Spontaneous Combustion.

I have always struggled with starting a design project. Once I have met with the client, have all the details down, the notes, the research, even the sketches worked out and my head wrapped around how to approach the design/communication problem then the struggle begins. It doesn’t matter if I am working out a logo or planning out a painting. It’s always the same (and I admit, getting worse as I get older). I’m sure I’m not alone in describing the agonizing pain that begins at this point: the miserable battle of getting the very clear vision in my head out onto the computer screen or onto the canvas and then wrestling it into something translatable and comprehensible. It is always anguish. It is never, ever easy.

I always prepare myself in the same way for the struggle. I start by inventing excuses to tell the client and wonder how I have managed to make a living as a designer/artist for over 25 years. I tell myself that this is the project that will clearly demonstrate that I am a fraud, having fooled people for a quarter century and start to consider any other talents I might have and how I could transfer those into semi-successful careers. Realizing I can’t really do anything else other than design/paint/teach, and having put off the work until the very last minute, I finally submit to the process and push, stress, struggle and brawl my way through the design/layout/underpainting process

The result is usually always the same: I am astounded at the work that is produced and staring back at me from my computer screen or canvas. I have no idea how my hands and brain were able to conspire to produce such a chef d’oeuvre and I have no doubt that this will never, ever occur again, ever. Like the Immaculate Conception, this is truly a wonderous, miraculous moment that cannot be explained and need only be accepted and celebrated.

Thus was the case yesterday morning when I picked up my web-designer friend Tiffany and we went to see a client. Prior to picking her up, I was shaking and sweating profusely as I mounted the presentation boards at home, cursing the makers of double-sided tape and wondering who had hidden all the gluesticks in my house. I was equally shaken and freaked-out when Tiffany was (only) 10 minutes late out the door and since I don’t own a cell phone (CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!), couldn’t call her — although we had more than enough time to get to the meeting. We arrived with 5 minutes to spare.

I had beads of sweat dancing and singing on my back as I presented my boards, rationale and thoughts to the client while Tiffany added helpful bits to help sell my concepts. The client was (by the end of it all) impressed — and I was grateful and feeling pretty darn proud of myself.

While Tiffany took her turn with the website part of the presentation, launching into webspeak and content management system stuff and the writing of apps and drew little pictures to support what she was talking about, I sat there watching and in complete awe of her. Almost half my age, confident, answering technical questions with ease, going over her proposal with the client and listening to the client’s needs: it was amazing to watch and be a part of. I felt proud that I had brought her in on the meeting, proud that she was with me, proud to be a team. My self-doubt and fear turned into quiet admiration. I felt inspired by her and thankful that she was on my team. I felt like a damn fine designer yesterday. It was a pretty awesome day.


“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”


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