What I'm Not

mouth illustration by Kyle Steed I feel there's a lot of discussion, not just in the design community, about how we label/market/brand ourselves. I'm no brand expert, but let me tell you what I do know... me. I know who I am and more importantly I know who I'm not. That's what I want to tell you today.


I read a great article last week, Death to Creatives!!!, explaining the way we misuse the word "creative". It's not a noun, it doesn't describe a person, place or thing. Rather it's used to describe the person, place or thing in context. So me telling you I'm creative really makes no sense, albeit sounds good. But me telling you the way I design a website or illustrate a graphic is creative does make sense.

But there are other ways we can be "creative" outside of our careers, take cooking for example. I love to cook and enjoy tweaking the recipe to see how it turns out. Sometimes it fails, but every once in a while I get it just right and the food is delicious. Try it for yourself once in a while, shake things up, and most importantly have fun.


This title should only be given to people like Iggy Pop, Steven Tyler or Rick Astley (just kidding). I also hear it makes for an incredible energy drink. But the one thing "rockstar" shouldn't describe is a designer. Whoever coined this phrase for the design community should be ashamed. The lifestyle of a true "rockstar" in no way reflects the lifestyle of a designer. Unless you know designers out there that are on world tour, being followed by hardcore fans and more women than you can shake a stick at AND the millions of dollars flowing in, I think it's a little absurd to label yourself as such. (Please excuse the run on sentence.)

Plus, no client deserves to have their house trashed, liquor cabinet emptied and women stolen (a.k.a the "Rockstar" treatment). So it's time we put aside childish things and take a good look at who we really are. Hopefully we'll see that we're not some jackass "rockstar" but more of a confident designer.

Know It All

I don't know everything. Please don't assume I do. There is only one person who ever will. But I am always learning and improving, from past mistakes mostly. And when I approach a new client, or a new project, I focus on keeping an open mind. Listening to the goals of the client/project instead of hammering them with my own ideas will lead to a better working relationship. Sometimes though you don't always get to work with the optimal client, so knowing when to input your "2 cents" is a fine art you learn by experience.


I was created for dependence upon others. I thrive off the relationships in my life. From my personal relationship with Jesus, to my marriage, to the great group of friends I connect with face-to-face, to the larger creative community I interact with online. I can honestly say that I have a need for you all in my life. It's only when I think I can hold the world on my shoulders that my feet fail me and I crumble under the weight, tired and beat down. And the same thing happens in design. When we try and handle a project all on our own it wears us out. Without those wiser and more experienced watching over us we wouldn't be able to better ourselves. We need to bring back the master/apprentice model of working.

world on shoulders illustrations by Kyle Steed

Final Thoughts

I hope you learned more about who I am than what I'm not. My goal here is to help you think before you speak when describing yourself and what you do. I know words have a lot of power and when we use them loosely we usually end up putting our foot in our mouths. So that's why I think it's important to be as transparent as possible, and be the first to admit our mistakes. We can all learn from each other, but only if we're willing to open up and share.