Professional, Prima Donna or Artsy-Fartsy?

A. Michael Shumate

A. Michael Shumate

Prima donna was originally a term for the principal woman soloist in an opera production, and literally means the “first lady.” The term is also used to describe a self-important person who may be capable artistically, but is also insufferably demanding and difficult to please. Now if we call someone a prima donna it is an insult. It implies a person who is rude, proud, self-centered and opportunistic—a talented brat.

While we can see that artistic achievers are sometimes afflicted with these negative human traits, we ought not swallow the lie that their creative achievement came because of those traits. It came in spite of them.

In contrast, a professional has both pride and humility. Here is a simple definition of a professional: a person who can do a good job and who works in good faith for the benefit of his or her client. A professional puts the client above self. He or she takes appropriate pride in putting the job first and in being capable of consistent excellence. The humility is recognition that the performer is not the center of attention. The performance is.

If I go to see my dentist and he says, “How about a root canal today? You don’t really need one, but I love to do them,” I would consider him to be terribly unprofessional. I would never return and would do what I could to see that he didn’t ever practice dentistry again.

If I consulted a lawyer about a simple matter, and he suggested that we launch a law suit, when much more direct or less costly methods had not been explored, I might feel the same.

Any professional I hire is supposed to act in my best interests.

Artsy-fartsies are so enamored of the experience that they do not see or care of what they do is in the best interest of the client.

Designers, being in an artistic occupation, often have to prove they are not artsy-fartsy flakes, but rather, can be a valued part of a whole business team. We can and should be key players that bring specialized expertise and prove that good design benefits a business.

And so it is in corporate-identity design: a professional branding designer is one who creates identities in the best interest of the client, not one who does what feels most “creative” or what might get recognition from peers. A professionally designed identity is one that will work well for the client in all situations, not in just some formats.

As my discussions unfold, I hope that I will be able to explain each principle of logo design clearly enough that we will agree, in the end, that there are solid principles of identity design that we can adopt to become, in every sense of the word, professional designers.

Adapted from Logo DesignTheory: How Branding Design Really Works

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