most out of every opportunity you have and make something good out the bad (we are supposed to be creatives). A positive attitude will reflect on your personality, work and relationships with others and be the strongest catalyst to maintaining a healthy morale.

Wrap It Up!

Writing this article was tough, I was beginning to become complacent and looking forward to the weekend. But I want to begin the weekend on a positive note and maintain a healthy state of mind and I hope you do to!

Peace,
Justin