15/10/2011 · Dallas, TX · Recently, I have came across numerous job postings, portfolios, and agency sites that throw around the word “rockstar” as a term of distinction. To me, this is a reckless misinterpretation of a designer’s role.
What is a Rockstar, Anyway?
Don’t get me wrong, I loves me some death metal, indie stuff, or anything else that removes my socks through rock, but I relegate it to the appropriate arena: creative inspiration. While I can see the appeal of trying to cash in on some of that raw motivation, as soon as we designers begin to define ourselves by this stereotype, we begin to not only associate our professional careers with the inspirational aspects, but all the negatives that play in to a life of rock n’ roll.
Drug use, irresponsibility, and egotism. These may be the most important tenants of successful rock music, and they have no place in a design studio. Hendrix died young; Phil Anselmo, of Pantera, has died three times, and probably has another death swiftly approaching; there’s an entire documentary about how the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s rock excesses overshadowed their talent. Something tells me that if I were to meet any “rockstar” designers, I wouldn’t be greeted by individuals devoted to such nihilistic explorations of the human condition.
Great rock stars would be lousy designers, lacking the discipline and respect that is needed to accomplish effective communication. I still have absolutely no idea what Kurt Cobain was trying to convey, specifically. Designers need method, objectivity and consistency: three things that would probably kill many of the albums I most revere.
If You Must, Call Me a Composer
The closest musical equivalent to a designer’s task has to be a composer. A composer has an intimate knowledge of every instrument at his/her command, and often can maintain themes across extraordinary expanses of time, while keeping consistency and harmony through all of the moving parts. Composers know how to exact a response at just the right time, and how to build an experience that will resonate for generations. If our community must pine for a musical hero, then lets set our sights to someone who is more relevant to our craft, and beneficial to our collective perceptions of both ourselves, and by our clients.
Calling ourselves “rockstars” serves to perpetuate the negative stereotypes of creative people: unreliable, selfish, and naive to the world. The only benefits we could hope to receive from such a distinction would be the short term flair of flashy gains. So, stop it. Stop acting like an rock god… you’re doing a diservice to the memory of all that is great about rock, and making it tougher for us all to achieve professional credibility.