I’ve been paid to be a graphic designer since 1991. In the time since I’ve been fortunate to work with quite the spectrum of personalities. There are the “I-want-to- party-with-you!” bombasts, and then there are the wallflowers. Some were holier-than-thou who couldn’t design anything that wasn’t great (and couldn’t not point out that everyone else’s wasn’t great). Others shared their ideas in a constructive manner while pointing out the successes others had accomplished. I’ll argue all day that any one method does not lead to a more successful design. There are just different roads that can lead to the same destination – super fantastic design.

Me? In all aspects of life I’ve gravitated to the even-keeled, mild-mannered positive folks. The more aggressive in-your-face folks have always given me issues. For instance, I had to quit my high school basketball team just after making it because I couldn’t stand the tear-you-down–and-rebuild-you type of coach I would have had to deal with. Professionally, I’ve been no different. Some bosses I got along with famously, others I tolerated. This personality trait was as much a contributor as any one thing for me when I started Wolken Communica. There’s definitely less confrontation if you’re not looking for it as the boss. Also, for the most part, I’ve have hired likeminded souls, only erroring once or twice in ten years of business.

So I’ve been pondering a few things over my last few beers. What is it that makes a $UCCESFUL designer? Total dedication? I know plenty in the design field that have had their marriages end in divorce due to their single-mindedness and hours away from home and family. Plus, I like my wife, and my kids are ok. Luck? Sometimes it’s just being in the right place at the right time – but often that is trumped by “it’s who you know.” What about the sellout? Someone who will do anything for a client, even if it flies in the face of quality? They make good money too, but I’d never want to be one, blech.

I’ve decided a large portion of a successful designer is attitude. How much attitude is the crux though – too much and a designer is just a dick, maybe successful due to talent, but not anyone you’d really want to work with. Too little attitude and clients will not respect your decisions. I’ve learned you must be decisive, confident and have the tenacity to not back down when an edit is clearly wrong in your eyes. Stand tall designers, stand tall.

That last bit is the most difficult for the Midwest in me. In a critique you have to discuss and back up your vision. But just like debate, I’ve always been able to argue both sides. Too much grid?…Grid got lost …What grid? Argue for the Swiss approach or for letting your inner David Carson explode all over the page. I can make a case for all. But I’ve learned (admittedly a bit slowly) that the sell and the strength of conviction – as much as design quality – will win, retain and attract clients. (I think I got that last bit off the back of a motivational book cover. (Nice, huh?)

So here we are. We have always believed in our work and only presented what we thought was quality. But now we’ve decided to shift our tone a bit. Maybe being a Gypsy is about a lot more than just moving around. So now, not only do we create amazing unrivaled designs, but we know they are and will tell you so, what others might present has been thrown on the floor with the also-rans. We have a new-found swagger, our designs rock same as ever, it’s just that now, they have more bass.