Dear Senior-Design-Creative-Director

Photo by  Hannah Wei  on  Unsplash

Photo by Hannah Wei on Unsplash

Dear Senior-Design-Creative-Director,

Thank you for sending me your letter and your portfolio. 

Your interest and passion for doing great work is evident. Your skills in execution even more so after seeing your work.

And most importantly, you seem like a wonderful person.

Respectfully, and yet unfortunately we don’t have a role for you in our organisation. I realise this might be disheartening and a little disappointing. I do appreciate the time it took to put together your application and submit it; for this I am grateful even though we didn’t advertise for the role you applied for.

If I may, in the effort to provide you both context and value, I'll explain why we don't have a role and possibly, will never have a role for a single person, whom, as you say in your application letter "develops the ideas, is the conduit to all creative work in the studio and ensures quality design is created at each stage." 

Firstly, let me tell you straight up, this feedback isn't about you as an individual. It's not personal. It's actually more relevant to what's happening around us both — an evolution of our discipline, towards a more democratic, open-source and truly collaborative view of design that is out of our control. 

This evolution of our discipline, and broadly the notion of what it means to be creative, is now embraced by all manner of organisations. So much so those that we formally didn't see as creative or design leaders, now are.

Our discipline has allowed them to remain relevant in an era that can only be described as 'the stuff of science fiction movies'. 

We're speaking to our devices and they're answering back. We're talking to each other through our watches and it actually works. We're carrying the world's information and a camera in our pockets, and big corporations are swimming in our data.

Let's not forget that we're also flying cars into space, for shits and giggles.

All of this and more — design and creativity is impacting and empowering communities to make change. Positive change. It has created entrepreneurs in places where that word would never have been uttered. It has empowered women, movements and uprising.

Decoupling design and creativity from the designer and allowing anyone to embrace what we do has been at the heart of this all. 

But some people still hold on to a dream that design will return to the days where the chief designer was all but magical.

Khoi Vinh, a muse and inspiration of mine, calls them "singular talents who are uniquely able to channel the spirits of 'good' work." believing that there is both a personal and "economic incentive to promote designers" as "priests in the cathedral".

The ones who hold all that is holy.  

Khoi Vinh, in his great thesis In Defence of Design Thinking - Which is Terrible. continues:

"Designers want design to be an exclusive domain. They want its processes to be mysterious, and often rooted in the idiosyncrasies of mercurial creative directors and savants, because it preserves the perceived value of our craft. Put more plainly: the more difficult design is to practice, the more lucrative it is for practicing designers.

But, as the dichotomy of the cathedral and the bazaar implies, if you have an idea—a force of nature—like technology, it becomes most powerful when it’s democratised, when it gets out there into the world and in the hands of millions of people."

This leads me to an article I wrote weeks ago — Is The Creative Director Dead? — and, naturally, to your application.

Design and in turn, creativity has been democratised. As difficult as this is to hear, it’s in the hands of the people and we no longer need anyone to act as the all-seeing creative eye because now we all have the ability to see creativity; and when we need specialist skills we know where, and when to find them.
Dear Senior-Design-Creative-Director, there is a better way and it has much to do with the questions that you've been asking yourself; more so than anything else.

No longer should you be asking:

  • how can I work at [insert name of famous studio here]?
  • what is the next step on the ladder?
  • how much can I get?
  • how can I win the more creative clients?

Instead you should be asking:

  • what is my potential?
  • whom can I work with to create something of value?
  • what might I create?
  • how can I empower people through my craft?
  • what is my higher purpose?
  • how might I evolve to meet that purpose?

There is a better way and I'm sure even better ways will continue to emerge in time.

A more creative way exists, which ensures that the great mentor/mentee relationships of the past are indeed magnified across a range of disciplines increasing the potential of mentor value exponentially. 

We learn and grow when we take the blinkers off; when we choose to listen and empathise with voices that are outside of our comfort zones. Outside of our industry.

Voices that might share a completely different world view, but altogether just as relevant. 

Voices that might expand us.

There is a way where we may see even the youngest and quietest voices on the team contributing in more meaningful ways, to all areas of solving a design challenge.

There is a way where we don’t need a single person in charge of all that is creative, but rather a team of people empowered by creativity and the clarity and accountability sorely missing from most design critiques.

But I understand the fear because I have felt it too. The key is in the questions we ask ourselves and whether we are willing not to simply step up, but truly grow.

John Maeda, yet another muse and inspiration of mine, says it best when he states the obvious in his Design in Tech Report, stating that it is "no surprise that classical, visual designers are the ones that see the evolution of design as a threat." 

Their jobs are at stake.