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Being Undervalued Vs. Being ‘The One’

Design is undervalued. So is journalism, and songwriting, and the guy who wrote the code that made the balls in the app bounce. I can have a logo designed for $249 using one of many crowd sourced design platforms. I’ll get 30 designs to choose from and although many will dispute this, it will probably be good enough. It’s a problem for sure.

And yet designer and letterer Jessica Hische is sought after, she gets to choose who she works with and names her price. If I want to apply design thinking to a new innovation, of course I go straight to IDEO because, well who else would you go to but the best? Nancy Duarte’s company designs presentations for people like Al Gore and Bill Gates, and companies like Twitter and Hewlett Packard. If you want to shine at TED Global hiring Duarte is a no brainer.

Every day people are being well paid to use the skills you have, not because they are better than you, but because they decided that’s what they wanted and they worked towards it. They recognised the truth about their talents, they taught themselves how to see what people really wanted and they executed with difference.

Should the Samsung CEO spend his day punching his desk, while lamenting why we fall in love with anything Apple designs and brings to market, every damn time? Or should he just get on and lead the company so that it creates difference for its customers.

The answer is not to sit around imploring the industry, or the customer to give us back our value.
It’s not up to our customers to value us. It’s up to us to show them why they should, and to do work that communicates our difference. There is no more business as usual for musicians, or journalists, designers and [insert your profession here, for it’s sure to be next].
No cushy numbers. No get out of jail free card. There is only work that matters.

The way forward for designers, creatives, and maybe you or your company, is not to be lumped in with the competition. It’s to demonstrate your difference. To be ‘the one’. You must do what it takes not to be just another creative or professional, but to be the creative or professional that people who want the particular must have. You might not be able to change how the world values your profession, but you can change how you are valued by doing work that matters. Work that changes how people feel, not just what they think.

We have two choices. We can stand around looking at the train wreck of what was, or we can design our own futures.
Which are you going for?

Art (or is it graffiti?) by Banksy.
Image by Wally Gobetz.