Design Dilemma: When You Just Can’t Do Anything Right

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Have you ever worked at a place where no matter what you do, whatever you design, or whatever you suggest, you’re wrong, but they don’t fire you? There’s a good reason why, and here are some funny (but odd) reasons, along with advice no one would think of to ease the tension.

An interesting email was sent to me from a young designer who is ready to quit design because her boss keeps putting down her design abilities, and it’s making her very depressed. It’s a very common problem in the design industry, so, join us as we delve into another Design Dilemma, helping to answer your questions, queries and concerns about the murky world of design…

Liz C. wrote: Ever since I started my present job with a small company, my boss has told me I have no creativity. Every time I present a design, he changes it, and berates me for not being able to design. It’s always in a room full of coworkers and then he asks them to critique the design work, so I have everybody deciding how my designs should look, and I feel like a moron.

People treat me like I’m some little girl who plays at designing with crayons, and they need to be my parents and tell me what to do. If this is what the design industry is like, then I see no reason to continue in this field. What should I do?

A Few Words of Advice

“The omega dog provides an outlet for pack members to dump on one of the group members, but feel as if it’s part of the hierarchy of normal interaction. The omega dog is the release valve for bad inner feelings pack members have about themselves.”

Well, Liz, you are the “omega dog” in the office pack. Some sociologists say humans form themselves into groups based on wolf packs. There’s the top dog, or the “alpha dog,” and at the other end, the “omega dog.” These sociologists claim both positions are important as the alpha dog leads the group, and the omega dog provides an outlet for pack members to dump on one of the group members, but feel as if it’s part of the hierarchy of normal interaction. The omega dog is the release valve for bad inner feelings pack members have about themselves.

As for the accusations from your boss, there are several scenarios that you must explore to pinpoint the problem, and come up with the right solutions.

  • Your boss is insecure, and likes to bully people. Does he treat other coworkers in the same manner? Perhaps he just treats women that way? If so, you’ll need to move on. Find another job, quickly!
  • You’re stuck in an office where no one understands what you do, and your age has made you a target for their insecurities. It’s too late to start standing up for yourself because turning people at this point will only happen if you have a major meltdown in front of all of them, demanding respect as a coworker. That just frightens people. You need to stand your ground from day one. Every little  give-in when you start becomes your job description, and position in the pecking order in the eyes of coworkers.
  • “Your design sensibility is very different from that of your boss, and you need to learn his ideas on design.”
  • Your design sensibility is very different from that of your boss, and you need to learn his ideas on design. He is your boss, and apparently wants what he wants, so learn to service his desires and it will be smooth sailing, although he sounds like an insensitive jerk. Part of being a part of a team, is accepting team decisions. I keep telling that to myself when stuck in a bad design-by-committee situation.
  • You are a bad designer, and lucky enough to still be employed as a designer! Take the pain, and consider it part of the learning process. While you have this job, improve on your design by studying some of the great designers, and learning how they used their thought process to grow creatively. If you’re lucky, you will improve your design skills and continue working there until you are ready to move on… and up!
  • He’s just abusive. Grow some very thick skin, and find a new job.

Send Us Your Dilemma!

Do you have a design dilemma? Speider Schneider will personally answer your questions — just send your dilemma to dilemma@designshack.net!

Speider has created designs for Disney/Pixar, Warner Bros., Harley-Davidson, and Viacom, among other notable companies, and is a former member of the board of the Graphic Artists Guild, and co-chair of the GAG Professional Practices Committee. He writes for global blogs on design ethics, business practices, and has contributed to several books on the subject of business for designers.

Featured image ©GL Stock Images

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