Jaded & Back Again: The fight for GOOD design

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In design school you learn a lot.
You feel prepared for the challenges ahead; you are excited by the prospect of becoming a “real” designer. You’re certain that this new career holds the promise of crazy design fantasies and incredibly-over-budget-cause-you-don’t-even-think-about-those-things-projects that will shatter all preconceptions and earn you instant ADDY fame.
Then the real world hits. And your once determined attitude to “save the world from the evil clutches of bad and boring design” gets thrown for a loop. In fact, spend enough time in a bad design environment and it’s easy enough to be convinced that there are only two drastic options left for your so-called career:
1. I want to make money
2. I want to make cool stuff and live at my parent’s house
Let’s look at Option 1:
The “real world” where even the most precocious, rebellious, “cool-guy” designer will somehow become tainted or corrupted. I know this seems a bit over dramatic- “corrupt” designers and all–but the corporate world of design takes a toll on even the most motivated and passionate. This world doesn’t have time for all of your empty design talk and fancy idealism, because time is money.
All the design starts to look similar and you keep creating the same solution for every design problem because fighting to present something you know a client wouldn’t go for isn’t worth it. The design isn’t bad, it just isn’t anything you would look twice at.
Now dive into Option 2:
On the other hand you have the design you do “on the side” or the design you did in school. I like to call this, design for design’s sake. Graphic design has become a culture within itself and many young people (designers or not) are really starting to appreciate good design. They want everything they own to be hip, stylish, and one-of-a-kind.
With such a huge value placed on and market available for these “good-looking things,” why do these two ways of design life have to be so separate? Why do the unemployed, the students, and the freelance designers get to have all the fun?
A Revelation
After following a corporate agenda long enough, I decided I was through with the harshly drawn line. I didn’t want to make “safe” designs that would make the client happy but do nothing for their product or their brand. Because when it comes down to it, nothing truly memorable is ever “safe.”
Bridging the Gap
Good design IS about balance. It’s about creating work that transcends all markets and demographics. It should be possible to create work that is both safe AND adventurous; traditional AND modern.
It seems the “real” world of design and the profession itself needs to get real. Clients and designers alike can work together to create identities that bridge this gap between the painfully lame and the ridiculously extreme. Opening yourself up to new, out-of-the-box options or even traditional solutions is what makes a well-rounded designer and a well-rounded brand.

The “real” world isn’t black and white- So why should design be?

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