Design Manifesto

 

When I first began my design career, I was inspired by all ‘the Greats’ of design and vowed to develop work as good as theirs. However, I found that that idea was soon muddled with designing work that was reminiscent to their style. I struggled for years to find my own voice as a designer because it never felt like I was producing work that was personal.

So for the majority of my education I made it a goal to understand myself as a person and a designer. This meant asking the hard questions like, what do I like about design? What do I like about life? What are things that amaze me? What are changes I would like to see in the world? How do I see the world? What makes me feel something? Where are my priorities? How much am I willing to compromise? These questions enabled me to be honest about my flaws, my strengths, and my interests individual from others. This didn’t just allow me to create my own understanding of design but it created a clearer picture of who I wanted to be as a person.

I wholeheartedly believe that good design is personal; if it wasn’t then we would never have anything original. A particular quote that resonates with me is, “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.”  What all the Greats had in common was their own individual vision of what the world is and should be. So I think it is most important to draw inspiration from your own life experiences, and relish in the sensations that we as humans can articulate and share.

Coming out of high school, I valued aesthetics and visuals more than the content itself. I remember believing that I could make anything pretty and that would be enough. After understanding my life goals, I realized that this is a juvenile, shallow, and egotistical definition of design. I was a selfish designer, which to me is an oxymoron in itself because design is not selfish. In fact, it is one of the most empathetic practices I know.

In my career, I’ve encountered a substantial amount of design professionals who are jaded with the industry mainly complaining about the significance of design as a whole; this meaning: how important is kerning when there are children starving in third-world countries? How can we gush over new typeface trends when there is so much bloodshed in war-torn cities? How can we, as designers with good conscience, feel like our jobs are meaningful when we spend 8 hours a day discussing font size while surgeons are operating on critical condition patients?

This became a pivotal point in my career; I was pressured with ideas of changing professions to satisfy my need to have more impact in crisis areas of the world. But there was one problem… I knew full-well that being a designer is inherently what I’m meant to do. It was where my heart was and the passion I had for it meant I would do my best work here. So how could I change the world while doing what I’m best at?

I’m learning that designer just a title. Innovation can arise from anywhere and anyone, and we can’t let our job descriptions limit our ideas. I use design is a tool to allow me to share novel concepts and solutions that could revolutionize the world one day at a time. I encourage everyone to stop asking for permission to change the world-- simply be brave and extraordinary.

At the end of my degree, I’ve learned that it is not about what skills you’re equipped with that define who you are but rather what you choose to do with them.

 

 

 
Angela Li