PART 3: YOUR PASSION FOR DESIGN: How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?
How Is Your Passion For Design Developed?
I continued working in the health care field, teaching graduate school, doing consulting, government health policy planning, and, my last professional job, directing a nonprofit membership organization of primary health care centers. Working in health care had become such a hollow experience for me, that I jumped off the corporate ladder when I was 36 years old. With a partner, we opened up a retail operation, in Nashville, Tennessee, where we sold finished jewelry, most of it custom made, as well as selling all the parts for other people interested in making jewelry themselves.
My partner was the creative one, and the design aspects of the business were organized around her work. I was the business person. I made some jewelry to sell, but my motivation was purely monetary. No passion yet.
During the first few years, it was painfully obvious that my jewelry construction techniques were poor, at best. The jewelry I made broke too easily. This bothered me. I was determined to figure out how to do it better.
This was pre-internet. There were no established jewelry making magazines at that time. In Nashville, there was a very small jewelry / beading craft community. No experience, no support. So I did a lot of trial-and-error. Lots of experimentation.
In these early years in our retail jewelry business, two critical things happened which started steering me in the direction of pursuing my jewelry design passion.
First, our store was located in a tourist area near the downtown convention center. Many people attending conventions lived in areas, especially California, where there were major jewelry making and beading communities. They shopped in our store, and from watching their shopping behaviors, seeing what they liked and did not like, and talking with them, I learned many insights about where to direct my energies.
Second, I began taking in jewelry repairs. It became almost like an apprenticeship. I got to see what design choices other jewelry makers made, and I looked for patterns. I got to see where things broke, and I looked for patterns. I spoke with the customers to get a sense of what happened when the jewelry broke, and I looked for patterns. I put into effect my developing insights about jewelry construction and materials selection when doing repairs, and I looked for patterns.
No passion yet, but I took one more big step. And passion was beginning to show itself on the horizon.
I was developing all this knowledge and experience about design theory and applications. Suddenly, I wanted to share this. I wanted to teach. But I wanted to have some high level of coherency underlying my curriculum. My budding passion for design saw design as a profession, not a hobby. I did not want to teach a step-by-step, paint-by-number class. I wanted to teach a way of thinking through design. I wanted my students to develop a literacy and fluency in design.
I inadvertently cultivated my passion for design over time. I did not really follow one. It was a journey. My passion for the idea of design did not necessarily match a particular job. I coordinated it with the job I had been doing. And over time, my job and my passion became more and more intertwined and coherent. For me, it was a long process. I honed my abilities. I leveraged them to create value — personal satisfaction and some monetary remuneration. My passion became my lifestyle. My lifestyle resonated with me.
Passion involves deep introspection. It requires you to be metacognitive — always aware of the things underlying your choices. It requires talking with people and testing out how different ideas or activities resonate with you. What do you care about? What changes in the world do you want to make? What is driving you? What if this or that? Are you willing to give up something else for this? Would people respect me if…?
During this journey, you will systematically test your assumptions about what you think your personal sense of purpose should be. For the most part, there may not be a single answer or one that will last forever. But you reach progressive levels of clarity which give you a sense of direction and fulfillment.
As a designer, it is more important to focus on personal connections represented in your passion, rather than on creating some material thing. You can steer your job to spend more time exploring the tasks you are passionate about and the people you like to share your passion with. Look for inspirations. Reflect on what you care about. It is a good idea to know yourself as a designer and why you are enthusiastic about it. Self-discipline and management go hand-in-hand with passion so that you maintain perspective and continue to create designs. You won’t necessarily love everything you do, but your passion will keep you motivated to do it.
It’s a cycle of self-discovery. But don’t sit around waiting for the cycle to show up and start rotating. Keep trying new things. Exploring. Taking charge of your life. Revisiting things which interested you when you were younger. Thinking about things you never tire of doing. Thinking about things you do well. Recognizing things you like learning about.
What If You Have A Passion For Something,
But You Don’t Do Anything About It?
What if you have a passion for something, but you don’t do anything about it? There could be several reasons for this.
- You have a good job, make good money, but are not passionate about it
- You have time constraints
- You are afraid of change or the unknown and unfamiliar
- Your family and social network are not supportive
- You tried something similar before, and were not successful
- You dislike the people you work with or play with
- The skills integral to your passion are not in demand or favor; they don’t make you marketable, or sufficiently marketable to earn a living wage
- You cannot support yourself during the extended timeframe it would take to develop your skills
But, I think, one of the major reasons people do not cultivate their passion is that they do not understand it. It is not a pot of gold on the other side of the rainbow. It won’t necessarily satisfy all your needs. It is a sensation without clear boundaries. It is best expressed among an audience that already is sensitive to and aware of your passion and how it fits with their own needs and desires. It is best expressed in a context in which it is respected.
Developing your passion takes work and commitment. Mastery of design does not spring from discovered passions. Instead, passion provides the motivation for you to learn and grow within the design profession. Initially, you might be pretty bad at professional tasks. They need to be learned and applied, then applied again. Eventually your mastery earns you some satisfaction, autonomy and respect.
What Are The Characteristics of a Passionate Designer?
A prominent country music star and her six-person entourage entered my store. They had heard about our jewelry design work, and were eager to see what we could make for the singer.
She had some specifics in mind. A necklace. It had to be all black. She wanted crosses all around it. Each cross had to be different. Each cross had to be black.
We accepted the challenge.
We began laying out some different ideas and options on the work table. The singer said No! to each idea. The entourage chimed in like a Greek chorus. (Admittedly a little weird and unnerving.) We weren’t really getting anywhere, so we set another meeting date. We would put together more options, and get their opinions. Agreed.
The color of black was easily accomplished. We could string black beads or use black chain or black cord. It would be a challenge to find or design a lot of black crosses, but not impossible.
We put in a lot of hours gathering materials and developing some more prototype options.
The second meeting was no more fruitful than the first. The artist and her entourage could offer no additional insights about what they wanted. Our mock-ups were unacceptable.
We ended the meeting.
We were not, however, going to throw in the towel.
In fact, we were intrigued by the puzzling puzzle put before us.
We decided we needed more information about why this country music artist wanted this necklace, what outfit and styling she would wear it with, and why an assortment of differing black crosses was important to her.
We put on our anthropology, psychology and sociology hats and played Sherlock Holmes. We approached members of her entourage individually. Her entourage was made up of her stylists. We were able to fill in a lot of the blanks by talking with them. She was going to wear this piece on the road, performing in several concert venues. We got into some discussions about her religion, more specifically, how she practiced it. The best way to describe this was a pagan-influenced Christianity. We had enough information to go by. This was particularly important in picking out crosses, and arranging them around the necklace.
They loved our prototype, and we only had to do a little tweaking.
You know you are passionate when you…
1. Start your days early
2. Passions consume your thoughts all the time
3. Get more excited about things
4. Get more emotional, frustrated and even angry about things
5. Take more risks
6. Devote more of your time and other resources to your work — working harder, practicing more, spending more time developing your skills
7. Are eager to share what you are working on
8. Fight within yourself as well as with others (friends, family, clients) about managing the balance between work and everything else
9. Are optimistic about the future
10. Surround yourself with their work
11. More easily accept (and get past) failures and consequences
12. Do not easily give in to criticism or skepticism.
13. Have focus and plan things out more
14. Inspire others
15. Radiate your passions
Three Types Of Passions For Design
There are three types of passions designers might cultivate:
(1) The Passion To Do Or Make Something
(2) The Passion For Beauty and Appeal
(3) The Passion For Coherency
(1) The Passion To Do Or Make Something
The designer’s passion is focused on an activity. They believe it is possible to make something out of nothing. Designers do, see, touch, compose, arrange, construct, manipulate. This passion is very hands-on and mechanical. Its drive is orderly, methodical, systematic, and directional.
(2) The Passion For Beauty and Appeal
The designer’s passion is focused on beauty and appeal. They believe it is possible to do whatever it takes to create or develop something of beauty. Designers select, feel, sense, compose, arrange, construct, manipulate. This passion is very emotional and feeling. Its drive follows the senses, the intuitive, the inspiration with an eye always on the ultimate outcome — beauty and appeal.
(3) The Passion For Coherence
The designer’s passion is focused on resolving tensions, typically between the need for beauty concurrently with the need for functionality. They believe it is possible to resolve these tensions. Designers think, analyze, reflect, organize, present, resolve, solve. This passion is very intellectual. Its drive is meaning, content, sense-making, conflict resolution and balance.
Whatever type of passion you see yourself as pursuing, it is passion nonetheless which motivates your creativity and sustains your attention long enough to get something done for someone else and fulfill their desires.
How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?
Not every professional designer is passionate about what they do. Nor do they have to be in order to do a good job and make money.
Passions do not solve your problems at work — the stresses, the difficult interpersonal relationships, the need to find people to pay you for what you do. They guide you to better resolve them.
Passions make the work extra special. The work becomes less a job, and more a process of continual growth and self-actualization. Passions help you more easily clarify the ambiguous and unfamiliar. They help you more readily overcome obstacles. They assist you in finding that sweet spot between fulfilling your needs and intents, and meeting those of others who work with you, pay you for what you do, critique, evaluate and recommend you.
Having a passion for something does not equate to having a professional career. Careers don’t necessarily happen because you have a passion for them. But it is great to have your career and passion co-align. You have to build upon your passion, implement it, fine-tune it, and manage it over time.
The secret for successfully bringing all this together — your desires, the tasks you want to do and those you are required to do, the various audiences whose acceptance in some way is necessary for what you must accomplish — is how you manage your passions.
Good passion management results in…
· More work getting done and more engagement with that work
· More work satisfaction and intrinsic rewards
· More self-actualization and development professionally
· Higher levels of creativity
· More trust in colleagues and clients
· More likely to feel purposeful and connected
· More capability in putting your imprint (your artist’s hand) on your work to the point your work is meaningful and acceptable to others
· More fix-it strategies to store in your designer tool box, allowing you to be more adaptable to new or difficult situations
Just like with all good things, too much can be damaging.
Bad passion management could result in…
· Becoming a workaholic
· Having others exploit your willingness to work, do the hard stuff, take on unnecessary challenges and strive for success
· Losing a good balance between work life and personal life
· Suffering burn-out
· Becoming too over-confident, less likely to seek feedback, less likely to collaborate, less likely to seek clarification
· Becoming irritable, stressed, rigid, unwilling to compromise
Again, your passion must be managed. You want balance. You want to set aside times for self-reflection and self care.
Don’t wait to follow your passion. Define and develop it within the context of your professional design career.
While it is not necessary to have found your passion in order to be a good and successful designer, developing your passion for design can be very beneficial and worth the effort. With passion comes greater satisfaction, self-affirmation, creativity and motivation. With passion comes a greater ability to gain acceptance from clients about what your designs mean and can do for them. People are not born with passions. They find them, often in a round-about, circuitous way over a period of time. Once found, they need to be developed, cultivated and managed. And you don’t want to get overwhelmed by your passions to the detriment of balance in your personal and work lives.
PART 1: Is It Necessary To Have A Passion?
PART 2: Do You Have To Be Passionate To Be Creative?
PART 3: How Does Being Passionate Make You A Better Designer?
Chen, Robert. “The Real Meaning of Passion,” Embrace Possibility, March, 2015.
As referenced: https://www.embracepossibility.com/blog/real-meaning-passion/
Financial Mechanic. “Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ Is Bad Advice,” Published: 05 July
2019 — Updated: 23 February 2020
As referenced: https://www.getrichslowly.org/follow-your-passion-is-bad-advice/#:~:text=They%20found%20that%20people%20who,interest%20if%20it%20becomes%20difficult.
Fisher, Christian. “How To Define Your Passion In Life,” Chron (Houston
As referenced: https://work.chron.com/define-passion-life-10132.html
Hill, Maria. “Are Passion and Creativity The Same Thing?” Sensitive Evolution,
As referenced: https://sensitiveevolution.com/passion-and-creativity/
Hudson, Paul. “10 Things That Truly Passionate People Do Differently,” Elite Daily,
April 9, 2014.
As referenced: https://www.elitedaily.com/money/entrepreneurship/10-things-that-truly-passionate-people-do-differently
Jachimowicz, Jon M. “3 Reasons It’s So Hard To ‘Follow Your Pasion’”, Harvard
Business Review, October 15, 2019
As referenced: https://hbr.org/2019/10/3-reasons-its-so-hard-to-follow-your-passion
Koloc, Nathanial. “Why ‘Follow Your Passion’ Is Pretty Bad Advice,” Hot Jobs On
As referenced: https://www.themuse.com/advice/why-follow-your-passion-is-pretty-bad-advice
Millburn, Joshua Fields. “’Follow Your Passion’ Is Crappy Advice,” The
As referenced: https://www.theminimalists.com/cal/
Pringle, Zorana Ivcevic. “Creativity Runs On Passion,” Psychology Today, 10/2019.
As referenced: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creativity-the-art-and-science/201910/creativity-runs-passion
Robbins, Kyle. “15 Things Truly Passionate People Do Differently,” Lifehack, 2018.
As referenced: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/communication/15-things-truly-passionate-people-differently.html
Thompson, Braden. “What Is Passion and What It Means To Have Passion,”
As referenced: https://www.lifehack.org/articles/lifestyle/what-means-have-passion.html
Unger, Roberto Mangabeira. Passion: An Essay On Personality. NY: The Free
Book downloadable: http://www.robertounger.com/en/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/passion-an-essay-on-personality.pdf
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Other related articles of interest by Warren Feld:
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