Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Dear Bonnie: Lost in London

Dear Bonnie is our truth-telling advice column from Bonnie Siegler. We hope you enjoy it as much as we do and we always invite our readers to submit their questions: [email protected]

Dear Bonnie,
I work at a big design firm and feel like I never get to do interesting or good work. Most of our clients are big, international companies and I’m rarely inspired by the projects we take on. I think I am a really good designer, but I am afraid I can’t show my stuff at this job. The people who work here and our clients just don’t know what good design looks like, so we always go with the boring solution over the good one.

Lost in London

Dear L,

Answer number 1: Find a new job.

It doesn’t matter how old you are. At every age, you should work at a place that values what you have to offer and where you (mostly) respect the people you work with and for. Your job doesn’t sound like a good fit. If the big international companies are happy, my guess is your firm is making money and so they are probably happy with the level of design that is going on. If you feel the opposite, you should leave. It’s hard to do great work when you are unhappy.

Answer number 2: Maybe you’re not as good as you think you are.

Good design happens for big international corporations all the time. It always has and always will. It also happens for tiny little companies. Good design does not depend on the category of client. Good designers find ways to do good design regardless of the client. Yes, it is easier if you have an encouraging client and on the flip side, sometimes you can’t win, no matter what. The problem is blaming the client when you produce work that isn’t great. There is a disconnect there. It’s not their fault if the final product isn’t up to your standards. It’s yours.

Answer number 3: Find a new attitude.

Instead of feeling helpless and, well, lost, take control of the situation. Talk to your boss about the type of work you can do and that you’d like to do. Show her examples of solutions you wish could have been developed further. If you don’t have those examples, create them. Even if the project is over. Saying you want to do a different level of work is easy, showing it is difficult.

If you go with answer number 3 and your boss doesn’t respond positively, then it may be time to go with answer number 1. Or come to terms with the cold hard truth of answer number 2. Either way, you should shake things up and take responsibility for the work that you do.

Posted in: Business, Dear Bonnie

Comments [1]

I agree with Bonnie. As designers it is easy for us to become caught up in our work and feel like we haven't successfully placed our influential mark on a project that requires the collaboration of many members. I also think that it's important for us to ask ourselves what good design really is. If we feel like the end results simply lack the aesthetic signature that we personally wanted to place on it, perhaps we need to re-evaluate the purpose of the project in the first place. I know that I have to resist the urge to "over-design" the products that I work on, and allow the extras to be whittled down to what is truly necessary. As an industrial designer, this happens all the time. The one aspect of the design that you think is essential to the overall aesthetic gets scrapped by a fellow worker and you end up with something that you didn't expect. But if we remember that good design is about function, and not always about creating a specific look, then we can find more satisfaction in what we produce. If the client is happy, the goal is achieved, then the design is effective. That being said. I do think that in order to find the best solution for function, team members have to be open for free collaboration. If you can't freely express your idea of how the solution can best be achieved in your perspective... I also would consider finding other employment. It's though... but if you can't openly talk with any coworkers about your concerns and share how you want to contribute more, then you're in the wrong place.
Russell Cluff

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