Are we creating our own virtual domes?
Stephen King's Under the Dome—a novel later turned TV mini-series—takes place in a town literally cut off from the outside world. It’s a frightening idea: cut off from the world, with no idea what is happening on the other side of the wall. As I scroll semi-conscious through my social media accounts each day, I’ve become aware that I am blissfully creating my own personal virtual dome.
Social media is great at curating a personalised feed of information that doesn’t challenge us, catering only to our personal interests and opinions. We know that discussing an issue with someone likeminded is easy, but the problem with ‘easy’ is it doesn’t help us grow.
Design is fundamentally about overcoming the challenges life throws at us, where our creative skills, ability to listen, and knowledge to solve the particular problem a client is facing. We need to be mentally agile and malleable, and able to draw on a wealth of knowledge and life experience to realise the best possible solution. We don’t always know who the next client will be, so it is essential to be familiar with a diverse range of content, be it art, music, politics, sports, science, industry, technology, or history. If we are not, we run the risk of designing for ourselves, and not the client.
We need to engage in content outside of our domes. A fortnight ago, a friend recommended two books about business I would not have selected for myself - How Google Works (2015) By Eric Schmidt, Jonathan Rosenberg and Creativity, Inc. : Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (2014) By Ed Catmull. Reading those books opened my eyes to problems and solutions I previously was unaware of, yet they resonated with me, sparking new thoughts and a newfound interest. I have begun to look at the needs of businesses in a new light, and ask different questions than before, such as: How do they hire? Which hierarchy do they use? Do they value feedback from everyone, regardless of rank? Do they encourage creativity and reward risks, or do they follow a more traditional view of business and their employees?
Growth in all areas of life drives creativity, so don’t build up only your visual vocabulary when it comes to beautiful design. Seek out new, exciting, and challenging content; ask people for recommendations; attend talks; listen to podcasts; read books; and have an awareness of everything around you.
Don’t be the victim of your own Stephen King horror story—break out of that dome!