The Perfectionist Trap

We've all been there, scouring the Internet for the beautiful looking work, by architecturally-designed design studios that win all the awards and have beautiful, well-dressed people working in their beautiful, light-filled, stock-photography-worthy offices.

We've all spent afternoons flicking through award annuals wondering what life would be like in 'the upside down'.

For those of you who got that reference, high five.

This is the perfectionist trap. It manifests itself in us creative types and it sucks the life from us. It saps us of any sense of reality and turns our attention away from what is truly important focussing us on bullshit.

Name in lights

Some Designers feel and act like artists. They feel that they have a higher calling, a creative calling and all they need is an opportunity which will propel them into fame.

They will refer to their 'style' and their 'practice' or 'craft' and frown upon those that have 'sold out' and now do 'corporate work'.

Many feel that they too will find shininess, glitz, unicorns, rainbows, riches and acknowledgement from the wider world. That their name will shine in lights at some stage in their career.


Some Designers seek fame. Simply, the notoriety that comes with awards, with popularity and pats on the back after a job well done. 

Fame manifests itself in many ways and these Designers are happy with any way. As long as it is they that achieve this fame. Be it standing on a podium talking about themselves, fronting their peers and talking about themselves or simply to have their work tweeted, liked, retweeted and noticed.

The Studio

Some young Designers I meet seek to work in a 'studio'.

They feel that life as a creative person can only be fulfilled in a studio environment and the thought of working in-house or for corporates petrifies them if at all met with a sense of being a 'step down' or 'not quite right'.

The reality is that most in-house agency/studios out perform and are run by much smarter people than their agency counterparts.

Polishing a Turd

Some Designers like to craft into the late hours of the night feeling it is some type of right of passage. The act of polishing a piece of work to perfection.

Some seek a space where 'personal projects' are there for 'us to be creative' when we don't have to do the 'bread and butter work'.

Some Designers feel that polishing, refining and continuing into the dark, silent hours of (every) night is the true calling of the creative person.


All of this is bullshit.

All of this creates unnecessary pressure on young people and I see it first hand.

I sit opposite young men and women every week, who are so stressed and anxious about achieving the false perfection that is held up by academia and the industry itself and it is just wrong.

Blood-shot eyes, trembling hands and an insecurity ripe for exploitation by anyone willing to dangle yet another unpaid-internship with a false promise of 'a job' at the end of it.

You are a young Designer.

You don't have to be perfect and you sure as hell are better than the stock-photo-architecturally-designed-studio-typefoundry-loving creative types that perpetuate these myths.

You do not have to find a job in 'that' studio because 'that' studio is a false dream. You do not have to polish your work until it is just right in the eyes of some wanker Creative Director because you just fucking don't.

You do not have to sell your soul.

If you want your name in lights, it's your dream to chase. But you don't need it to achieve a great, purposeful and fulfilling career.

Stop waiting for the right job to come around. Get a job that pays the bills. Any job. Look at the positives it offers you and be grateful you have a job.

If you're not happy, leave.

There are families, right now, who are walking across the Middle East to Europe.

They're walking!

Some don't even make it.

And we're sitting here worried if we've won enough typography awards as we ensure the ones we've won are perfectly arranged at the entrance to our 'studios'.

Don't aim for perfection. Get out there and make things happen.

Collaborate. Make stuff you're proud of. Make stuff that makes you cringe so you know not to make it again. Try new things.

Don't listen to bullshit. Hone your skill to spot it and call it when you smell it.

You're perfect enough.

So just get out there, enjoy the journey, fail often, fail forward, win some, lose some, get fired, laugh, meet people, get fit, stay healthy, make friends and learn new things.

Don't aim for a perfection that doesn't exist.