Be an Idiot, Not a Genius

There are many secret experts- people who you would never guess are gifted in their field of work unless you were knowledgeable in that field, too- but it is graphic designers who have the unique opportunity to show their expertise in a way that is easily and immediately understood by everyone.

I feel that people in this visually charged culture often place designers on a pedestal of divinely ordained talent and knowledge because of the public nature of their work. It would be easy to bask in that glorification, but I think designers ought to feel like an idiot more often than feel like a genius.

“Whatever you do in life, surround yourself with smart people who’ll argue with you.” – John Wooden

The more you feel like an idiot, the more you’re learning. The more learning, the better you and your work will be. This goes for all fields and not just designers: If there is no higher bar set around you, no checks and balances or no mentors, then you’ll never strive to be better because you’re already the best. You become the high bar… and let’s be honest- you could probably be doing better. Designers especially should seek the company of those greater than themselves to be challenged lest their work become stagnant in the swirl of compliments and praise.

Compliments may promote some growth, but seek out criticism as well if you really want to improve. Don’t wait for success to come to you. 


Emily Carlton is a freelancer and graphic designer for a large church in Texas. She loves giving a good brand a much-needed do-over and helping clients feel good about their visuals. Good brands deserve good design!