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Let Them Be Artists

One lesson that every (successful) designer must learn is that you can't always be an artist (at least not in everything that you do).  This is a lesson that I had to learn and one that Kristen is learning now.  In recent days, she has designed some of the best logos I have ever seen.  None of them was chosen by the clients.  In one of the cases, we had to produce exactly what the client had dreamed up—little did he realize that his dream was our nightmare.  This lead to an interesting discussion.

The Question

Kristen said that she is often asked, "Do you consider yourself an artist?"  This is a tough one to answer.  (I know from experience.)  The truth is that we are artists, but not everything is our craft.

There is an art form to keeping clients happy, but that is not our craft.  It takes creativity to work with a Faded Burgundy, but that is not our craft.  Even a boring letterhead requires an eye for design, but that is simply not our craft.  We're good at these things, and we can enjoy doing them, but we almost have to stop being artists to do them.

The fact is, though, we can't stop being artists.  We don't always get to design like artists, but a bad design (regardless of how beloved it is by the client) still keeps us up at night, and hating your work may be one of the clearest signs that you are an artist.

The Caveat

The businessman in me keeps me sane on this point.  The fact is that I work in a commissioned field.  I am paid to do for the client what the client asks me to do.  I will steer him or her in the best direction I know how, but in the end, it is their decision (not mine) for their company (not mine) paid for by their dollar (now mine).

There's nothing wrong with that.  There's actually something really good about that.  There's even something God-honoring about that.  I'm not a sellout for producing works that I don't love; I haven't compromised my artistic integrity.  I have merely preformed a financial transaction.  That is my business—it is not my craft.

The Reality

But, we never stop being artist.  The days I produce work that I don't like are the days that I go home spewing creativity everywhere simply because it's got to come out.  I will cook; I will sing; I will write—all badly, but it's got to come out some how!

We can never stop being artists.  There are times we are forced to abandon our crafts, and there are times when we are forced to take up others, but art cannot merely hang on the walls of our minds, it must issue forth or we will simply burst!

The Suggestion

We can never stop being artists, so ... when you hire a designer, get your money's worth.  Let them create in the way that only an artist can.  Let them dream what you are unable (or unwilling) to dream.  Let them think and rethink, decide and doubt, break out and reign in, absolutely love and completely abhor their work.  Let them labor in their craft for the benefit of your work.  In short, let them be artists!