A Designer Without a Cause

Most people like to be right. Some like it so much it turns into a personal crusade, a cause worth dying for because in the end we're right and that’s what counts... right? Sometimes as a designer I find myself grappling with this attitude, I’m ready to defend designs because I’ve gone through the right design processes, I’ve tested, iterated, refined and all that.

Don't tell me there's any leaks here buddy - trust me, there's no leaks in this ship, I’m right you're wrong, so there!

I’m exaggerating... don’t worry - point is whenever this attitude creeps up, there’s a personal investment in the outcome. It’s not about the design or solving problems for anyone any longer but something else. Could it be more about building up and maintaining ego?

For me, ego in simple terms is an idea we make about ourselves we’re compelled to defend at all costs. So defending ego is the personal cause worth fighting for and that's when design invariably takes second place. 

The notion of defending design for me is all wrong. Design either serves the purpose or doesn’t, irrespective of our best defences. However there’s an elephant in the room that’s worth pointing to. Designers generally are creative-types, right-brained individuals who more often than not get personally invested in their creative outputs. Here’s what Gurdjieff (20th century mystic, philosopher) says on the subject:

Various writers, actors, musicians, artists, and politicians, for instance, are almost without exception sick people. And what are they suffering from? First of all from an extraordinary opinion of themselves, then from requirements, and then from considering, that is, being ready and prepared beforehand to take offense at lack of understanding and lack of appreciation. ... A man who can be a good obyvatel is much more helpful from the point of view of the way than a ‘tramp’ who thinks himself much higher than an obyvatel. I call ‘tramps’ all the so-called ‘intelligentsia’— artists, poets, any kind of ‘bohemian’ in general, who despises the obyvatel and who at the same time would be unable to exist without him.
— Gurdjieff, In Search of the Miraculous

Gurdjieff certainly doesn't mince his words...

From what I gather “obyvatel” is the humble man that gets on with his work without the fanfare and isn’t taken in by such embellishments. This “obyvatel” doesn't have a big ego to defend, so she wouldn't be rallying behind a presumed "right" cause either. Could it be that she's the kind of designer who does the job of design best?

Don’t know about that for sure but I'd say a big ego fighting for a cause can't aid the design process but rather blocks it and so an obyvatel-like quality in a designer can't hurt. 

Are you a designer without a cause?

David Wall leads Experience Design at eccoh, a sales transformation, coaching and consulting organisation pioneering a movement to change the way the world thinks about sales.