On Designers and Juggling

I’ve been reading through Seth Godin’s new book, Poke the Box, and have really been inspired by the topic and how it is presented. I think there could be five or six posts out of this book alone. The one I want to start with first is his take on juggling and how it relates to designers today.

A quick overview of the section “juggling us about throwing, not catching” is that as an employee or business owner you need to focus starting things (throwing) vs. dealing with emergencies (catching.) Godin is saying that the tyranny of the urgent may keep us “busy” but that in the end it can cause fundamental failure.

Part of our role as designers is to put out fires. Tasks like re-sizing an ad, editing a logo design or uploading a new page to a site are all valid, billable items to do. Clients need these kind of items and typically they need them urgently. The problem with this is that if your sole focus on is handling what comes in it’s impossible to be proactive and make a difference at a deeper level.

There is another set of issues that designers face which goes even deeper than the juggling vs. catching concern. Let’s say the requests stop coming in for a day or a week and you actually do have an hour to sit down and think. What, if anything, would you propose or create for a client to implement? Do you know your client, their clients, their industry well enough to propose a marketing plan, product or campaign that would make a difference?

I think our entire industry (as designers) is centered around catching and that is an issue for us. We are natural problem solvers and by using that creativity for more than a clever headline we can truly help out clients. Clients need MORE than their ads submitted on time. We swim in an industry of ideas, creativity and newness and can bring that energy and freshness into their businesses as well as their collateral. If we step up and become more a part of our clients business, we can impart a value that transcends the ability to run Illustrator or InDesign.

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