The Journey of Design

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Recently, the San Diego chapter of AIGA put on their annual Y Design Conference. The core purpose of the Y {as we fondly call it} is to learn from others of why they design—which often leads to how and what they design, or how and why design influences the world around us. The conference offers a way to get re-inspired, to learn something new, and to connect with other designers, and even non-designers. As a local San Diego AIGA Board Member, this conference is special to me, and I eagerly look forward to it every year.

One of the speakers that made an impact on me was Christopher Chapman, Global Creativity Innovation Director at The Walt Disney Company. He is a true Design Thinker. Since I’ve been working with a creative business coach for the past several months {to really define who I am as a designer, what does design mean to me, and as a studio owner, what do I mean to my clients}, his talk really resonated with me. The title of Christopher’s presentation was Elevate Your Purpose - in which he spoke of establishing true purpose behind our design. Is what we do just a job where it’s a daily grind, a ladder-climbing career, or is it something with real purpose?

When we do what we love, put our passion behind it, and work in collaboration with others, money is no longer the purpose but a byproduct. It brings us a sense of doing good work. And as Christopher mentioned, helping others makes us feel better—it’s a positive feedback loop. So true. And from what I have experienced working with other designers, we designers love to help. We are problem solvers and communicators.

However, when we allow negativity, anxiety and stress into our practice, it often involves a high degree of self focus. We lose touch with showing compassion and kindness towards others, mainly our clients when they become difficult or very challenging. Christopher suggested bringing the client with you on your design journey of the project. Invite them into the process. Collaborate, walk in their shoes, have dinner with them. Of course, that’s not be doable when you have out-of-state clients, but for those that are local we should make it a partnership. It personalizes the working relationship and builds trust. This in turn produces a successful output that leaves us all feeling good.

I have experienced all too well the difficult client, and with the anxiety from that turmoil and the possible loss of his business, I let negative emotions in and lost focus on the core essence of why I do what I do, who I am to my clients and the journey of design. However, before I heard Christopher speak, I dug deep into self-reflection, prayed and journaled on how to deal with this difficult client. After a few days, we talked. I let him speak his frustrations, without arguing back, and gave him the benefit of the doubt - that maybe he had stress on his end that was making our project difficult for him, and that I just got the brunt of it. When I let compassion and kindness in, he calmed down and we resumed business as normal. My purpose was reignited.

The joy and passion I experience not only comes from design, but also from successful collaboration with my clients. Happy clients, happy me.