A young designer was caught between whether to buy a new computer or pay for a design course. He needed to make a crucial decision. So he turned to me for advice.
But I suck at giving advice. Sometimes I think people who trust my judgement often take my advice verbatim and act on it without further professional consultations. It almost feels like asking someone else to make decisions for you. And that makes me feel a tad guilty when you have to bear the consequences of that decision alone.
You see, for me, it doesn’t always feel right to live with the consequences of other people’s decisions.
Conversely, there are folks who seek advice after they have reached a decision. They only request for advice to validate their decisions. It’s hard to tell the difference. Seeking advice is sometimes a ploy adopted to gain approval.
So I digressed. This article isn’t really about advice. Now, let’s get to it.
This young man wanted to know if he could spend a certain amount of his savings on taking a design course or buying himself a new computer. He desperately wants to change his current system whose memory is just two gigabytes RAM. And he needs about the same amount to upgrade his skills by signing up for a design course at a reputable school.
Yes, it’s a tough one. Embarking on both is an attempt towards personal development.
I told him to do whatever gets him closer to his goals. Sounds vague, right? Well, after my supposedly vapid advice, I sat down to ask myself the same question: “Yemi, considering your current skill set and experience, what would you do if you were in his shoes?”
Well, I have been in those shoes more than once. A situation where satisfying a want leads to the loss of other alternatives – an opportunity cost. The most pressing need comes first, but how does one decide on what is most pressing?
In this case, I have a computer I can rely on to create even if it doesn’t work at optimal speed. I probably need another to speed up my work, which sounds great. On the other hand, I need to know more in order to become better at what I do, which is equally important. With very limited funds available to satisfy one of these needs, it’s clearly become a war between urgency and importance. Should I prioritise urgency over importance or vice versa?
Now, if my design work does not involve animation, VFX, 3D and other programs that require rendering or produce heavy files; if all I do is identity design, custom typography or basic illustrations; I would delay the acquisition of a new gadget and go grab more knowledge to enable me work effectively and serve my clients better.
Oh, don’t judge me just yet. I have my reasons.
You see, when prospects go through your portfolio, they don’t get to see the computer specs used to create those designs. They don’t even know the softwares that created your design unless it’s explicitly stated somewhere. They also don’t care about the amount of time expended on a design. As a matter of fact, no one likes to see your sweat. Prospects only see how the application of skills and years of experience created an amazing piece. That shapes their perception about you and informs their decisions.
Since prospects only care about getting results, you should care about upgrading your skill to solve intricate problems. This does not in any way dismiss the fact that a modern tool helps achieve functional results in good time; it only shows that the mind behind the tool controls output to a large extent. It means we can always make good use of what we have and still achieve great results if we know better.
I started lettering long before I could afford a Wacom tablet. I knew that having a tablet would greatly improve my work, I just couldn’t afford it at the time. Did I stop lettering due to my inability to acquire a tablet? No. For a long time I depended on optical mouse to digitize sketches. Was it fun? Hell no! Besides having to spend more time on perfectly strokes, my wrist hurt from tracing sketches everyday. Fortunately, this constraint led to the discovery of some powerful tools in Illustrator that reduced the burden drastically.
Well, you can say that again, every cloud has a silver lining.
The prospects want solutions to their problems. They prefer an expert who can fix their pain points above an empty head with fancy gadget. And honestly, these people really don’t give a hoot about how you deploy your skill; neither do they care about the specifications of the computer used in solving a problem. If a traditional approach works, the work is done.
Today, I use a tablet. But what happens if my tablet decides to pack up in the middle of a task? Should that automatically halt a client’s project? You see, this is where skill upgrade and experience surpass acquisition of gadgets. I can always depend on what I learned from using the mouse to complete a task.
Don’t get me wrong, if you have access to funds, go for it. If not, learn the skill needed to optimize what you have. As you begin to make more money off projects, you can always purchase any gadget of your choice. However, do not wait until you acquire or upgrade a certain gadget before you start learning.