Igniting Passion: A Discussion with Brett Waskelewicz
What does it take to be passionate about what we do? Whether we’re designers, developers, or in another position in the creative industry, it’s generally assumed that we are passionate about what we do on a daily basis.
For many of us finding our passion was the result of a lifelong interest in art, drawing, math, people, etc. These interests led us to study design, development, UX, user research or the like–cementing that passion and focusing it. For others, it was a late discovery, perhaps a random elective in school, or a friend who introduced us to the creative arts. This introduction would ignite a firestorm of discovery as the world of design opens up, fanning the flames of discovery.
Pursuing our passion in the creative fields means feedback–not all of it good. Nothing puts a damper on that fire and zeal for design more than difficult client interactions. Maintaining your passion over time means developing a thick skin and objective viewpoint of your work.
Regardless of how we acquired that passion, what’s important is that we found it. But, what if you’re new to design and still looking for that passion? Brett Waskelewicz is a Partner and Creative Director at Wondersauce, a creative agency in New York City & Columbus, Ohio. We talked with him briefly about how to find your passion, follow it, and even dealing with the feedback as a result.
Try to understand where your client is coming from, and why they may be reacting negatively. It can also help to approach a client relationship as a type of challenge, a problem you need to solve. Don’t forget that this is your job.
I would imagine that most burgeoning creative types want to do work they’re passionate about, but it can be elusive. What are the keys to finding work that you’re passionate about?
There’s the boilerplate guidance counselor response: ‘Think about what you would do with your time if you didn’t have to work, then figure out how to make money doing that.’, and there’s definitely some truth to that, but it’s predicated on the very important assumption that you have already been exposed to that about which you are passionate, and that isn’t always the case. I think the best career advice in this case is actually just good advice for living. Be open to every experience, and reject the notion that anything in your life is ever supposed to be a certain way.
Once you identify it, though, what does it mean to follow your passion?
It means caring more about pursuit than the success.
Mixing clients with your craft can be difficult. What do you feel are the keys to successfully working with clients?
The most important thing a creative professional can do is make every effort to empathize with their clients. The more deeply one understands a client’s motivations, the more meaningful and effective the relationship and the work.
Another difficult area to navigate is client feedback. How do we not take a client’s feedback personally?
Start with the answer to the previous question. Try to understand where your client is coming from, and why they may be reacting negatively. It can also help to approach a client relationship as a type of challenge, a problem you need to solve. Don’t forget that this is your job.
Negative feedback can be a way to bring one’s work to a higher level or develop techniques for critique that help put the kaibosh on ‘frankendesigns’ – what are your thoughts on this?
The key to ensuring that negative feedback is productive is in getting a client to articulate *why* they don’t like whatever it is that they don’t like, not just what it is that they don’t like. If you know why they want to change something, the more equipped you are to make useful recommendations as opposed to just taking orders.
Side projects are touted as one way to retain artistic control control in your career. What role do you feel side projects should play in a designer / developer’s life?
Side projects can be a good outlet, as long as they don’t end up just being a second job. It should be work that you choose to do, not that you are obligated to. It should energize you, not stress you out. A good rule of thumb is that the best side projects don’t pay.
Other than happiness or feelings of wellbeing, how do you know when you’re successfully following your passion?
Misery or feelings of sheer terror.
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Brett Waskelewicz is a designer and creative director at Wondersauce. His WebVisions Chicago 2015 talk, We Are All Giant Babies, explored the intricate dynamics of pursuing your passion for a living, like a grown up.