In-house Issues: Self-expression/Self-destruction


I believe, as designers, we’re all pretty clear that the practice of design is primarily about solving problems and that it’s not an act of self-expression. This truth and discipline must be exercised in our working relationships as well if we’re to be taken seriously by our business colleagues and achieve the respect we desire as creatives working in the corporate sphere.


The aptitudes and attitudes of empathy, passion and high emotional IQs are essential to our success as designers, but they need to be reined in when we’re communicating and collaborating with our clients, managers and non-design peers in other departments.

All too often, I’ve either witnessed directly or heard about designers walking into an emotionally charged situation, losing their objectivity and shooting themselves in the foot by getting sucked into the drama of the circumstances. Get a grip, people. There is no upside to losing your cool even if it’s completely justified.

Below are some tips on how to manage your emotions in hot messes.

  • If you’re responding to a hot topic by email, get everything off your chest by writing the email you’d want to send, trashing it and then composing and sending a more measured response.
  • Frame the conversation from multiple perspectives – not just yours.
  • Showcase benefits and consequences that will resonate with your audience.
  • Refrain from using adjectives – utilize facts and anticipated outcomes that would result from taking proposed actions.
  • Keep communications as short and to the point as possible.
  • Don’t have emotionally charged conversations with ANY of your co-workers no matter how close you are to them.
  • Find an outlet/sympathetic listener outside of your place of work for venting.
  • Always practice the triple-R’s – Retreat/Reflect/Respond.
  • Keep your goal and desired outcome from ay interaction top of mind.
  • If it feels good – don’t say it. The short-term gratification will never outweigh the long-term blow-back.