Be a Better Designer 4: A fine line between Arrogance & Confidence

I have been to long away from our popular series. So lets get back to it! In this rendition we discuss the fine line between arrogance and confidence.
My wife and I were watching our favorite reality show, Project Runway Season 2, when we had the following discussion. (Sorry friends we are quite behind here in Singapore)
Somewhere in the beginning of the episode.

Wife: That Santino is an ass.
Me: Eh?
Wife: He is arrogant, looks down on other designers and just has generally bad behavior! Did you see the looks he gives when the judges pick the weekly winning designer that is not him? He is such a male bitch!
Me: Perhaps he is a supremely confident designer who is well aware of his capabilities?
Wife: No way, look at Chloe (Note web link has spoilers), she is not only confident and good but has genuine respect for the other designers in the show.
Me: Well she is hot! (She’s my favorite designer btw)
Wife: What’s that got to do with this conversation?
Me: …

Somewhere at the end of the episode.

Wife: Aiya no matter what that Santino will always be in for the “bitch” factor.
Me: Well his designs are good, but he is just too overachieving. Well as the saying goes, people tolerate the really good designers, not matter how bad their behavior.
Wife: Really?
Me: No not really, you have to be REALLY good plus you have to be famous and on your own. Santino is good but not yet famous. His lack of respect for other designers will be his down fall. Furthermore I think Banana Republic looks for designers they can work with…

This is a great example of what I face when interacting with designers on a day to day basis. The irony is most people tell you that you must be confident with your design work, portfolio and ability as that’s the only way to sell yourself. This is true to a certain extent but when do you cross that fine line from confidence to over-confidence and finally to arrogance?
I think the biggest factor that tips the scale is R.E.S.P.E.C.T. The respect you have for other people (non-designers too) as individuals, and a respect for their time and work.
Let me illustrate, recently we have been looking to hire a designer for my department. The responses we got were quite interesting. We had designers looking to come for interviews but making all sorts of demands like only able to meet on certain dates or unreasonable times, singing praises on how great they are so that they deserve a higher pay, refusing to provide information etc. All this before they even opened their portfolio to actually show how good they really are!
Also surprisingly what we don’t realize is that designers generally don’t really communicate well. You have to understand that often the people who interview designers for design jobs are non-designers (HR or Marketing managers etc.) themselves and don’t really understand how creative people think and operate.
Lets look at it this in another way. We are so good a looking into a consumer’s mind and eye to design a product for them. So do you think it makes perfect sense to put some of this thinking into a greater understanding on how non-designers view designers?
In the last installment of BBD 3, we talked about “Know thy self”. This factor also comes into play here as you really need to know your strengths and weakness. This allows you the ability to sell yourself correctly as well as gauge your net worth otherwise your confidence would look like delusion! Designers are not all born equal, age is not a factor. You need to know what is your worth based on your skills and present them in a matter that shows it best.
In conclusion, this fine line is really a mix of a few things. To have respect is also to be humble. Knowing your skills, what you are worth and generally have a genuine respect for the people around you. If you want to make an impact in your next interview, just be all that and you are more than half way there.

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3 Comments
  • zxerokool

    July 5, 2006 at 6:44 am Reply

    hi there, got ur link from a friend. nice article…haha yea I enjoy watching project runway too…the *drama*…..

  • Design Translator

    July 5, 2006 at 10:44 am Reply

    Heheh thanks for the comment, and please do keep in touch and do tell all your designer friends.
    Also your website looks great and I notice you are a graphics designer, so It would be great if you could let me know if my posts are also relevant to graphic designers too!

  • matthew

    May 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm Reply

    Amen.

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