He is a legend among New York City cheese connoisseurs. In most of the United States, it is illegal to sell raw (unpasteurized) dairy products. The reasons are complex, but many non-Americans raised on fresh milk and cheeses are often surprised when they come stateside and can’t buy anything that came from a single cow.
However, there are pockets of independent retail stores in New York that have been staging their own cheesy uprisings for years. These renegade shops continue to sell raw cheeses – a favorite among gourmets for their superior taste and texture.
However, you can’t walk into one of these stores and grab a raw round of cheese off the shelf. You have to ask for it specifically. Most people wouldn’t think to ask, so they never know that an illicit taste is all hidden in plain sight.
This, my friends, is an example of design mythology in action. An exciting story that stimulates your natural curiosity and makes you wonder if you yourself could tackle something so unusual.
The best part is that it’s not just something for cheesemongers – designers can master this skill too, using their own personal stories to create a compelling story that engages clients as well as the spectators.
Maybe not as cool as illegal cheese, though. I mean, come on. That’s pretty epic.
British street artist Banksy is known almost as much for his anonymity as for his work.
This is deliberate – it creates a powerful persona that people recognize (or, in the case of Banksy, don’t) immediately. They will hear your name and immediately remember how quirky you are, or how much risk you take, or how excited you are when you talk about your work.
Whatever your unique personality and communication style is, you can use it to transform your persona from dynamic to black. Even if you think you’re not that exciting, you can still use your own to get people’s attention.
Even being “boring” can be interesting as a person. American comedian Jerry Seinfeld is famous for being an everyday Joe. That’s how he built his comedy empire and became a legend on television screens across the country.
So, don’t be afraid to be exactly who you are, and don’t forget to appeal to your niche market.
What others may find weird or strange or confusing, your audience will love.
Design As Performance Art
You can certainly benefit from the same process for your design work as well and create a compelling experience in the production of your work for your clients and users.
Many artists and designers use videos to show their creative process to fans of their work. People love to watch a creative person at work; if you’ve ever tried sketching in a public place like the zoo or the subway, you know. Many strangers won’t be able to tilt their heads around trying to get a good look at your sketchbook.
When you show off your own unique production style, clients and users will take notice, and your work will take on a life of its own in the stories people tell each other about it.
You want those stories – that mythology – to take root in every aspect of your production and marketing. This is the most important part of your reputation as a designer.
Telling the Story
Storytelling is the most important component of creating a mythology around yourself as a designer. After all, how else to get your mythology out there except in the form of stories? But storytelling is a double-edged sword.
Of course, you have to be good at telling your own story. But it’s also important to consider the stories others are telling about your work.
What people say about your designs and how they say it is critical to getting the best clients. You can certainly influence people’s perceptions of your work based on the mythology associated with it.
People are more likely to respond positively to a design with a good mythology around it than a design with little mythology.
Sources of Inspiration
If you want to stand out from the crowd, don’t take inspiration from the same things as everyone else in your industry. Find something else to adopt, perhaps from another industry or discipline, and co-opt it for your own work.
Remember that it’s okay to steal ideas, as long as you steal a lot of different ones.
If every designer is obsessed with one particular trend or style, and you’re not into it, that’s okay. Read books, look at new and different designs, and discover even more things that will help you develop a unique visual style.
It takes more work, but if you’re willing to dig deeper, you’ll stand above the copycats who are too lazy or too afraid to go out on their own.
It takes time to develop a mythology around your designs. Don’t expect it to happen overnight – people need time to get to know you as a designer and adapt to your unique offerings.
It will go a long way in attracting quality clients who will be raving about your work, as it will give your business credibility that you can’t get any other way.
Remember, people are willing to tolerate almost any eccentricity as long as others can verify that you can be counted on to deliver the results they want.