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Motivation in Design

A friend recently sent excerpts from from a keynote at a major design conference, and I thought I’d share part of my reply with you.

Currently the design industry faces a common problem: that when people reach a certain level of seniority, they are promoted to roles that no longer harness their talent or passion. This happens all the time in every field, not just within the creative industries, but it is perhaps at its most apparent within design. Designers work long and hard to study the craft of the discipline; why in their right mind would they then choose to step away from executing this craft proficiently in order to take on a role that they’re neither trained nor equipped for? I’ll tell you why. Because if no one steps up, the design industry as a whole will flounder.

Every single industry, from design to engineering to education, faces this same problem. In engineering, as you grow you manage a tech team; in teaching, you’re rewarded with less teaching, first to moving into research and later administration. These problems with proper incentives, rewards, recognition, and motivation cross disciplinary boundaries.

there’s a clear distinction between artists and designers. The former get to determine the terms of their own creation; the latter had better be able to articulate ideas and value to clients.

I’ve been reading Drive, which cites studies claiming artists’ non-commissioned work is regularly superior to their commissioned work—working for a client narrows the artists own creative thought and expression. (Quality was judged by an independent board of experts.)

Just re-thinking how society restructures our incentive systems—any thoughts on how the results of this study might play into the artists vs. designers thought?

Posted in Commentary.

3 Responses

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  1. Kate Lang says

    THAT FRIEND WAS ME I’M FAMOUS. The class I’m taking / book I’m reading now says constraints make for better design in a lot of cases.

  2. Kate Lang says

    To add to my comment, ineffective promotions are an issue even in the business world. You might think… business people = leaders. But there are a lot of business people who are very successful at something specific, like implementation or detailed project management. And as soon as they’re promoted into a more general or strategic management role, they become much less effective. Likewise, some business people may be very effective working individually or on a team, but have no aptitude for managing others.

  3. What To Do says

    Motivation is a must for designers and for everyone.

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