“To be or not to be?”, that is the question. Or from my point of view: to be or not to be threaten by competition? Why would I have such a question? Is my question childish and has an obvious answer? Well, I thought it had, until I got a blow-minding advice from a business adviser. It all started one afternoon as a casual business lunch; from one direction to another I had to make a choice: will I work with other designers or not? Under the flame of arguments, business directions, choices, my brain was spinning and rolling, until it hit me: WHY wouldn`t I choose to work with other designers? And the answer made me speechless for a second or so: because other designers might feel threaten by your capabilities, and stop referring you work. Just for the record, my company does custom made furniture for other designers, aside of other design services.
Well, hold on just a second… they might feel threaten and stop working with me? In a real world where designers are more preoccupied about client satisfaction, deliver on time and have reliable collaborators? From a specific point of view, either I would choose to have clients other designers and give up (at least in public) all capabilities similar with theirs or find regular clients and fully show off my strengths. And, the fact that I don`t like situations either/or, but rather do it my way, made whole discussion very intense. And finally it lead to an experiment: an open discussion on LinkedIn Design+ group, with other designers, about my business threatening dilemma.
By this moment, I`ve only got 27 comments; not enough someone could say for a relevant conclusion. For me it is enough, because they were honest answers, given by one`s free will under no pressures. This is what other fellow colleagues think about my question:
Randall K.• @Camelia…….”Do you feel threaten(ed) by other designers?”
It’s only natural a “Maker” – one who works with their hands, to have “ideas” and other inspirations for designed objects. Why should that make you fearful??
Instead- be happy that you’ve found a more intelligent chap to collaborate with- and celebrate that relationship……for your “designs” (not quite sure how unique they may be….) could NOT BE realized- unless you had teamed up w/ a Craftsman that can turn your concepts into a reality.
Julia R. • I enjoy working with other designers. It brings another sets of eyes and hands which enables us to collaborate and create the right product and service for our clients.
Cassia L. • Hi Camelia, I actually think it is a positive aspect of your work, the name of the game in desing today is collaboration, hybrid projects reach a wider public and also create the arena for the designers involved to excell in separate and in tandem, find a common language that it is an added value to all involved, go ahead girl…
Jenny L. • Sure, why not. It would be almost the same as if you work in a company with other graphic designer as a co-worker or two business men partners up. But I do suggest that you make it clear with him to come up with a term of how to determine who did what part of the design, for example, if you put something on your portfolio, you will give credits to him on the part he did and same to him as well. Maybe sign a contract with him just like how business man work with other business man so when something happens, no hard feelings. On the positive side though, when you work with other people who also do design, most likely your skills will improve and might also learn something you did not know before 🙂
Just be positive and learn how to protect yourself at the same time.
Tom P. • I enjoy the competition. Keeps you frosty. I always feel like I should be the best artist in the room. Maybe that’s a “guy” thing? Or are we just more honest about it? Collaborate, schmollaborate … *joking*
Allen C. • Sometimes I feel a little bit stressful rather than threatened when work with good designers. I don’t worry about being challenged by good designers. Actually, I kind of enjoy the process.. .
What I concern much is that I don’t wanna be left behind–I expect to be one of the good designers–they are more like a positive force to push me move forward again and again.
Therefore, in Camelia’s case, I would work with the good designer and feel enthusiastic learning from him.
Cagtay D. • I have to admit I Iearned a lot from the other designers I have worked with. Even from a craftsman. This is a matter of trust. I always make a small research about the firms that I will work with. If they have good reputation, no problem working with.
Janet C. • No, I don’t feel threatened by other designers. I learned long ago in college, studying fashion design, that it is the other designers that help your career progression more than anyone else. Bond with other designers any chance that you can. Keep in touch with them long term. Never burn bridges. You never know who will call you when they are overloaded or receive an opportunity that they need to turn down. Designers, as a whole, have been my greatest professional resource.
Greg G. • naaaah, appreciate what others produce, don’t forget that they wouldn’t work with you unless they respected you and your output. you aren’t charity. and if they stop working with you, you will know its time to work with others. if they don’t, they greatly see the value and creativity you give them. we are all there to be inspired and influenced by one another. when you do it long enough, you see the value that everyone else brings to the table, see the positives in their work, then get even more inspired———-and give them their due. it works, feels good, and you grow to become wise with what you see and experience. I love working on projects with other designers, but it isn’t as frequent as when I worked for one company exclusively. I miss the office atmosphere, and the comradorie, as well as the collaboration and team concept. I don’t miss the politics.
take it whenever you can, sis, its good for you AND for the projects. two to three eyes, as they say, are really better than one.
Sharon S. • Unless you’re stalking me with a deadly weapon, I don’t feel threatened at all by you.
David K. • I have talked with a few designers through the years about this subject. My take on this is simple. The initial gut reaction is insecurity, doubt and fear. This is a normal reaction when confronted with people that are in a position to compete with you. Don’t be ashamed, it is your built-in defense mechanism. It means you are human.
However one needs to train ones self to get over these feelings. It’s a process. You need to focus on what you do best and embrace your strengths. Make them your call sign. Just remember no else can be you.
There are lots of very good suggestions that have already been made. Learn from others but don’t focus the things they do better. You can’t be a star at every aspect of your work, no-one is. So please don’t worry.
Find your niche, the thing that you do best, the thing that comes most naturally to you. Then you will be more able to admire those better than you in a certain area without feeling threatened and even grow a bit in that area too.
Jean T. • I can understand the concern. I’ve had other companies take away my work before after I’ve introduced them to clients for a separate service. I don’t know how you can stop this from happening, it’s a free world in the “free world”. If the reason for being a designer is to make the world better by design, then: may the best designer win. Most of the time though, it’s about the money and ego, id & superego.
Gary H. • Well-versed response by David. I too feel intimidated or inferior when I see the work of others in my field that is equal or above my own. It is hard not to feel defensive and focus on what others do better. Realizing this, it also makes me push to be a better designer and try to keep up with the latest trends and designs.
Camelia, I say embrace it, keep an open mind, and make it a learning experience. We can all learn something from each other.
Nicholas C. • I know how you feel because I was there too. As Gary and David just said, its insecurity and in time as more and more of your work gets you noticed or name-checked, it will disappear. When I go to give talks now I say to the class that I will give them everything I know in order that they will take something from it and improve it, and do better than me. Which surprised even me when first said it, but I really believe it. I don’t want my students to think that I’m the best there is ( I’m certainly not!) and that they won’t get any better. Do it your way as best you can and enjoy doing it. Put everything into it; we’re very fortunate to be living in these times that allows us the freedom to choose what we do for a living, not many can, so keep on keeping on!
Inga F. • Learn from those who are better than you, but compete only against yourself! I recently listened to a great business speaker who was saying that there are not necessarily new ingredients but there are always new ‘recipes’ in what we offer, the primary unique ingredient being ourselves. Regardless of what we do, this is so true.
That said, am I threatened by other designers? No. More like frustrated with the vast inequities in the range of quality and service offered under the term ‘design’ which confuses the marketplace and the uninformed customer with cheap prices for uninspired, and ineffective design. That in turn creates an illusion that design can be cheap, and or that design is useless because this cheap design has poor ROI. Both of these make it much tougher for those of us offering a sound, good quality service to make a respectable living. Pet peeve, I know.
For all of us providing professional design services for a living, it behooves us to learn from each other, to excel, to be relevant and up to date, and to always work on finding better ways to clearly and convincingly express the value of our offering, to those whom we serve.
Jessica Crawford • I definitely understand, and believe that a competitive spirit is natural whenever there is more than one designer in a group. From my experiences, I have realized a couple of things:
First, no one (designer or otherwise) is a carbon-copy of anyone else. We all bring uniquely valuable perspectives, experiences, talents and skills to the table, so there is no reason to start feeling insecure when working on a team. We define the degree of our own individuality.
Second, design thrives in a collaborative setting. Two (or more) creative minds are always going to be better, more open to new ideas, and more likely to produce something never seen before, than just one working on their own.
As long as the designers approach collaborative projects with a team mentality, they will succeed as a team. And a little healthy competition never hurt a design either.
Steven Ward • Also remember that anyone else’s creative success does not take away your share of the “success pie”. Becoming more confident as a designer, means escaping from the “scarcity mentality” thinking that there is not enough creative success in the universe for everyone and that another’s accomplishments somehow takes away from the impact of yours. As mentioned by others, finding your own unique style will insulate you from the threat of creative competition. It’s apparent in musical performance. Two musicians or singers can take the same piece and interpret it two different ways, and both outcomes can be amazingly excellent; different and excellent at the same time.
Janet Carlson • When I first started out in fashion design, I found it unnerving that everyone was a critic. After a while you will develop a thicker shell along with more self confidence. Design with your instinct and stand tall with the design decisions that you make in the design process.You’ll develop your own unique style. Practice, practice & practice. There will always be people who don’t care for what you design but on the other hand there will be people who do. That just comes with the profession. Don’t take rejection personally. One thing that I’ve noticed over time is that it isn’t the most talented that realize the most success, but rather the ones who never give up.
Carollynn M. Goldenberg • Of course you should continue to work with him. Just because he is also a designer, it does not mean that his work will be competing with yours. Everyone has their own style. And working with another skilled professional could give you inspiration or help you to perfect your own craft.
This discussion is still open on the group. Your opinion is highly valued: either as a comment to this post or as a comment on the LinkedIn discussion. By clicking on the person name (above) you can see the participants LinkedIn profile.
Author: Camelia Ioana Man, Interior Decorator at Open Square: Architecture & Interior/Industrial Design