There is an advantage to living in the information age. We have access to the best of everything at our finger tips. But you also run the risk of getting the worst of everything as well. We look to the Internet now for inspiration. If a graphic designer needs a beautiful image of a sky, he would usually download it from an online stock image library instead of going outside with a camera, feeling the sun on his face and capturing a moment to use in his work.
Deadlines make it tough for sure. Design is inspired mostly now from other design, rather than life or experience. A lot of design is the result of layers and layers of similar ideas piled onto themselves. It’s practical because it’s safe. Design is mostly appreciated for its familiarity rather than its uniqueness. “I saw this thing I liked once and would like to have my audience feel that same way about my own work.” I question that strategy. It’s coming from a place of wanting to satisfy the audience, but is it the best way to grow and push the boundaries? One thing is certain: We all have our own unique taste. Each person has an actual opinion, whether he/she realizes it or not, about any given thing. The validity of that opinion may be judged relative to how much one knows about the topic, but it’s likely he/she has some amount of judgment on the given thing.
Art is very subjective. We all know what we like and what we don’t like. Artists usually have very strong opinions about what they do and don’t like. Usually their tastes don’t match their ability. It can be very discouraging when you work very hard on something that doesn’t match what was in your imagination. We have lost millions of amazing creatives to that simple frustration. They give up because it is pointless to keep trying.
To anyone who feels this way or who knows someone who is struggling with this idea — you don’t have to be an artist; you could be a student struggling in math or science — please realize that your failures are just markers defining temporary obstacles on your journey forward.
This is a short poem that does a good job of describing how discouraging it is to have our reach exceed our grasp.
“Utopia lies at the horizon. When I draw nearer by two steps, it retreats two steps. If I proceed ten steps forward, it swiftly slips ten steps ahead. No matter how far I go, I can never reach it. What, then, is the purpose of utopia? It is to cause us to advance.” ― Eduardo Galeano
Our need for utopia in our own work will always be there. The only way to reach greatness is to constantly struggle for the unreachable, undiscouraged by your doubts. The beauty is not in the idea of utopia. It’s in the journey to utopia. Slowly but surely — if you keep working — you will begin to see improvements, and you will discover new things about yourself you never realized could be possible. In my view, that voyage is what it’s all about. Think about that the next time you do a Google search on something you actually have an opinion about. Maybe you should explore that opinion rather than borrow someone else’s.
Alex Raffi is a partner and serves as Creative Director at Imagine.