Jack of all trades….master of one?
We’ve all heard the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Normally that sort of thing is said when you encounter someone who likes to try their hand at everything, yet somehow manages to be no good at any of them. Well what do you think to the title of this article? The astute amongst you all will have noticed that just the ‘n’ has been dropped from ‘none.’ But, in doing that the insinuations behind the phrase are completely different.
What I’m asking here is this: Is it really possible to be a consummate professional in one industry or skill set, yet be adaptable enough to be able to learn a new industry/batch of skills – without losing focus on your core areas of interest and experience? Many will be reading this screaming at their screens “of course you bloody cant!” Well to those of you straining your lungs, STOP! I agree with you…. Well, in part anyway.
Any ‘professional’ or expert in their industry will tell you (if they are honest enough with you), that you will never be best at what you do as there is always something new to learn, see or do. The road to perfection is quite honestly out of anyone’s reach. Those that believe they have achieved perfection have just given up trying and are now satisfied with their lot in life.
Here’s an example using my own experiences.
I have been in the design industry (in one form or another) for the past 2 decades (20 years). I have trained up and become fully experienced with all versions of Illustrator and Photoshop, and gladly offer help and advice to upcoming designers to aid them with their workflows. The advice that has been given has helped many of those start-up in freelancing or move on to great positions do what they love most – Design. I don’t, however, in anyway shape of form consider myself to be an expert though – I just know a helluva lot about those programs and have the ability and creativity to produce what our clients are looking for, without too much of a worry. I’m always researching – new techniques, styles, programs, shortcuts, industry forthcoming news… the list just keeps going. An expert No, Knowledgeable Yes.
So how does this relate.
Well, as spin off from my 20 years of Graphic design a few years ago I decided to play with animation. After Effects for those who don’t know, is another program from Adobe that is predominately used in the post editing process of film making. It can also be used for animation work – it’s a very powerful and complex bit of kit. In my excitement and eagerness to learn something new I threw myself at it, using every second of downtime I had to learn more and more about it, eventuality producing some not too shabby bits of work (even if I do say so myself!). But it came at a price…. I quickly realised that there was only so much room in my brain – I hadn’t forgotten anything, but found myself confusing UI’s and my workflows… damn it! So I decided to just stay with what I know, just with the added benefit of at least being able to talk about After Effects with some certainty.
Are Web Designers also Graphic Designers?
I’m not daft enough to think that they have all suddenly gained a vested interest in graphic design, and that for most they will be outsourcing the work to freelancers or have employed graphic artists into the business. But the group that does cause me slight concern are the ones who state that they can single-handedly offer the complete solution BY THEMSELVES?
I personally hold Web Designers in high esteem as the technical knowledge that most of them possess is huge, and like us graphic designers they too are consistent learning and adapting to an ever changing marketplace. But, if that’s so true why are they taking their eye off the ball and trying to diversify? I’d not even contemplate trying my hand a web design – no doubt, that given some time, I could put something together that looked beautiful… functionality and optimisation would be virtually non-existent.
What I’m trying to say is that whilst I applaud anyone and everyone who is trying to better themselves and their business in every way. There has to be a cut-off where you tell yourself enough is enough. For many of them the impression I get is that they do to break from their normal routine, or they have been asked by a client and would rather keep it to themselves as opposed to farming out the work to someone with the experience they need.
Yes there is an awful lot of cross over work between graphic artists and web designers, but that’s just it one passes over to the other, they don’t try to do each others job.
People have the ability to multi-task and learn new skills, we all do that everyday (a lot of the time without even realising you’re doing it). I guess what I’m really saying is this: Yes it’s great to know more about other trades/industries/skills, even go as far as test them out a little, get to know bits of software/products etc… But let the ‘experts’ in their industries help you, don’t do their job for them. If you let them help you will get a much better professional end result and still be able to focus or your core area of expertise – meaning your own work won’t suffer as a result.
Well, am I right to spouting off about this? Is it something that you have experienced? Do you think I’m dead wrong and need to be told so?
Feel free to post your comments, it would be great to hear what your thoughts are.
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