I’ve been asking myself this question lately, and thought I’d hash it out in a way that might be meaningful to others. The more you ask those sorts of questions, the more answers you tend to find, but I’ll just give you three, because it’s a nice, round number.

number1_fay78 I design because it’s the main lens through which I understand my world.

That’s really a lot less cosmic than it sounds. I think.

I mean it more like, “This is how I live my day-to-day.” I get up in the morning, I am presented with new information, new experiences, and I process them by finding or creating the composition that best expresses how those things fit in my universe. It’s an ever-expanding universe, so the compositions have become more complex, more subtle—but there is always a pattern, which I lay out visually, if only in my own head.

A little later, I head for the office (or the wi-fi cafe) and continue to do what I would do anyway, with the added challenge of integrating the understandings and goals of others.

In the evening, my son regales me with a massive report on the latest wii/playstation/online game arsenal and the powers of each weapon. It’s a lot to take in, and I can only make sense of it if I can get to a paper and pencil. We make an illustrated list: Womp Chunkers lob fireballs, Double Blasters fling missile rings and Whirling Laser Cannons shoot in a double helix. I made that up, but I think you get the point.

number2_fay78I design because there is nothing like seeing someone’s face when you’ve exceeded their expectations.

Sometimes, clients have very specific expectations. When the picture is super clear—pretty much a mandate, when they’ve done the design and want nothing added to it, I generally try to send them elsewhere.

I live for clients who prefer conversation. Maybe they bring marketing wisdom, business know-how and their unique creativity to the table. Maybe they bring a new product or service, and the burning desire to give it a voice. They provide the background story, objectives and vision. They provide loose design ideas, market/user requirements or examples of designs they like.

I listen and ask questions, and then respond with a first round of concepts.

It usually takes a couple of rounds, back and forth. More wisdom—more questions. More vision—more concepts. Some struggle, some doubt, and then… the moment when the project seems to transcend itself.

The process is synergistic, so the whole really does emerge as something much greater than the sum of its parts.

number3_fay78I design because I believe people are basically good.

I always aim to tell the truth with design. I’m not interested in making something look bigger, sexier or more valuable than it really is. Instead, I “fall in love” with the object of my work, tuning in to the bigness/sexiness/value/whatever that is in it, even if it’s not showing yet. From that place, I come up with ways to tell the world about it.

Most clients sense this in a finished project. It’s really exciting for everyone involved when not only the true amazingness of their business is given form, but also its true potential—a wide, sunny vista of its future self.


I can see at least a couple of other reasons gurgling out of these, which is a good thing. I suspect there are more than three times as many reasons to design as there are people who do it.

PS: Numeral art is the work of Fay78, whose delightful line drawings I’ve found excuses to buy (via istockphoto.com) and use often.

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3 Responses to Why I Design

  1. MurielOK says:

    I certainly been asked questions similar to this. I particularly like answer #1 since I alos believe it is really how we are wired. For instance my visual, spacial,and abstract reasoning are in the top percentile, meaning I look at the world that way. So design is how we live our lives.

  2. Penina says:

    Clint, I thanked you for this lovely comment via Twitter, but decided to respond again here. You’re a joy and an inspiration to work with!

  3. I am grateful you design. The work you have done for me has been fantastic. It is clear to me that you love what you do and has made a difference in my life.

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