Honoring the Ego

It’s not uncommon to hear people say, “That designer is so great. They have no ego at all.” To me, that’s code for “We want a designer who will execute our vision exactly without pushback or limits on our demands.” In my advertising days, I used to hear creative directors say, “We don’t cater to designers’ egos.” What that really means is “We don’t stand for much, and we don’t want to deal with you pointing out our inconsistencies.”

I stand for stuff. I believe in doing the best possible work for every project, big and small. I put conviction into my design decisions, and I ask for basic respect from clients. Some might see that as grandstanding, but I see it as doing what’s right for the project. Because, if I put my name on something, I want it to be great. And if I spend time on something, I want it to be worthwhile.

Yes, ego can be a good thing. It’s what fuels most memorable art, and I suspect that many designers would agree. My ego nudges me to speak up against bad choices. It motivates me to try something other than that old, familiar solution. It’s what tells me, “This is ok, but it could be much, much better.” That applies to my internal dialogue as well as client conversations.

If you don’t put your ego on the line for your work, you’re just a set of hands. If you remove your goals and your instincts from a project, you’re indistinguishable from a thousand other designers. The thing that you, and only you bring to a project is your true value. Sure, I make plenty of change requests that I don’t necessarily agree with. And I believe that good design is a collaborative effort between the client and me—it’s never just about what I want. But I don’t conceal my opinions. I’m not a yes man. I make reasoned cases for my decisions, and if they don’t fly, I adapt.

I’m not trying to ruffle feathers. I certainly don’t want to be contentious just for the sake of it. But I want to be clear that, if you’re hiring me, you’re also hiring my point of view, my skill set and my quirks. I’ve spent a lot of time fine-tuning my craft, and it’s my drive as a creative person that spurs this growth. Without my beloved ego, I’m just another girl who likes pretty things. And who knows what you’re going to get with that.