Conclusion: A Gestalt
The most concrete and inescapable truth of professional life is that you will reap what you sow. Every compromised or dissatisfying component of professional endeavor you encounter will simply be the inevitable result of a poor choice you made earlier. What you have now is precisely what you conceived earlier. Therefore, in order to gain the clearest view of the way forward you must employ a kind of deductive logic. For example, ask yourself…
Q: Ultimately, what do I want? A: I want a successful, happy, and fulfilling design career.
Now, determine all of what will facilitate and allow for this eventuality by working backward:
What will bring this result?
I must be engaged in successful, happy, and fulfilling work on a consistent basis.
How might I have the opportunity to engage in only successful, happy, and fulfilling work?
I must possess a record of success and a corresponding reputation that brings it to me.
How might I ensure this successful record and reputation?
I must realize the optimum results for my clients and command the respect of my peers.
How will I be able to obtain these results for my clients and earn respect?
I must deliver my very best work; work that effects the very best results for my clients and their fortunes and I must model consistent standards.
How will I be able to deliver my very best work to my clients?
I must employ uncompromising discrimination in only working with clients that will allow for successful projects—rejecting all others—and I must obtain my clients’ trust before we agree to work with one another.
How might I be able to model consistent standards?
I must possess a moral core from which all of my uncompromising standards flow—in both inter-project and inter-industry community interactions—and I must have the strength of character to be uncompromising in all things.
How might I be able to deliver work that positively affects my client’s fortunes?
I must know precisely what success will look like for them and know what to seek in discovery, know how to articulate that insight into effective design, and possess the ability to craft what I understand.
How might I know how to do these things?
I must have learned from long observation and collaboration with senior peers, I must understand the landscape of business, economics, marketing, and profit models, I must possess the technical ability to produce designs, and I must understand the fundamentals of design and artistry.
How might I be able to grasp these things?
I must aim for a specific target to pursue in my education and I must devote myself to forging an educational foundation that will support all of my subsequent endeavors, but it must all flow from the rational employment of a body of core values based on a fundamental, objective morality.
In short: What must I do to successfully prepare for and meet all that I will be faced with in my pursuit of a successful, happy, and fulfilling career?
I must take personal responsibility, without compromise, for everything that does, will, and might affect my ability to do so.
* * *
It occurs to me that even in the entirety of this treatise I have not provided any of these things for you. Such was not the purpose of this work and, as should have been made clear, all of this is your own responsibility. It’s on you. I have, however, offered up precisely what in the introduction I said that I would: a guidebook and blueprint for you to follow in realizing all of these things yourself. If you employ the guidance offered here, ultimate success is yours to lose.
What you have here is a Gestalt; a unified whole that is larger, more comprehensive, and more effective than the seeming sum of its parts. Yet it is overwhelmingly fragile! Remove one portion or introduce some small corruption and the quality of the results will be compromised and diminished. What I’ve presented here is an approach that works only when it is employed in its entirety from start to finish.
The misguided idea of utilizing components in piecemeal fashion will yield little in the way of tangibly-positive results. Surely many will attempt to do so and hold up the predictably-inadequate results as supposed challenge to the whole. Such is the hallmark of dilettantes, demagogues, and serial victims. Dismiss them and look to the results or your comprehensive and uncompromising efforts. There are no victims among professionals.
This treatise was also meant to serve as challenge to and explanation for the commonplace litany of unprofessional results and practice in our industry and the great dissatisfaction that comes with it. These results have no more important an accomplice than an institutional comfort with compromise. I have tried to present a clear argument for eschewing compromise and instead taking consummate personal responsibility for all that involves you; all of which stands in stark contrast to what much of our profession models and professes.
Indeed there is an entire culture and most of an industry caught up in maintaining a corrupted system—and it is a system—that is almost unacquainted with critical thinking on, and examination of, established tradition. The most conspicuous portion of our industry is set up to merely pay lip service to ideas and ideals of professionalism while effectively maintaining a commodity service industry. Correspondingly, great portions of our clientele have been ill informed and ill trained by this irresponsible culture and, as a result, too often have inappropriate expectations for what should be, and seldom are, professional dealings with designers. It will take a stiff resolve to responsibly engage in a professional manner when compromise is so deeply woven into the fabric of your industry.
I urge you to break with the misguided traditions and habits that led us to this point. Know, however, that by doing so you make yourself conspicuous and odd in a sea of shallow conformists. Threaten and conflict with this status quo at your peril, for there will likely be consequences. Yet this is the sort of peril that responsibility demands we each face. I sincerely hope that you choose to do so.
Should you choose to follow the uncompromising professional path, you will not be alone. Despite the difficulties and criticisms you will encounter there are others of similar ideals in the design profession whose respect and admiration your actions will garner, and few things are as attractive as shared values. While our industry yet gropes to find its professional footing you will be conspicuous among those of lesser fortitude and character. This contrast will in many cases grease the tracks toward facilitating your success in the larger community even as your professional success grows. And that success will be built upon integrity instead of upon how much you are willing to compromise in order to gain income or admission. You know of such people; do not become one of them.
Ours is an exciting and dynamic craft and an essential, powerful industry. There is no reason any design professional should endure a merely-tolerable career, for that path should be left to hapless victims, not professionals. Resolve to take command of your future. Dispense with compromise. Forge a responsible foundation and move from strength to strength. Take responsibility for what affects and concerns you and take back your profession.