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Is There a Limit to How Much We Can Do?

by | Jun 3, 2010 | Articles | 13 comments

I was having a discussion with a colleague the other day about design and all the things that we know how to do. The topic came up where he found out that i don’t know ajax, which I admittedly, don’t even know exactly what that does. My response to him was that I am a print and web graphic design, but there is no way that I can be an expert in everything! Then, he proceeded to rattle off all of these applications and languages that he knows and how he can do this and that and the other, and I came to this conclusion…How can someone keep up with all of that?

There is no way in the world that I could be an expert in print design, image editing, flash, perl, ajax, php, actionscript, javascript, database management, c++, Ruby on rails, etc. So where do you draw the line? How can you be an outstanding graphic designer, without spreading your knowledge so thin that you can’t do anything on an expert level? Playing devil’s advocate, if you narrow your abilities too much, you could wedge yourself into a niche that becomes obsolete overnight.

The way that I think of this is that my goal is to be great in a handful of things, and have basic, or general knowledge of other things. there is not a single person out that that is a expert in everything to do with design and web development. if there is someone like that out there, then they are amazing and kudos times 1000 to them. I simply try to make sure that I know the best way to make an impact in print and on the web, and to be really good at doing most things involving html and CSS, while keeping my ear to the ground, listening for new and better technologies. I have no problem telling someone that I don’t know how to do something. I am not a php expert, I know nothing of ajax, and if a client needs something with these abilities, then I will bring in an expert to help with that portion of the project. I would rather have someone that knows what they are doing, and can do it in half an hour, than to try to do it myself, not knowing what I am doing, waste a bunch of time, and then fail. No one wins in that situation, and your client will lose their trust in you.

I read several professional design publications, and make note of anything new that is useful, and try to adapt my skills to the changing industry. I know print and web design, structure, and layout, and all of the other things taught in school, and stay up-to-date on the newer techniques and software.

One reason I choose not to be a jack of all trades is that you simply can’t keep up with all of those changes. think about how many things have changed or grown with CSS and all of the new techniques, or tricks out there now. Now, take that and multiply all of those changes by all of the other languages and skills out there, and then you will realize that it is very overwhelming. The point is, get good at a handful of things-really good, and market yourself with those proven abilities. If they become outdated, learn the new ways, new standards, grow, and adapt.

Being a jack of all trades means you can do just about anything, but when clients look for someone to do design work for them, they are usually looking for someone who can do the best job for the best price. If you aren’t an expert, or aren’t really good at illustration, but can do a mediocre illustration, then that really doesn’t help anyone. It just means that you can get by, and the client has to make due with what you handed them. No client should have to settle for something less than exactly what they needed to solve their problem.

I guess the saying is true, you can be a jack of all trades, but then you really are just a master at nothing.

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