#27: Being a Designer Means Never Settling   { “Restless”- Switchfoot }

What does it mean to be restless? Most of the things that come to mind when people think of being restless are perceived as negative. Words like, nervous, agitated, anxious, or unsettled. I think the words we want to focus on when we think of being “restless designers” is changeable.

It’s important to never get too comfortable where we are at with ourselves as designers.

It’s so easy to become relaxed where you are with your work, your skills, or your ambition. But sometimes the only way we will get any better is if we aren’t comfortable with staying where we are.

As Switchfoot sings in their don’t “Restless”, “I am the raindrop falling down, always longing for the deeper ground.” It’s so important to always have that sense of longing in our designs. A longing for something more, something that we have to dig down deep within ourselves to find. But this requires getting up and doing something different.

If we get uncomfortable physically, we generally get up, move around, do something else and go back to our desks. The same can happen for our designs, except that we often don’t realize that we have become too comfortable or we just don’t bother to care. We start using all the same fonts, or we get stuck in a certain color palette. Maybe you’re very successful at doing things the same way every time. Maybe you have a “style” or a “look” that you can’t see yourself changing because it works. If this sounds like you, then you’re reading the right post.

It’s important to consider that words like agitated, anxious, or unsettled don’t have to be negative. If something causes you to move and get out of your design rut, it can really be helpful. So how do you use this restlessness to your advantage? How do you make sure that you never get stuck in a rut? Here’s my top 3 ways for you do to this.

1. Don’t settle.
This one seems pretty easy, and you might be thinking, “I never settle, I do my awesome work all the time.” Except that you might be settling for your own brand (pun intended) of awesome. I don’t generally recommend any designer “compare” themselves to any other designer, but in this case, I do recommend taking a look at other creatives and see what they are doing. It’s possible that your work was pretty great and cutting edge…like three years ago. Just because you’re still making money and getting jobs doesn’t mean you can’t be changeable.  Settling down as a designer is never a good thing.

You should constantly be next to bored in a way, eternally searching for a new way to execute your style, looking for bigger and better projects, more interesting techniques.

2. Challenge yourself.
This one is really important. The word “challenge” can be so subjective. A challenge to someone else might be a piece of cake for you.

When I say to challenge yourself I mean that you should find something completely out of your “safe zone” of design thinking.

If you always design clean and precise then try something messy and grungy, etc. If you have always wanted to try a certain kind of design, then do it, don’t be afraid. Push to the edge of yourself creatively.

3. Let go of your ego.

People have egos, it’s no secret. We all like to talk about ourselves. We get really attached to our work, especially when we think it’s great work. There’s nothing wrong with being confident or proud of the work you do.

The problem comes when you think that you’re so good that you’ve hit the ceiling of awesomeness and you can sit back and watch the world admire you.

The only way to be a designer who doesn’t settle is to realize that you are not the best thing ever and that you can always be better. That you can go from being the best to mediocre in a heartbeat if you sit back. Letting go of your ego will allow you to continue to make great things for years to come.

As Sean Wes says, “the hustle never stops”. And I absolutely believe that this is the mentality you must have in order to never let yourself settle for awesome, your goal should always be to reach past awesome, and dig deeper every day. Don’t get too comfortable, don’t lie down and let the world come to you. Get up, go out, and be the designer you will be proud of in 10, 20, or 50 years. Design is a wonderful world. I hope you’ll join me here, because design matters.


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