The Design Letters, Vol. 1


Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

In a rare example of successful content marketing to me (zero inbox is one of my proudest habits, sadly) I signed up for Jarrod Drysdale‘s Tiny Designer email newsletter series–not least, Jarrod-if-you’re-reading-this, because it promised to give me a semblance design literacy in only 5 short installments.

I’ll meet your business goals rather than sell you a glossy coat of paint. Jarrod Drysdale, with whom I have no business relationship, although he seems pretty cool.

Design thinking is where the rubber hits the road for systems thinking, and I like being able to actualize my thoughts, so it seemed like a good investment of email attention capital.

So far, it is. The first email I got posed this bold, no-bullshit question:

Is creative work valuable anymore? When anyone can write a blog, listen to a song for free, or design something pretty on Squarespace, it can seem that creative professions are going the way of the dodo bird.

This question reflects ground truth for a lot of people who will have to deleverage from their career or business pretentions for any number of reasons. Despite the abundance of design capital in the world today, anyone can easily fall victim to–or worse, embody–bad design outcomes, bad design practice, or bad entrepreneurship, or some combination of the same. I “designed” my own business card because I can’t afford a professional designer, and every reprint I order, exchange of cards that I “lose” American Psycho-style, or Pinterest binge I indulge reminds me of what the opportunity costs of my time spent and money “saved” might actually be.

Jarrod concluded by asking:

What’s the biggest threat to the design profession?

I tried to answer him, and answered some of my own questions, questions that I face as I try to clamber my own professional writing, communications, and business development consultancy–designing tools for strategic clarity and improved customer engagement–out of the depths of Resistance.

(Some clarifications added [in brackets].)

In my view, denigration of creative and design work always stops when competitive advantage [through superior design] is achieved (hopefully not by a competitor). The problem is that denigration persists because some competitive success can be found without real investment in design capital (e.g. Google [products outside of search] prior to their tipping point c. 2011 into puff pieces like this one).

This is because (a) design literacy seeps into the subconscious of sausage-making and client-facing types as a matter of simply interacting with the world, and (b) there is an economic market (profits and savings) for de-skilling of design. Real life isn’t going to end (a), nor is a cure for hubris going to end (b). But that complex is the existential threat to the design profession, even as it drives demand for a lucky few of its practitioners and aficionados/patrons.

Thank you for offering this course. Good content marketing always reminds the audience of the phrase “if you think hiring a professional is expensive, try hiring an amateur.” I believe, and I hope, that this is good content marketing for you.

This is one more place in our serviceinformationknowledgecreativeattentionsemanticrelationship economy where the “professionals” will either learn enough to adapt, or find a new profession, taking the transferable artifacts of their experience with them on a sometimes long, sometimes perilous journey to a new beginning and a new chance at personal differentiation in a new market.

We’ve all made the journey before.


One thought on “The Design Letters, Vol. 1

  1. Pingback: The Design Letters, Vol. 2 | Protecting Beloved Gifts

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