Design rules to live by

I have been pondering on my career recently. I’m working through the problem of next steps and new challenges. What do I want to dedicate the next seven years to? 

The last 10 years have been a huge challenge. I spent the first seven discovering what it takes to build a strategic design agency and now that I’ve left it behind I can see, with hindsight, all the good and bad choices I made along the way. 

The last three years (which felt like seven) have been a series of opportunities to consult on a huge variety of projects, each one a unique challenge in their own right. I now find myself living in Switzerland at a crossroads. 

Just like you are, I’m bombarded every day by news of fear and dread. Existential crisis. Content. Content. And even more ‘meaningful Content.

In the 1960s, Ken Garland wrote:

The techniques and apparatus of advertising have persistently been presented to us as the most effective and desirable means of using our talents… By far the greatest time and effort of those working in the advertising industry are wasted on these trivial purposes…we have reached a saturation point at which the high pitch scream of consumer selling is no more than sheer noise…

Ken Garland’s challenge to designers was intended to shift the way the design community should approached aspects of their profession.

This was not a call to abolish advertising or take the fun out of life. This was a challenge to take stock of your priorities and understand what is most important to you.

I’m lucky because for most of the last decade I have shifted the focus of my energy into working mostly with charitable organisations and businesses that have value to human prosperity.

My recent contemplations have lead me to want to cement that further. In this fast paced attention economy and commoditisation of disinformation, now more than ever there is value in continuing to ‘fight the good fight’

What this means, I’m not sure – Maybe something in the sciences, environmental technologies or government. The only thing I know for sure is this list of rules I’ve been collecting:

  • Work with nice people
  • Be useful
  • Progress over perfection
  • Process over product
  • I don’t know is the path to creativity
  • Have fun
  • Everybody can dance
  • Teach what you know
  • Try new things
  • Do one thing at a time
  • Enjoy what you do
  • Be sociable, no one goes it alone
  • Do more things that make you forget to check your phone
  • Sign your work
  • Keep going
  • Relax
  • Make work that matters

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