Leave your ego at home…

design, work-life balance

Any time I interview for a job, I am always very clear that my ego does not come to work with me when creating the designs and messaging for an organization. What does that mean?

When I work for an organization I am a conduit for their vision. While I have the tools and skills and knowledge to bring their vision to life, it is ultimately what they design that is produced through my labor. To me, this is an important distinction because when the client makes changes, I will make recommendations based on my education and years of training, but I will design to their request. Too often I see designers, or people in general, who put so much of their ego into their work and cause so much unnecessary stress and drama.

I understand there are some professions where your ego is interwoven in your career, and those are not the professions I speak of. But if you work in an office for an organization that is ultimately not created by or led by you, your ego should take a back seat to the decisions you make. Corporations bank off your devotion to your tasks and your ego investment to squeeze you for everything you are worth, but the problem is often it squeezes you towards the last inch of your sanity. Ask yourself, is it worth it?

Companies will replace you if you are unable to perform. That is a fact of life, a fact of capitalism, a simple and true fact. So while you should use your knowledge and education and skills to earn a living within either the private or public sector, bear in mind the fact that while companies are looking out for themselves, you should take a page from their book and do the same. Use your skills and squeeze them for every penny you can, but there is not enough money in the world to give them your heart and soul.

Mental health is one of the leading issues amongst us today, even before the pandemic. The truth is that ego that you use to defend a menial decision at work, and start wars with your coworkers, is the same ego that will betray you if you let it take the lead. It will tear apart the balance of your well-being and can lead to unstable grounds that quickly turn to quicksand into mental illness.

I used to lead with my ego. I was passionate and invested and determined to do things my way. I wanted to be seen and heard and respected. It almost destroyed me. When I left the organization I was with that I had driven all of my ego, heart, and soul into the mission and the people, there was nothing left but an empty desk and a faint memory that I was there – which I am sure will fade in due time.

So if you work for an organization – you can have passion, you can have heart, but make your ego take a back seat. Lead with your skills and glow with your knowledge, but the most valuable asset is the one willing to pivot and reconfigure at a moments notice. We know that now more than ever since the pandemic started.

It is a tricky balancing act – keeping your ego in check whilst putting in your best foot forward. It takes practice and a conscious effort to check oneself. One way that helps me is to watch those around me. I am currently working on a few projects where it is abundantly clear that there are some egos fully rooted in their decisions, and I am tasked with the challenge of navigating those waters carefully. Stroking egos and gently guiding them in the direction that brings us closer to a compromise.

This was just a quick note to work healthy – keep your head up, shoulder’s back, and egos at home. Deep breathes. You got this.

The value in continuing education…

design, web design

Recently I encountered a web team who had little to no familiarity with WordPress, Gutenberg, visual design rules, or recent tools used by the website community within their industry. This was both shocking and frustrating. It was uncomfortable to have to train “experts in their field” on the latest tools, styles, and security measures used by the webmasters of their industry. This made me wonder why they were behind in their industry and frustrated to learn that they were behind because they expected any additional training needed to be handed to them on a silver platter. I explained that I do independent continuing education (CE) because technology and trends move so fast that in order to keep up, I do independent research, take online tutorials, etc. This concept seemed foreign to them – taking their own personal time to refine and update the skills they are paid to be trained professionals at!? The audacity of my suggestion!

I am a huge advocate for education… Well, let’s face it, I’m a BIG NERD. But while some people see CE on their own time as company theft of their personal time and space, I see it as an investment in yourself. Much like going to college – it is a price we pay to learn tools and trades that help us stand out in a competitive market. Frankly, it’s even better than college because you can do it from home and many online tutorials are free! Plus there is the added bonus of learning to use tools that help make your work faster and more efficient – and that alone repays you for the time spent learning with CE.

Remember friends, as the old saying goes, work smart not hard!

The design double-standard…

design, graphic design

Recently I saw a post of people celebrating a magazine cover of a Kardashian sister. I will be honest in sharing that I did not read said article or know which Kardashian it was, but that is not the point. My point is, people were congratulating her on how she looked on the magazine and it made me wonder – where is the kudos for the designer of the cover? Okay, so, not literally. But also… A little literally. It seems that there is this design double-standard that we do not pretend exists when it comes to celebrities images and the designers who fix them. It is not rare for an audience, or even the celebrity themselves, to publicly shame a magazine for the designer’s heavy handed editing. People stand up on their soapbox about unfair beauty standards (which for the record, I agree which is why I do not work in that particular industry contributing to the false imagery). But what about when the design is gorgeous and the person looks flawless? Is that somehow magical genetics? No. It is simply someone who to use the terms of popular culture, “knew the assignment.” This means, they were able to edit a design to a level that is both flawless, but socially acceptable – which believe it or not, is not always easy. Nonetheless, where is the love for the designers? It is a difficult and delicate balance between heavy handed editing that leads to complaints, or heavy handed editing that leads to celebrity or model praise; but one thing I can promise you is, it was heavy handed.