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7 Questions, 7 Designers – Day 2

posted by Matt Ward on Dec 19, 2009.

This is the second in a seven part interview series in which I put a number of design related questions to seven awesome designers including: Chris Spooner, Sneh Roy, Mike Smith, Jeff Finley, Brad Colbow, Grace Smith and Nick La. Come join the discussion!

Welcome the second of a seven day series that I am doing called “7 Questions, 7 Designers,” in which I throw out a different question each day and compile the answers from seven different designers. There are participants from all over the world, each offering a different and unique perspective on the realm of design.

Today’s question is about the design community, and is something that I always like to ask whenever I conduct and interview. I think you will find that the answers are all very interesting!

Personally, I’ve had nothing but great experiences with the design community so far. What about you guys? What’s your overall view or feeling about the current design community and the state of the industry at large? It can be positive, negative, observational or all of the above! I’m really interested in hearing different perspectives on this.

Sneh Roy
Sneh Roy
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Although I have been freelancing and working in the design industry for almost 12 years, my brush with the design community has been very recent. Twitter was how I started socially interacting with other creatives. Let me begin by saying that there are a lot of designers and creatives out there who have achieved a lot and who have obviously worked very hard to achieve it, yet they are totally approachable and such awesome people. When I started out in the community a year ago, I was so intimidated by it all, but as I have connected with people [designers and otherwise] over the course of the year, I feel very much a part of the community. There is plenty of room in here for anyone who wants to be here and the design community is very accommodating.

About the state of the industry at large, like with everything else in this world, there are positives and negatives. Now since I am “the glass is half full” kind of a person, I overlook the chance crusader who is single-handedly trying to abolish crowd-sourcing or the amazing rate at which design blogs [including my own] come up every single day and a lot of them become graveyards of hastily hatched lists and the soundless echoes of their once enthusiastic creators. I overlook the occasional rant and the twitter-bashing and the sucking up to the big guys that goes on. Instead I think “to each their own!” and work on my role as a miniscule gear in this great big giant machinistic robot that is the design industry. If I keep my act well oiled and updated, the gear will turn smoothly and that would be my contribution to the industry. In doing so, I might reach out and touch one single soul or help several, but I would’ve done my bit.

In retrospect, the reason why I overlook the negatives is because the design industry needs them. The negatives like the positives are part of the food chain, the eco-system. No one likes poverty and disease in the real world, but take them away and see what happens. In the same manner, the negatives are necessary. So people can rave on and on about the dire state of the industry, how bad economy is going to crush it and how too many people crowding this business is bad for everyone, the bottom line is if you are good, you will succeed [with a lot of perseverance of course], there is plenty for everyone and you just have to play nice and most importantly nature culls the weak links.

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
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I think the design community is great. I’d be lying if I said that there weren’t cliques and groups like there were in high school – but an overall feel of the design community is warm and inviting. It’s a great space to be in and there are a TON of great people in the design community. As long as you’re doing something positive and building a name for yourself without copying others, you’ll be accepted with open arms (I think anyways lol).

Jeff Finley
Jeff Finley
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Go Media has carved a niche in the design community by sharing resources and tutorials and advice on our blog GoMediaZine and our design Arsenal. We back it all up with our design services side on our main site. So as a result we’ve found a lot of other designers and bloggers that share the same audience. Sites like Smashing Magazine and the Envato network are two of the major players in the community.

As far as my opinion of the current state, it’s kind of on the edge honestly. I’ve noticed a few bloggers already making it public that they’re tired of the “Smashing Magazine” trending of copycat design blogs, list posts, and arguabley shitty content that sparks no conversation. For example, Learn About Design, Not Making Things Pretty and Smashing Magazine Killed The Community (Or Maybe It Was Me).

I think these two posts (I’m sure there are more) are a sign of times to come. While I respect my fellow bloggers and especially Smashing (they set the trends and spawned many copycats), I do think there are reasons for why content “is sucking” right now.

My first thought is that most designers are working, not blogging. Marketers and bloggers who dabble in design are the ones who are putting the most content and articles out there. When the design community is led by social media marketers who care more about RSS readers, twitter followers, ad revenue, and Facebook fans, you’re going to get sensationally titled articles that post 50 examples of other people’s content. As evidence has shown, those posts are extremely popular and profitable. But they’re making designers annoyed because suddenly their feed reader is overflowing with list posts and articles that crosslink each other and don’t provide any substance or insight into what we’re interested in. Or it’s a tutorial on how to get some trite effect in Photoshop. (obviously, this is not the case for the entire community, but the ground is trembling).

The design community is looking for more genuine honest insight and conversation. They want to hear what a particular designer has to say about a subject. And there’s no need to post every day. It might take designers a week or two to get new content up, but generally it’s worth it.

Brad Colbow
Brad Colbow
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I don’t know what it is specifically about the visual design community online that makes people so nice but I sure am glad they are. I get a totally different vibe from every other community I have ever dipped my toe into. I also owe most of my success to the design community, they are the folks who promote me and give me great feedback good and bad.

Grace Smith
Grace Smith
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[Editor’s Note: Grace has very kindly declined to comment on this one, but that’s not a reflection on the community itself. She’s been so inundated with projects, we’re just lucky that she was able to participate at all! Don’t worry, though. We’ll be seeing the rest of her answers throughout the rest of this series!]

Nick La
Nick La
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I think the current design community is great. People in the community are very helpful and love to share. However, it seems like all bloggers are writing the “list style” articles like Smashing Magazine (ie. 50 best of this, 100 best of that). Did Smashing Magazine kill the community?

Chris Spooner
Chris Spooner
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I love the design community, it seems like it’s the only industry where people are open to helping each other out. It has been great to network with like minded people online via Twitter, blogging and social media.

I still think however, that there’s a big gap between the online community and the rest of the design industry. It will be interesting to see if more and more companies catch on to the online wave.

There are some really interesting answers here, and lots of different things to think about regarding the community. Thanks to Jeff and Nick for including the links! What do you the rest of you think? What are your experiences with the design community? Be sure to check back over the next five days for more awesome insights from these seven great minds!

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About the Author

Matt Ward is a digital artist who lances freely under the moniker of Echo Enduring Media, and specializes in graphics design, illustration and writing. He is also the Creative Director for Highland Marketing, a creative direct marketing company based out of Waterloo, Ontario. You can follow Matt on Twitter

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Dec 19, 2009

Sneh Roy says:

Very insightful indeed!

Dec 19, 2009

Jeff Finley says:

Sneh, I liked what you had to say! You recognize the ups and downs and pros and cons of the design community but you remind yourself not to get caught up in it. Just focus on your own content and your own ideas and keep working hard. That’s a great perspective to have that sometimes I forget about!

Dec 21, 2009

Sneh Roy says:

Thanks Jeff. I realized the hard way how easy it was to get caught up in the negatives especially [the positives are cool and quite sparse and sporadic :)], and the end result was almost a day’s worth of valuable work time being wasted. Not anymore though!

Matt, you hit the nail when you said we need a clear demarcation between what we call a blog and what we call a blogazine. Personally I hope blogs inherit the internet, you can’t beat a small-time blog or one-two individual person’s unique flavor.

Dec 19, 2009

Matt Ward says:

I agree, Jeff. I think that sometimes we can become very reactionary. I remember when I first read both of the articles that you referred to. My first reaction was – oh no! I need to stop writing lists (not that I’d done a ton of them).

I simply reacted to what someone else was saying.

Granted, I think that both articles have some merit, but while it’s important to know what your readership is looking for, it’s also important to be real and authentic and develop content that has both a strong quality and a clear reflection of ourselves in it.

I also think that the entire issue that seems to be facing the entire community right now (at least when it comes to content) is at least partially stemmed in terminology. The word blog is thrown around everywhere, but I’m starting to wonder if that’s a problem.

Are sites like Smashing really blogs? I’m starting to think not. I mean it’s right in the name – Smashing Magazine. Isn’t it really more of an online magazine than an actual blog?

Do we need a clearer distinction between online magazines and blogs? Do we need clearer definitions?

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