ACHIEVING EUDAIMONIA AS A DESIGNER
Last year, I wrote a blog about design predictions I had for 2020. I’m going to be honest with you, I haven’t a clue what I even wrote in there besides my finishing line. Which was something along the lines of “don’t rely on trends, but rather do what works for your brand”. I still stand by that, especially after the year everyone just had. The entire planet was thrown for a loop with the rise of COVID-19, everything we planned at the beginning of the year had to be scrapped, dust in the wind, which comes with challenges that we likely will continue facing throughout 2021.
At this point, you’re probably wondering where I’m going with this (I don’t blame you, I’m still hot garbage at writing I don’t know why they ask me to do this). I was tasked to write another article similar to the one I wrote last year, what my design predictions are for 2021. I don’t have any. I don’t even feel like telling any fart jokes this time around. If you’re like me, at some point in the past year you were filled with despair, worry, and a general sense of “how can I do something to help with my work”. I want to try and touch on this instead because there are a lot of things you can do to help, not only your brand but also your own sense of fulfillment. Luckily, I’m privileged enough to work for a cool company that has been doing just that.
Chatterkick also went remote back in March of 2020 when lockdowns began happening, as of December 2020 we still are. Many of my co-workers have been working hard to provide resources to help brands tackle the pandemic as well as collaborating with other Siouxlanders on Generation Social Media to discuss COVID-related questions and how it affected area businesses. All-the-while being very transparent with us about company issues to help us all feel secure. This all inspired me. So here’s how you can do the same if things are feeling bleak for you. There is no better time for a personal reset than the new year.
Plato had this idea called eudaimonia, which essentially means flourishing, happiness, or simply put “fulfillment”. There are four main ideas that The School of Life beautifully summarized these virtues as this:
Let Your Lover Change You
Decode the Message of Beauty
Now let’s break down each category and apply it to the world of design.
What can our work and our designs do for the better? How can we make people think and reflect? In my previous blog, I wrote how important it is to do what’s right for the client you’re designing for. Trends can be cool, but most of the time it’s probable they may not even work for your client. You also run the risk of “blending in” rather than standing out. It’s easy to get swept up in what everyone else is doing, but this ultimately can be very damaging. Plato’s response to this is to know yourself, or in design terms, know your brand. Ask yourself before you begin, “How can I portray the message I want to convey?” Thinking before acting is a great way to take the time to study your performance as well. If you’re in a position like me where you design content for social media, then you may want to take a look at performance and analytics to see what’s working and what isn’t. It’s a great way to see what designs are clicking with your audience and what isn’t. This kind of self-knowledge will ultimately make you a better designer and further understand what it is you’re designing from the start.
Let Your Lover Change You
In this case, let’s swap lovers out for clients, your work, studies, or just the world around you in general. Take inspiration from multiple sources, don’t just get caught up on the Instagrams of the world. Luckily for you, beauty and inspiration are all around us. My favorite example to give is biomimetics (biomimicry). Biomimicry emulates elements of nature and applies them to innovative design via models, systems, structures, etc. The most popular example of this is the Japanese bullet train. Engineers studied birds' beaks and applied the same aerodynamics to the train. Another example is watching ant colonies and applying similar tactics to the routes UPS trucks take to be more efficient when delivering mail. There really isn’t any better teacher than experiencing nature and culture outside of your own. Once you step outside the bubble of the design world, you may begin to find inspiration from all sorts of things you never figured would interest you in the slightest. You should always find ways to grow and build your craft. Commit to education and improvement, this can only help you find fulfillment in anything you do.
Decode the Message of Beauty
The core idea in Plato’s aesthetics can be defined as beauty, imitation, and inspiration. Plato asks why do we love beautiful things? The answer is simple, we see positive and virtuous things in beauty, therefore they act as an important function to feel eudaimonia. As designers, it’s our responsibility to provide those things in our work. When people can understand the beauty of something, they’re more likely to desire it or achieve whatever message you’re trying to get across. This is why it’s important to pull inspiration from many places, especially if you know your audience and what feelings they react most with.
If this year has taught us anything, it’s that many things need improvement and reworked in the world. Seeing this can show you that you may need to reform some things in your personal life as well. Now is the perfect time to reform how you design. Get rid of any fonts that may clog up your hard drive that you don’t use, clean up or even better make workspaces in Adobe specifically tailored to your work-style to maximize efficiency, or even learn new tools from it. Start using layers and naming them. Come up with a better way to backup and save files, like using cohesive naming conventions. All these things will lead to a better feeling of having it all together. Then you can spend more time thinking about the design rather than trying to find an image you had a week ago but is now buried somewhere in Dropbox.
Essentially, find virtuous ways to improve how you design and you’ll likely feel like you’ve achieved eudaimonia at the end of the day. You’ll know your clients better, be less stressed about your everyday life, and feel like you’re helping to make an impact in your clients' lives. Trends are fun, but will you truly feel a sense of accomplishment? Or will hearing that you made the days of dentists, engineers, doctors, organizations, and even companies that sell pills that turn a little smokie into a Polska Kielbasa.
Plato (written on account of something Socrates possibly said, who really knows there are several translations) also wrote “I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing.” So for all I know I could be talking out of my ass. I’ll see you all next year.