Be a Creative Superhero. Save the World.

, Monday, April 30th, 2012

Note: this post was originally published on Hufffington Post

I have a confession to make. I’m a total pain in the ass. Like, professionally. As a creative director, being opinionated, tenacious, demanding, eccentric & snarky comes with the job.

Or could it be a cover for my super secret identity?

Yes, it’s true. Beneath this black turtleneck beats the heart of an idealistic and humble creative soul, trying to save the world through meaningful design for nonprofits & good causes. No, I’m not a tree hugger, a red-paint tossing activist or even a vegan. I’m just your friendly neighborhood superhero. And I’m not alone out here.

As a member of the Design Avengers (Local 202), we make incredible things happen in the world every single day. You may recognize us by the bad color theory jokes, an overabundance of quirky desk toys, or the “Got White Space?” sticker peeling off our MacBook Pro. We move semi-stealthily within agencies & organizations, creating purpose-driven visual experiences that put a human face on important issues. Our well-designed calls to action may look unassuming but they can mean the difference between life and death for causes like breast cancer, disaster relief & childhood hunger.

Nope, none of that’s easy. But neither is changing outfits in a phone booth under a time constraint so let’s keep some perspective, shall we?

Of course, it takes more than jumping into spandex and leaping tall design challenges in a single bound to be a true creative superhero. If you’re just in it for the accolades & navel gazing, hang up those tights right now, baby. This ain’t the gig for you.

But if you’re passionate about using your skills to create real change in the world, may I offer 5 basic rules to get you started on your path to superhero-dom.

Be Selfless
As creative communicators, our job is to serve the needs of our clients, and help them achieve their goals. Ego is anathema to that lofty mission. Putting personal preferences aside in favor of altruistic design solutions won’t dim the glow of your talent one teeny bit, I promise. But every time you make it all about you, a fluffy little kitten dies. Don’t be a villain. Think about the kittens.

Be Authentic
Make creative decisions driven by the greater good, not the latest trend. A decent designer can smell bullshit a mile away but a true superhero won’t let garbage stink up the joint in the first place. Practice what you preach and always tell the truth (even if it hurts). Believe me, you’ll be more successful by being genuine. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.

Be Smart
Do your homework and always think before you draw. Just because designers “play with pictures” and have a weakness for the Crayola Big Box doesn’t mean we ride the short bus. You can defeat the Legion of Design Foes with brains, not brawn, but do yourself a favor and never admit to eating paste as a child. You’ll thank me for that tip later.

Be Brave
Fight for what you believe in and be ruthlessly fearless no matter what. True superheroes don’t wait until they see a signal flash in the sky to do the right thing, but intuitively spring to action when they’re needed. Don’t let doubt or disbelievers be your kryptonite, and never take no for an answer (unless it’s in reply to “Does this utility belt make my ass look big”).

Be Bold
Stand out from the crowd by using your powers for good, especially in the face of uncertainty. World-changing design doesn’t happen by accident. Don that cape and mask with purpose and throw yourself headlong into the crusade for truth, meaning and creative justice with everything you’ve got.

At the end of the day, remember that with great design, comes great responsibility. With these rules firmly in place, now it’s your job to raise awareness (and funding) through engaging visual storytelling that drives people to act instead of consume.

Welcome to The Good Fight, my friend. We’re all counting on you.

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