idsgn (a design blog)

How we say thanks

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March 14 2011

“Midnight Oil” by Frank Chimero

Our industry can seem pretty negative.

There are many reasons for this. There is subjectivity in our work. Big egos and temperamental personalities flourish in the arts. Criticism comes with the job, too. It helps us to evaluate honestly, progress and move forward. But, from the outside looking in, one might think that we are a pretty catty group that doesn't get along.

Well, there are moments that punch through the veil, too.

They are seen in our willingness to advise young designers and students. Designers—even busiest and most established among us—seem to have an open-door policy to others. There’s a great deal of selfless participation in teaching and networking and overall helping-out among our kind. But no recent moment seems more genuine or surprising than the giant collective hug we recently gave to Frank Chimero.

Frank is a young, very talented designer, writer and teacher from Portland. We interviewed him in 2010 after he was chosen for ADC Young Guns. At that time, he hoped to focus on more personal work and to develop his writing. He’s certainly followed through on those goals. He continues to write extensively on his blog.

His article “Holiday” clarified our plight for fair compensation through the story of an underpaid designer realizing that her client happily spent more on the launch party's ice sculpture than for the project itself.

…the times that we have to launch our $10,000 websites while sitting in the shadow of a $15,000 ice sculpture are the frustrating moments…

In the past year, he’s spoken at events internationally, become a faculty member at Portland State University and shared his personal and professional work via his website and elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the design community has quietly paid attention.

When he recently revealed his ambition to write a book, our community spoke a little louder.

Frank wanted to take time off to focus solely on his book and asked the creative community for assistance via the funding/investing website, Kickstarter. His $27,000 goal was met and exceeded within the first day.

“The Shape of Design” book by Frank Chimero

A community of sometimes judgemental designers came together to say “thank you” for his hard work, for inspiring us and for representing our community so well.

Anyone that’s successful in this industry works terribly hard. For the ones that continuously inspire, work hard and give back, there will be moments of recognition. They might win an award or receive heartfelt praise from someone they admire. A student may confide the unknown impact that the teacher provided. These moments are rarely public and less often spontaneous. When they happen, they remind us that someone out there appreciates our labours of love.

While preparing this article, I was made aware that there are others framing Frank’s project as “selling out,” a bad business model or a poor example of investment. I won’t attempt to debate these possibilities. The truth is, whatever this moment is “not,” pales in comparison to what it is: An overwhelming vote of confidence and recognition to one of our own. One given by a supportive community that respects talent and is not afraid to show it.

Filed under: design

By Josh Smith