Over the last year, I have learned a lot about what it means to be an independent worker. Mostly it means that you are never satisfied with the project you are on, and that you are continuously looking for new challenges to sink your teeth into. During this past year, I’ve done a lot of reflecting on what types of challenges I want to take on, and have talked to others about this topic at length. It feels like, as a design community, we are always looking for the same big challenges. Working for ABC because they did this campaign, working for XYZ because they did this talk at this conference, working with DEF because only the best designers work there. Talking with my peer review group a couple of weeks ago I found myself asking, are we a profession that is obsessed with reputation? We are always talking about innovation and creativity, yet the majority of us want to work at ABC for the same reasons. How, then, do we expect to foster the principles of change that we all speak of?
What am I trying to get at? I’m asking you as design professionals to tell me the advantages that you see working for the big guys? What products have they produced that are more fun & challenging that Joe Smoe’s website start up? For me, I’m really beginning to think how much of it is what these companies/agencies produce and how much is just for the reputation that they have? We follow these guys like they’re rockstars and we’re the groupies… “John from DEF is speaking at yadda yadda (some UX designer faints from excitement)”, but how different is the work that you are or could be doing for someone that can’t afford to hire DEF? Isn’t it time for our community to expand beyond the big names, isn’t it time for us to start to create different big names and great ideas??
All this being said I know that we are all doing really great work that is creative and helpful in our careers, but my question is would you trade all that work to go to a giant agency? And if so, is it because you will learn more & solve great problems, or is it because of their reputation? I’m definitely starting to lean the other way myself, but that’s not to say I’m not also guilty of being a groupie. What it means is I’ve start asking myself these questions and determining where I want my career to go, and what types of challenges I want to entertain in my future.
What are your thoughts? I would love to hear them!
[…] I think that we look internally for ideas and even new jobs way too much. It seems that we are Obsessed with the Reputation of being known in the UX community or working at one of the big wig companies, more so than […]
I couldn’t agree more. Great response indeed. I also have learned the most in my last 8 months being a consultant and am thankful I made the switch :-).
In my experience, what you’re illustrating is a legacy of our industry — young designers (and design professionals in general), have always wanted to work with the “big guys” because that’s where all of the interesting, creative work was being done. I also tend to think that it’s symptomatic of a few issues:
1. Lack of self-confidence or confidence in the designer’s work
2. Lack of experience
3. Lemming-head (‘everyone else is doing it, so I should too)
It’s understandable that designers would want to leverage the prestige that comes along with being associated with a recognized and reputable agency. But I my sense is that such thinking is flawed — at least given today’s market.
Today’s reality is that the “big guys” are struggling to maintain their relevance in an industry and global culture that shows less favor towards the high-cost/slow/low ROI agencies, while leaning more towards the cost-effective/agile/high ROI consultants, companies, collaboration groups.
Having been involved in one capacity or another in the industry and with agencies, I can say that most of these agencies are still stuck with the tired notion of needing to “own the creative” — forget about what actually makes the creative function (at least online), or be effective.
The irony is that the big agencies sub-contract almost everything to smaller groups that conceptualize the creative and strategy and execute it from start to finish. They do this because they just don’t get it — or care to understand what’s changing around them.
If you ask me, I’d rather work for a small outfit — excluding the wannabe marketing communications groups (we all know who they want to be). I’d rather work for a small company who are dedicated to their craft; can execute a clever strategy; develop strong creative; and deliver the promised ROI for their clients — and be happy with the fact that they can do what very, very few agencies can even think about doing.
Some of the most rewarding work has come to me since I left my agency to b a full time consultant — I’ve learned more, and done more in the last 8 months than I have in the past few years being involved with “creative” agencies.
Thanks Dustin! That’s an angle I didn’t really think of (not sure why) but it makes sense from a young designers perspective. I’m just wondering when do people, if ever, “grow” out of it (I hate that term)?
Really thing you’re onto something with this.. and I like Lee’s extension of the rock star analogy. I guess it really comes down to knowing what excites you. I would guess that for a lot of young designers reputation does play into the criteria for achievement more-so than the BIG questions, like “what do I want to do with my skills, and where can I do the most of it?”
I wasn’t intending it to sound like that at all, so it’s probably my fault that I didn’t write my thoughts clearly :-). However your point is a good one. I agree with what you’re saying, but I think that we are almost trained in this field to follow certain companies/groups/agencies for the reputations (which are often good reputations for good reason) and not so much for what working there really adds to our “tool kit”. More like we are looking more at the exterior rather than the interior and how it builds us, and if that matches how we want to grow. Sorry if I’m, again, being unclear.
I don’t know that continuously looking for new challenges is analogous to obsessing over reputation. Like real rockstars, the legitimate ones know their trade and kick ass, while those obsessed with reputation, well… Nickelback.