I’ve never been good at drawing. I have purchased proper drawing pencils and drawing pads, read tutorials online, borrowed books from the library. Every twenty pages or so in my Moleskine journal are doodles that I’ve attempted and scratched out. Eventually I decided the problem wasn’t me, it was the medium. I borrowed a Wacom tablet from work, opened up Illustrator and started with the pen tool.

That lasted no more than three minutes.

I am not sure what it is about drawing that I feel so drawn too, but ever since elementary school I have wished I had even a shred of talent for visual arts. My least favourite school activity was creating those stupid “Unit Title Pages.”1 I am sure the highest mark I ever received for a title page was 5/10. It just wasn’t something I could do.

At the age of 13, I took up guitar. As I didn’t have money for lessons, I taught myself. With the help of some friends, I was competent enough to start my first band in grade 8. Through secondary school I studied music, starting with the clarinet and progressing through three different saxophones. I also picked up a little bit of drumming, piano and bass guitar. Even though no one in my immediate family was actively musical, all of these skills seemed to come almost naturally.

By the time I was in college, some friends from school and I began writing songs, touring around Ontario and recording CD’s. The need quickly arose for a website. After my experience self-teaching myself music I felt confident I could learn web design, even though my previous visual art excursions had been painful at best. I pirated my first copy of Photoshop 7 and ImageReady, fired up Microsoft FrontPage and tackled some old-fashioned table-based design.

So far, this new adventure has lasted 4 years.

This past year has been the first year I’ve been consistently active in graphic and web design. Prior to this my only work was for myself and my band. Now I am doing work for people all over the country and in different parts of the world. I am by no means an expert, but I continue to strive to get better every single day.

I do this because I have decided to take pride in my craft.

Just like when learning music, I approach design with a high level of respect. I admire and learn from those who have come before me, while dialoguing, sharing and gaining wisdom from those who are this journey with me now. When I begin a design I spend time researching the client. I try to understand the problem my design is hoping to solve. I pay attention to details and work tirelessly until I feel absolutely confident in what I have produced. If it doesn’t feel right, I am not afraid to discard. If I’m totally stuck, I will ask friends for advice. I will not stop until I can look at a design and be proud of what I’ve created.

I take pride in my craft.

There are many songs I have written that will never see the light of day. There begins to be nearly as many unfinished and discarded designs.

This past week a number of stories emerged through twitter about different designers and their work being copied or ripped off. Some of these stories have happened to particular designers on more than one occasion. Other stories are heaped in controversy over which side copied the other resulting in law suits, internet protests and questionable circumstantial evidence.

I am not interested in casting blame, but I think these stories teach us something. I believe that if we truly take pride in our craft, whether that craft is design, music, writing, knitting, etc., we are compelled to produce the absolute best and the most original work we can. If we are serious about becoming masters of our craft, we will continue to study. If we desire to be the best we can be at what we do, we will strive to do everything we can to work with passion and integrity.

Nothing should get in the way of an honest pursuit of our chosen craft. Not a pressing deadline, or a hounding client, or pressure from others.

If all you ever do is sing another person’s song, you’re not a rock star. You’re a karaoke singer.

  1. My girlfriend, on the other hand, was amazing at unit title pages. I’ll try to steal one and put it up on flickr.