Inspiring Intimidation

Inspiring Intimidation

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Awesome  © Lara604

I announced a few days ago that I was attending the two day Australian design conference, Semi Permanent… well this article is a semi review of it.

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Inspiring Intimidation

Yes the conference was inspirational – very much so – yet it was also quite intimidating, which I suppose is just natural. For 6 hours each day, one listened to leading industry professionals talk about their design process, work, awards and in some cases, their income.

After hearing all of these leaders speak about their achievements there really was no other choice but to feel some form of intimidation which ironically, is quite uninspiring… It makes you think to yourself “am I actually any good?” which obviously can take a toll on your self confidence & motivation.

Anyway, here are some things to remember:

  • Everyone was a beginner at some stage
  • You improve over time
  • Luck can come your way at any time
  • With knowledge comes power
  • …but with power comes responsibility
  • Be comfortable of where you are at but know where you want to go
  • Explore, experiment and practice
  • Take risks but be aware of your limitations
  • Don’t compare yourself to others
  • Be aware of ‘fakers’

Intimidating Logo Design

Icebergs  © Nick Russill

To put this into perspective, I will put this into a scenario that I am most familiar with. Many of you may know that I specialise in logo and identity design however this was not always the case.

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Before I was specialising in logo design, I was always fascinated by other professional logo designs and designers such as the many talented ones found over at LogoPond. Little did I know that many of these logo designs were actually fictional.

Designers create ‘exceptional’ logo designs, based on made up names / themes (ie. no real client) which are then blended to create a seemingly ‘perfect’ logo. Although this has been pointed out before, it can be extremely intimidating… you think to yourself “I could have never come up with a design like that”.

This relates back to the design conference where such mind blowing work was being shown off…   you compare the awesome work to the skills you believe you currently have which then results in a sense of awe and in some cases, intimidation.

The point I am trying to make here is that while on the surface something may seem great and all inspiring, there is much more than to it that – much more. Don’t be uninspired by intimidating inspiration, just get out there and do your best, you’re time will come.

30 thoughts on “Inspiring Intimidation”

  1. Even after being in the field for 6-7 years I still have the feeling frequently. I guess its a matter of knowing what is your forte and as you said, giving it your best. When i see your logo designs i feel the same. I could have never come up with it.

  2. Here’s the thing..”Practice makes progress” this is why between jobs I’ll often design fakers. By taking the time to concept out the perfect logo in my mindseye my game will be tight when the client comes along and want something similar.

  3. Good article. I haven’t been in the field that long (a little over a year professionally), and fall into these traps from time to time. It’s reassuring to hear other designers go through this very same thing, and know that it’s part of the process of growing and developing.

  4. Madhavi,

    Well said and yeah, same goes with areas that you don’t have many skills in. I know I have so have so much to improve on, but that comes with time and practice.


    Yeah I also do a few ‘fake’ logos however I tend to upload them to LogoPond and not my portfolio. I wasn’t trying to bring up the discussion of fake logos again as that has already been talked about (as linked in the article) but rather, use it as an example for something I can relate to. And certainly, practice does improve yourself as a designer.


    Like I said, I guess it is just natural. It happens everyday and not just in the design world – everywhere.

  5. I guess,there is a problem between improve the skills and self-confidence .
    I agree with the concept said “there is no best” you can not say this is the best designer in the world..!!
    of course, there is better than him but you didn’t know.
    one of the pest way to improve the skills that you hear and learn from who have more skills
    Good and short post.

  6. Good on you for having those feelings.. it means a couple of things, but chiefly it means you care enough about your craft that not being up to a standard you see in these other creatives as being a scary scenario..

    it’s good because it gives you a drive to try that much harder to get to that point.. and yeah, practice practice practice, but have fun while you’re at it 🙂

  7. Do you really want to know what is intimidating? YOU! (and I mean that with the greatest respect Jacob).

    I mean, look at what you have achieved in the past few years? I have been in the industry longer than you and am nowhere near to where you are in terms of work and influence of the design industry!

    Don’t rest on your laurels but don’t forget to count your blessings either.

  8. One of the things that always seems under-represented in the case studies of great work is just how critical it is to protect the ideas and designs throughout the process.

    Good ideas, as the expression goes, get pecked to death by ducks. Little change after little change which often end up creating a result that is a sad shadow of its former self.

  9. You are right, there are is lot of inspiration around us. We have to find it and make use of it.
    Although the list of things to remember is great…

  10. Mmhhmmmm, I totally agree/can relate to this article. I’m halfway through my graphic design program and I constantly look to successful designers for inspirations, but at the same time I end up feeling intimidated at times!! haha It’s a vicious circle.

    In the end I try to remember the fact that everyone starts somewhere, and it’s encouraging to read the advice again here. Nice point. =]

  11. Great post! With so many talented designers out there, it is easy to get discouraged, but your post hits home the point that with practice and hard work success is within reach.

  12. thanks-
    I’m a student trying to put together my portfolio, and it can be very discouraging when you see everyone else’s work. you really helped me out today.

  13. Really good article Jason.
    I am fairly new to design and I have ups and downs. One can only keep on learning, trying, experimenting and hopefully improving. Like you say, everyone was a beginner at some point. Sometimes we are better than we think we are, at other times worse. But we will get there in the end. Let’s try and enjoy the ride.
    Your blog is inspirational.

  14. I guess it can work both ways though. Certainly there are times when I look at design work (websites from my point of view) and think “damn, that’s cool, I wouldn’t have thought of that.” On the other hand though, I’ve also seen loads of websites of successful design companies or individuals and thought “hell, I can do better than that in my sleep.” Sometimes that comparison can be as inspiring and motivating as it can be intimidating.

    One thing I found that worked really well. I made a specific decision to try and eliminate certain phrases from my writing and speaking, and ultimately from my thinking. Instead of saying “I think I’m good” I say “I am good”, instead of “I might do that” it’s “I will do that”. When I look at great designs now I don’t worry about how I didn’t think of them, I work out how they’re done (if it’s a technique I don’t recognize) and make sure that my next piece of work incorporates that added inspiration to improve.

  15. Otba,

    ‘Best’ is very subjective but it doesn’t mean you can not use the term, for example I could use it for my own personal opinion. Glad you liked the post.


    Everyone is talented, just in different areas and I suppose we can not be good in all areas, that would just be unfair however there are some that come bloody close and that’s where the intimidation comes in.


    I don’t try to come across as intimidating and I know you meant know harm by it, but yeah what you said “Don’t rest on your laurels but don’t forget to count your blessings either.”


    Jacob not Jason (don’t worry you’re not the first). And yeah, sometimes you think you are better than you really are. For example, looking back on work even just one year ago, I realise how much I have improved (yet my work is still far from perfect).


    Pretty difficult thing to do, especially with the net but interesting analogy with the ducks.


    Oh certainly, there is a lot of mediocrity out there as well. Good tips about how you phrase yourself and also of how you analyse a piece of work rather than just saying “wow”.


    Yeah, sometimes a short list like that can be quite useful. Thanks for your comments.


    Nice points and yeah a two sided sword, but like Robin said, it’s great to analyse a piece rather than just staring at it.

    Aaron, Paul, Kim,

    Thanks to you too and all the best.

  16. You’re absolutely right on all points. I find being inspired by others to be a two-edged sword. On the one hand, I feel inadequate. On the other hand, I’m challenged to get the moleskine out and go to work again. I think this sharpening is good so long as we keep being challenged to improve and not to bail.

  17. Thanks Jacob, another great post, you seem to be a very intelligent person, I can only hope to achieve what you have in way of personal growth.

  18. I’m just getting into the feild of designing, with little to no background. i subscribed to your blog a while back and it has been really helpful. you do a great job keeping us uptodate and it has really helped me gain perspective in the field! Thanx a lot 🙂

  19. TRUE TRUE TRUE… I have been a designer since 10 years now and I am still learning heaps. I sometime feel I am still at basic level after looking at some inspirational design out there. But when I look at my old designs and then compare it with the new ones there is a huge gap. I guess if we just keep practicing and sharpen those brain brushes things will improve. I think those other design leaders might have or might be going through the same transition.

    That’s the beauty of designing, it just becomes better everyday,and there’s always something new. What say?

  20. Thanks Jacob for this post.
    It was great to read it. It is quite difficult sometimes to find the balance between real work and investing time in your development and do some research and experiment to push your limits. But life long learning is a must for a designer isn’t it? And I think this is a great thing.

  21. “Am I any Good?”: Its exactly the same when I’m looking at others portfolios. It just takes a few moments to reassess where I am myself, as compared to people who have had more experience.

    Once you get beyond that, the whole of experience of listening to such people becomes more of a learning experience.

  22. I totally agree, I’ve been to game developer conferences with my husband and all of a sudden your aspirations get shot down when you see people your own age at triple your capacity.

    Just means you gotta try harder, cuz eventually they will stop.

  23. It’s difficult not to be intimidated by fellow designers and agencies who work on projects with huge budgets. But so-called big projects can be a nightmare. The more money you throw at a project, the more people want to influence the final outcome. The designer’s control over the project loosens and it general ends up looking nothing like you’d imagined it would.

    This is why you see many designers (myself included), who’ve spent years working for agencies, go freelance to try and wrestle back a bit of creative freedom. You should really think yourself lucky – I know I do. It’s easier to get your ideas across to a small company.

    I believe that any decent designer worth their salt could equal any outcome of an established agency/designer if they were allowed the amount of time and money that’s dedicated to a certain project.

    An intimidated designer becomes an easily influenced designer.

  24. Amit,

    Yeah, even in the past year, I can notice a huge difference between my earlier work which shows just how much you do improve over time. I am thinking of doing a post showing this. Would be quite interesting.


    You’re welcome, enjoy the ride.


    A good way to combat that is to try to work on things you haven’t done before. It’s a great way to learn and yeah life long learning for a designer. Just the fact that we work with so many other industries ensures this is so.


    Analyising designs that are “better” than your own is a great way to improve and like you said is part of the learning experience.


    I don’t think eventually they will stop… it’s a recurring circle. There will always be someone ‘better’ or ‘worse’ than you, it’s just a fact of life.


    Budgets are another spanner in the mix, obviously there are pros and cons of each. Interesting statement too… “An intimidated designer becomes an easily influenced designer.”

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