Not just a designer

With ALTsummit coming up next week I felt compelled to look back at what I’ve learned about design in the past two years since my 2012 ALT attendance. I actually wrote this post a year ago and didn’t have the guts to post it. This year, I do. (still scary)

2012    I design. I make things pretty.
2014    I design. I make things pretty AND work better, more valuable, change the world…

My fellow designers:  I love making things pretty and I can’t WAIT to celebrate a million pretty things with you in SLC.

While many bookshelves need styled, while many logos can be improved, while creating the perfectly intriguing tablescape does bring me an incredible sense of achievement, solving design problems that redefine an industry, or help solve a global crisis, or make a message reach the ears or eyes it was meant for move me in an equally powerful and unexpected ways.

I didn’t know I was a strategist.
I didn’t know I was a marketer.
I didn’t know I was an innovator.
But I am. I’m all of these things, because I’m a designer.

Designers, stylists, UX geeks: don’t shy away from bigger, hairier projects. Don’t settle for day-rate work and pretty typography. (Also, don’t walk away from that stuff because it too, is bliss.) But don’t limit yourself to schlepping rugs to a shoot, only to spend the next three days returning them. Have the confidence to walk into the CEO’s office of a brand like Nike, Coca-Cola or the White House and say “I’m a designer and I think I can help you solve this problem you’re having.” Because your unique set of trainings, of problem-solving experiences, they apply to the entire sphere of challenges the world faces. You can stand in a room full of PhDs and help them to think of solutions in new ways, clarify their goals, get their message out, spread their vision beyond their peers. You can do this because you know how to design. Your brain works with constraints in different ways, solves solutions in a different order, adapts easily from unexpected sources.

So consider ditching that client who can’t choose between two shades of orange for their logo and spend your time and talent getting to know people who value your unique point of view on the challenges they are facing.

Pretty IS enough, just don’t let me hear you say you’re “just a designer.”