Being in a design industry for almost a good decade has taught me a lot of things. Not only on the spectrum of being a professional creative, but also on how to be more human in every particle of things that I do for a living. And of course, to leap from good to better.
At certain odd o'clock of contemplating, I remember I use to read about practical qualities on our endeavor as creative troop to reach the next level from here. It got me to allocate some time today to reflect on that and see what have I done in the last ten years to know where I stand today. Let's go through it, since I know there's a lot of things to learn and improve, and hope this could be things for others to reflect too.
A willingness to listen.
Listening was often a hard part. I remember I used to listen more to what I think was right, instead of what clients really want. The loudness of my ego was mistakenly noticed as idealism, and through the years, I finally realized that it was not what idealism supposed to be at the first place. Real experience in the industry makes me realize that the core of design service is supposed to be functional and aim to solve their problem. And to solve each problem, a designer needs to listen to the right message from person-in-charge in the room, and advising the solution based on the agreed brief from the client. My ability to listen is gained in years, and this has been one of traits that I carry every single time I am on duty.
A willingness to collaborate.
Based on the introversion that I got, I could say that I work better alone. It still does me good up to today, but since few years back, I have found the true meaning of "working alone" and I shifted that into "being one whole functioning element to complete what's missing in a group". Ever since I got hired in design/advertising agency, I tend to be assigned and got in-charge of something that fit my forte to empower the team. Then only, I found the fun of collaborating with others. The essence of crafting one work together (as if it were a giant puzzle for everyone to put each piece into) brings sense of importance for everyone involved. Collaborating makes us try to at least be useful and functional, and that's exactly a trait to reach bigger goal.
A willingness to take any type of criticism and respond professionally.
Back to the earlier days when I was in advertising, I had been always the one who was good at giving insight, but really poor at explaining ideas in a concrete way. I was really struggle to articulate my thinking and somehow I had to let go the edge of my thoughts got killed on the field. Sad? It was. I got a tendency to compare myself with other creative partners (mainly my fellow art directors), until I realized that what I needed to do was to respond to "your idea is shallow" / "not quite there" / "can you think of something better?" / "don't you think it's kinda lame?" / "well, could be... but let's put it aside" kind of feedback. I start to fix what's in me: read more, write more, try to find the logical rationale, and understand the flaw appointed to me so that I understand the opposite side of it to make it works instead. Those exercises to respond criticism still help till today.
The ability to pinpoint relevance.
It took me years to be able to distinct what's work and what's not to help me making design decisions. It takes understanding of the real problem, slices of reference and experience, and also knowledge to skew the creative route to be taken down with.
A maturity in balancing design decisions and business decisions.
I come to understand this when I got to run my own studio few years ago. If my days back in the advertising agency got me to score so many freedom to do whatever I like (without thinking of other things and pushing off boundaries of creativity) with the team, I can't really do that in that "exact" particular way now. Design decisions need to be more clever and strategically works to answer the problem with solution that we think works (based on the taste, style, and knowledge that we have). And if the offered solution is rejected, "the maturity" would eventually help to tweak, or even more, to magically get the job done. Because that's what matter.
After a decade, I realize that my career as a designer not only evolve around taste and skill. It taught me how to be a problem solver, and being one is not as easy as it sounds. I need to deal a lot with something more dangerous than client, which is myself. The ego and idealism often taken and treated way too much that they could make you stop learning, just because. Compromising is another important thing to do. Because, I realize, compromising takes care of idealism much better. It takes care of our creative agenda, empathy, eagerness, and passion so that we would not get easily drained. Compromising is a guard for creative soul, as long as you know that the journey needs more positive fuel.
Here's to an oath not to stop learning.
To passion, to dream, and to reality that I create in between.
Here's to another years to craft legacy, hopefully.
Sabbe satta bhavantu sukhitatta.