I caught up with a friend of mine the other day who works in the industry at a prominent and successful startup. And he told me about something that really frustrated me about the web design industry.
As one of the best designers I know, he has been put in charge of a group of designers as a creative director. The only problem is, he can’t call himself a creative director.
That seemed odd; I asked him why.
It turns out that the group of designers have such big egos that they hate being managed and directed by someone with many years of experience over them.
Traditionally, creative directors at any company have tended to be the most experienced, who have risen the ranks by doing great work and being able to handle egos deftly; leading by example. (That’s probably an idealised notion of meritocracy, but you get my point.)
But the internet has changed that quite fundamentally, because these guys were defining themselves and their worth essentially by their ranking on Dribbble (who are all highly regarded players), not by the work and contribution they were offering the team.
I’m not hating Dribbble - it’s a great tool to find talent of quite a specific aesthetic which the web seems to be aligning to right now. And if you get your work hearted, that’s awesome. If you get really liked, with loads of lovely comments, that’s even more awesome.
My biggest advice for any designer would be to leave their pride at any echo-chamber’s gates. The web is much bigger than a single community or platform, and it’s full of people with far greater experience and knowledge who don’t care who is ranked higher than who. Many won’t even know what Dribbble is, or come from unusual backgrounds. Yet these are the people who are probably defining the next web aesthetic paradigm shift, so it’s a good idea to seek them out, listen to them, and learn.
This is not a big industry, and the demand for web designers outstrips supply like you wouldn’t believe, as you probably know. If you’re good, we’ll know about it. But you’ll never be the best designer, however many hearts and comments you have. The best designers adapt and change all the time.
A little confidence in your work goes a long way, a lot of ego goes nowhere.