Why Losing Everything is a Winning Move for Designers…

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Our guest today – Dave Thackeray fuels ordinary people with extraordinary ideas to be the best. He’s a pen for hire and a higher pen you’ll never find. Join him on his quest to write a blog post of note every day until 2011.

If you’re a web designer – should I say, if you’re not, what the hell are you doing here?! – then let’s join hands and pray that our next project doesn’t end up like this.

I remember my first web design job. And as you know, I’m not even a designer, which as you can imagine, posed a significant challenge to my inner strength.

It went exactly like that cartoon. No excuses, no concessions. My naivety versus the client’s ignorance of customer wants and needs.

It was like Clash of the Titans, in reverse. We were both at the bottom of our game, technically-speaking, and thankfully I’ve just about put the elephant back in the bottle, to coin a never-before-used phrase.

This situation perfectly defines one road we should never choose to tread. In reality, it’s binary: there are two kinds of designers at opposite ends of the scale. There are those, like me, like your man lumbered with the Boyd’s Toast Store brief, who will go out of their way to placate even the most granular of client requests. The smile is often real, and only occasionally can you discern the sound of gnashing teeth behind the complicit veneer.

And there are artists to whom customer service is a redundant art. You employed me because I’m the best you ever had, biyatch. Now beg me to finish this job else I’ll wreak emotional havoc on you, your company, and everyone you ever met. So there.

Which means there are few who know the score. Who understand what it takes to complete a job that not only matches the client’s expectations, but satisfies your lust for career and creative development. And you know why? It’s because we fear to fail.

If you’re overly sycophantic, you fear your skills are not in line with what is asked of you. You’re concerned someone might find you out.

If you deny the client basic human decency, you’re living in fear brought on by insecurity and angst. You fear the acknowledgement of your insecurity, and therefore the failure to break down barriers and address the remit that is your own art.

There is a Third Way. Few know it, even fewer choose to follow it. It’s called minimalism, and it’s about to change the way you do business, forever.

And its very core, it is making sure that everything you do is to benefit you, and your client. No chasing tails. No harking back to moans and gripes and being bewildered and confronted by demons of the past. Only looking forward, being confident in your own abilities and making sure that, from the moment you wake up to the moment you hit the bar (this is your moment, damn it, and even if you spill that JD down your Santana t-shirt, it doesn’t the hell matter because you’re on Mr Downtime now) everything – every little, last thing – is meaningful and relevant.

To add value you have to focus on the art of minimalism. Minimalism is a concept best lived by artisans, the creative types like you who can, should, adapt to every change in circumstance with delight. Your mind is inadvertently transient, in a perfect state of flux and flow. This is why you can best eschew minimalism. For those stuck in their ways, doing what it takes to get the job done in the most efficient yet effective way possible is about as familiar as Darth Vader in a three-way with Roseanne Barr and Nicolas Cage.

For you, it is your birthright. And it’s the art of minimalism.

Understand prior to shrieking banshee-like that minimalism is not about living frugally, but it does involve going back to basics.

Everett Brogue has written a stellar book on the basics of thrifty thinking for maximum gain. It’s only a few quid/dollars/Martian phringles, but what’s better than that is you can get the first 30 pages free here. I’m not selling you some affiliate hokum here – there’s no benefit for me. But I do hope that indirectly I’m helping to extract something incredible value from inside you that will last you a lifetime and totally change your mindset. That’s where I get the kickback, by helping to evolve your psyche.

Why, Dave, why the hell is this so relevant to me as a creative? I need more to achieve more – I need so much stimulus. Don’t leave me here, alone!

I’ll tell you exactly why, my favourite worshipper of cake and Absinthe. Minimalism at its core is about focusing on your passion, not being bogged down by baggage. Everett’s a photographer, and a damn fine one at that.

Minimalism is:

  • Ditching the grind of 9-5 in favour of opening your eyes.
  • Maxxing out your time while killing the constant distractions of email and social media. Check the damn thing twice a day, will you? Autorespond with a ‘I’m being ultra-efficient and will only be checking your messages at 11am and 3pm. Anything urgent, contact me by phone. (just like the old days when we got stuff done)
  • Having the courage to make decisions – and changes – to better yourself
  • Ridding the valueless tasks in favour of automation. At its most fundamental we’re talking things like AutoHotkey to macrotize your computing processes;
  • Sharing and delegating the load.

I want to stop there to tell you a little bit about why Google Wave is your saviour when it comes to collaboration. You know how buzzed I am about collaboration, despite it sounding a bit like cauliflower, which I don’t like at all.

Imagine starting each day with a roadmap that you can contribute to, change, update, enhance, that colleagues can dive into to instantly understand the big picture – how your world is progressing. This is the stuff of cyborgs and Spocks. It’s also the world we live in, and its alibi is Google Wave.

Google Wave also works beautifully in replacing email as your communication of choice. An important distinction, here: Wave relates directly to the job in hand; email does not. Wave can stay on track; email, well, you know the score.

The Relationship Value of minimalism is infinite. You stay on track. You have more time to work on adding value to every project you have in hand.

Minimalism in the context of a project is this: do only what’s asked of you, but do it better than anyone else. Look around and the latest trend is to overdeliver with fancy crenellations and decorations to make the client go ooh. The ooh is a temporary state. When it gets down to the skinny, you only give extras to compensate for the lack of jazz at the heart of the project that’s been commissioned. The long-term oohs of a core job well done far outweigh the temporary nature of superficial offerings.

Minimalism means not taking jobs with Boyd’s Toast Store and being a delighted – and progressive – artist.

Minimalism is the future of you and me.

Dave is The Podcast Guy. He produces incredibly successful radio shows for business owners who want plenty of incredibly profitable and long-lasting customers.