Walk This Way

One thing I have found as a designer is that there is no shortage of people giving me advice. There is nothing designers love to do more than to try and help other designers be better at what they do. This is noble and good, and as a community of people we certainly know how to try and take care of our own by offering sage musings on our experiences in the profession. We have all seen and read many pieces from all the big design stars we all know: Victore, Draplin, Sagmesiter, Monteiro, etc... offering their nuggets of wisdom for those less famous than themselves. Hell, I am as guilty of this myself—I wrote a Design Education Manifesto after all.

I am starting to wonder—how useful is this? How useful is Aaron Draplin listing off 50 bullet points of advice? How useful is Mike Monteiro writing a book about how to be a designer? How useful is the advice about design school coming from a guy who pretended to be an Angry Paul Rand? How useful are people we know only by reputation telling us what to do and how to act as a designer? I can tell you from a personal view that I absolutely believe every single word I wrote in my Design Education Manifesto. I also believe that it will help those who read it get a better design education regardless of where they are in their schooling (or even after school). I believe that giving back to the community that helped me get where I am is a required part of being a designer and educator—maybe the main part.

However, I also think that my Design Education Manifesto is most useful for one person: me. I think it is probably much less useful for everyone else. I do not think it is useless—I really do think there is good stuff there. I will be the first person to admit that it was written primarily for me, even though it appears to be written for everyone else. I cannot speak from any specific knowledge, but I suspect that many of the other tomes of advice and wisdom from others are also written mostly for their authors.

What should we—as designers, thinkers, makers, critics, and educators—be writing and talking to each other about? This is a really good question that should be asked and answered by as many people as possible as often as possible. I do not know, but I do think that more lists of advice are not the best way to help the community of designers progress. I think we should be making designers think instead of imitate or have a checklist of ways to act. We need to be proposing ideas and arguments that we talk about together. I am curious about Frank Chimero's book The Shape of Design because it appears to be a thesis on what he thinks design really is, as opposed to how he thinks we should act as designers. I am excited about Ze Frank's new A Show because his is a conversation about creativity and acts of making, not bullet points of how to be more creative.

I applaud anyone who spends the time and effort to write and lecture about how we think we can become better designers. I thank James Victore, Aaron Draplin, Stefan Sagmesiter and Mike Monteiro for their efforts at giving a little back. I simply wonder—should our conversations be less about "this is how I did it" and more about "how could you do it?"