Learning never stops. It holds true for every aspect of life. But for a creative professional, it holds true to the T. I realised this pretty early in my career. And I believe that has helped shape me as a professional and also as a person.
I’ve had the privilege of working with some of the best leaders in the industry. They showed me the way on which I paved my path on my journey of creativity. They told me to keep honing my skills, and I doubled my efforts. They told me to be patient, and I learned that things take time. They told me to trust the process, and I trust I did.
It is this process that I savour till this very day. I can still recall the ways I used to think, the views I used to hold, and see how they have morphed through the years, sometimes as swift and suddenly as a storm, sometimes as slow as a canoe going with the flow.
If you are on the same journey as me, I know these lessons will help you as much as they helped me in my time of need.
1. Genius is a product of persistence.
A perfect end result never shows the whole story. We assume that great work comes in flashes of brilliance. We think that people who create mind-blowing stuff have some kind of mystical talent that can get their creative juices flowing at will.
But nothing could be further from the truth. When I got a glimpse behind the scenes, I learned that you need to try every single variation you can think of, to zero in on the perfect solution. When someone with an immaculate understanding of the craft showed me that a stunning final design comes after almost a hundred variations of composition, type, line height, colour, it brought a change in my approach towards a new brief.
I stopped taking shortcuts, which puts most designers in a creative limbo and ends up slowing down their growth. That helped me a great deal in avoiding the dead end of mediocrity.
2. The eye is the biggest weapon in a designer’s arsenal.
My tabla guru used to tell me ‘Beta apna kaan ko think karo, phir tabla bajana easy ho jayega'. When I got into art/designing, one of my seniors told me to learn how to see things. Have a great ‘Eye’, he said. The quality of your work product is and always will always be limited by how good your eye is, and by that I mean your critical discernment of the strengths and weaknesses of a design.
How to develop your eye? Just practise three simple things:
No need to trade-off between ‘easy to understand’ and ‘exceptionally well-crafted’. With a little persistence, you can achieve both. And that is the sweet spot that every designer needs to find.
3. Self-reliance can only take you halfway.
Collaboration is the key to work that makes an impact. There will be disagreements. They are necessary even. As creative professionals we can at times get into a habit of getting too attached to our own ideas. They are, in a way, our baby after all. But being open to other perspectives has helped me to find unique angles at times, which I would not have stumbled upon if I worked alone.
Before you can be a leader, you need to learn to follow. You need to understand that it is not about doing things your way. It is about getting the right people to share your vision and ensuring that the end goal is the sum of everyone’s best efforts.
If you draw a graph of impact it will always tend to correlate with the number of people who made an effective contribution. That’s why it’s not about winning battles and being right, but about developing close collaborations with people you trust. That’s when you can have healthy debates and disagreements that come from a place of care.
Design is a field that doesn’t just require skills. There’s a lot more to it.
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