Are You a Narcissistic Designer?

Narcissism is not design. I don’t quite care if you’re a web designer or a graphic designer. If you profess yourself to be a designer with oomph (and I hope there’s pride in your work), you should get the idea that I am quite against narcissism in designers, having worked with many designers over the years.

And what do I mean by that? Narcissism is self love. If you don’t know what narcissism is, the long version’s here. The short version is: it’s vanity, conceit and simple selfishness. Narcissistic traits include the need for attention, preoccupation with oneself, no empathy, among other things.

When I come across a website that reeks of narcissism, I know it. And so should you. You don’t have to be a psychologist to know if the person sitting across from you is narcissistic or not. You will know.

Most websites are designed as if the main reason for existence is for the pleasure of his royal highness the web designer. Period. Or to show off the newly acquired skills of the designer. (I can do Flash, therefore all my work includes Flash. I can do this Photoshop effect, therefore all my work includes this Photoshop effect.)

More Bling Please? The Beginning of Haphazardness

The web designer doesn’t care about the actual audience. He thinks he ought to simply add a bling here or some advertisements there. He thinks his work is gorgeous. That’s why it’s narcissistic to the core. There’s no human connection, no empathy, no proper consideration of one’s skill in relation to the greater world outside. And yes, there is a bigger world out there – because your website is among other websites.

Every design element should have a reason and purpose. Can’t justify why the element should be there? Delete it then! Can’t convince your client why the element should be there? Take it out. You could be designing a brochure or a website, yet you must always justify each item you place. There is no sympathy for haphazard design. Haphazard design simply means the designer has not understood what design is.

What Is Design About, Really?

Design is not about you or me or the guy next door.

Design is about communication.

Design is about making a message clear and sound.

Design is about you as a designer.

Poor idea execution results in poor design. Poor idea execution arises from confusion or misunderstanding about the idea. That’s all.

And if a designer is confused, everything he designs will end up looking like trash.

So how must you design then? Design calls for a clear understanding of purpose. Once you get that into your head, you understand what you need to do.

Then you won’t keep on adding or piling on the design elements (more colours, more fonts, more animation, more photos, more graphics). A designer with clarity should go the other way – pare things down.

What is Your Design For, Anyway?

He should also start thinking instead of designing. Think how people use his design. Think how different levels of users will react or use the design. Think what type of design fits the purpose.

Think of the message you want to help your client transmit to his audience. And if your client says, “But I like this animation stuff. I like these rainbow colours. I like using Comic Sans as my corporate font” (assuming you have not keeled over in a fit) sit him down and tell him firmly that it’s not about you or about him.

The designed product/website/brochure/ad is not for him or for you. It’s for his customers. It is a solution to his customers’ needs. Not your needs, not his needs.

That’s why I always tell my designers. It might break your bubble but hey, it’s not personal but it’s really NOT about you.

Think about it. And of course, I’d love to hear what you think of narcissistic designers too.

To your success,


More thoughts: Today is Earth Day! Yes, let’s do away with the lip service and really try to undo the awful things we’ve been doing to Mother Earth. Simple things really. Switch off the lights, use less water, use your own cloth bag for shopping, buy only what’s needed, buy local (yes, fruits and veges included), use less plastic. I just got back from Langkawi though. If you need a break, try Langkawi. Always relaxing!

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