Get Over Ourself

Mediocre Art - Raise the bar in whatever you venture to do / Paul Dexter

I read an article by a brilliant graphic designer recently. Well, I am assuming he is brilliant because he is granted a full page in a magazine dedicated to graphic design. A magazine which is filled with hundreds of examples of stunning creative work.

Side note: Magazines like this are intended to inspire the reader. They forget, however,  that their readers are artists themselves who become either indignant (guilty as charged), or depressed that they will never achieve that caliber of work (okay, guilty on occasion). The people who are inspired by looking at a bunch of competitors works are the same people filling seats at motivational seminars.

But back to the article: He was discussing Mediocracy in design. He was explaining to us that thanks to technology, free apps, and templates- mere mortals can now create mediocre art. He was emphasizing the dark side of this- that these amateurs have no idea they are getting it so horribly wrong. Blessed values of originality, proper layout, imagination and storytelling are all lost.


While I read this I couldn't help but remember the 1990s when the digital recording revolution was in full swing. Rather than buying a house, some of us were the proud owners of a 24 track tape recorder and a mixing console. We could record up to three songs on a $150 reel of tape. Naturally we were irritated by the punks that were putting a $199 sound card into their mom's computer and calling it a Recording Studio. We were preaching to an audience that could care less that we were the last protectors or pure audio.

Twenty years later there are still terrific recordings being made. Cobwebs needed to be shaken out and the industry deserved to be turned on it's head. Recording is more exciting now then it was before.


In the end, our author (the brilliant designer) did go on to make a grander point: All this new mediocracy should be pushing professional designers to raise the bar. That is a fair point to make, but it is the same dead-end road we took during the recording revolution.

Us true "Recording Engineers" were spending all our time raising the bar. Our superior equipment and experience were spent pursuing the perfect high-hat sound. But those stupid kids who had no rules at all were creating a whole new wave of music that transcended that high hat sound. I think the same is true with design. If we dub amateur work "Mediocre" and convert it's existence into incentive for true designers to raise the bar, we are missing it. We are going to be sidelined by the new wave of creatives that ignore our rules.  Besides, I only got into art because I was told in fourth grade that there was no right or wrong way to do it.


Yesterday my 6 year old made a hilarious and creative movie trailer on his iPod. It was far beyond mediocre. It was stunning. Yes, it was built by an app that simply told him when to shoot a wide video, then a tight shot on his main character, then type some text in this box and that box. Ta-da, movie trailer complete. More imagination was nurtured, more laughs were had, and more unabashed creativity was cultivated through that mediocre art.

I do not need to be reminded by his trailer to raise the bar on my work. What I need to be reminded of is that my clients will start calling 6 year olds with apps if they want something fresh and I am too busy raising my bar.