How to find your “why” (as a designer)

A recent article I wrote about purpose.

Every designer has their own “why”. Some want to get rich (not likely). Some want to be famous (even less likely). Some want to fix our planet (fingers crossed) or make people smile (more of this, please!).

With more than 20 years professional experience in design, I view finding my “why” like building my design portfolio- It’s a job that is never done, and something that only you will know when it works.


Good subject and I enjoyed your thoughts.

I’d like to say how lucky I am to do what I do. We has 600ksf of manufacturing downstairs. I have worked shifts just to know the process and during covid when it was all hands on deck. It is real work. Physically, not as hard as landscaping, but much more than being the desk jockey I am. Mentally, it is mind numbing. Doing the same task up to 30 times/minute for 8 hours is difficult. I made up games to pass the time, but I was there for only days, not years. I am most grateful in my job I am mostly allowed to go where my mind takes me, with the caveat of what’s in it for my employer.

If I had to put sharp point on the why, I have to say it is intrinsic, I really don’t know, I have always wanted to make stuff. So I simply call myself a maker. And it is the journey that matters to me, solving the puzzle. By the time I get to the answer, I’m done with it, I don’t ever need to look at the answer again, I want the next puzzle. And this is definitely ego, I can make anything, and if I can’t, I know a guy. There is a lot of talk about the “good” we do in the medical device industry. “We save lives.” Sure, but there is no doubt that Richard loves a great pair of shoes to do what he loves, running. I think making stuff that is higher on Maslow’s needs is arguably more important than basic needs. But in the end, all of it matters to having a life that satisfies you.

So as long as I can make something, I’m happy. I’ll continue to make stuff when I’m done with the need to make money. The difference is I will be the customer, no one else. On a side note, I see that as the difference between artist and designer. The artist only has themselves as the customer. The designer has someone other than themselves as the customer.

I think you hit on something, @iab … the journey can be as important as the end. I feel very much the same way.

I don’t think I made the point well in the article, but to me, my “why” is indeed that challenge and opportunity to try. It’s what makes me happy.