Every once in a blue moon, I listen to the Core77.com After School podcast. It's fun to listen to designers talk about their work but if I'm honest, I get annoyed with the host's mannerisms (a lot of "yeah"-ing for example). But that's because I'm perfect so I get to say that.
Anyway. A while back he did one with Joey Roth. I love his ceramic speaker designs - no idea how they sound - so I've been following him for a while. I have one of his Charlatan, Martyr, Hustler posters that really resonates with me. In the podcast, Mr. Lehman asks Mr. Roth about what his style of working has taught him, being a Designer/Entrepreneur.
Q: You’re a “Cultural Anthropologist” *, you’re presenting things you’ve found in the wilderness. What has that taught you?
A: A designer’s only advantage is his/her own voice. I used to be really obsessed with reading the design blogs and seeing what the trends were and really making sure my social media was on point and just trying to out-entrepreneur the competition...and I never thought I was an exceptional designer at that point, I thought I was just smart about marketing…. and I absolutely believed in the work I was doing, but I didn’t see that as the ultimate goal and value, but I’ve come to see through experience and how things have gone that anyone that’s doing something creative, that needs to be your primary value, because that’s really the only unassailable thing that you have. Nobody else can be you and interpret stimuli and filter things the same way you can and so every part of the creative person career needs to be structured around “How can I best present this unique take on the world that I have, how can it be presented in an undiluted but very appreciable way to people?” and having that as a primary goal puts everything else into place." (emphasis added)
That bold section really hit home for me. We get so caught up in the peripherals of the work, how you seem on social media or what our image is or whatever, and really if you are filtering the world through your lens with honesty, the work you're doing should reflect that and the bullshit surrounding the work should also reflect that. You are the only one of you and that you is unique, which means your take on life/art/design/whatever is unique and while it's impossible not to be influenced by others, if your creating honest work and working hard at it, no one can take that away, even if your twitter feed sucks.
This is empowering when you're sitting there questioning your work, your brand, your whatever. Was this an honest piece of work or did I do this to pander to someone? If this is truly important, did I do my best, or is this merely serviceable? (note, I realize sometimes it must be serviceable and not your best, otherwise nothing would get done.)
* "Cultural Anthropologist" - In this context as defined by Don Lehman, means looking at all the cultural aspects of an object before designing it, taking those cultural cues surrounding the object and letting that inform it's design.