Should You Be Good at Everything Or Great at One Thing?
Creativity is a beneficial trait to bring to any job but also a fairly nebulous one. Creative workers have the ongoing challenge of having to quantify their value, whereas people in fields such as accounting or finance do not. One question that often comes up in creative circles is whether it’s better to be really great in one area or to be a jack-of-all-trades with skills in every discipline.
In the current design environment there is a demand for both. Professionals possessing skills and knowledge in a variety of creative fields, who can tackle or provide some insight into a number of different tasks are just as sought after as pros who are extremely adept at just one. Here are some of the pros and cons of both being a jack-of-all-trades or being a specialist in your field.
The old adage “Being a jack-of-all-trades means being a master of none” is an outdated way of thinking. These days, it’s possible for Jacks (and Janes) to become masters of many trades. It’s not fair to confuse master with being the number one expert in the field. In fields like art direction, photography and web design, it’s sometimes necessary to master multiple trades in order to devise the right design solution for a project. One can be well-versed and accomplished in an assortment of areas and therefore be much more attractive as a potential hire.
At the same time, having an extremely well-versed and studied history in one specific field is very appealing to certain clients. Sometimes people worry that having too broad of a scope only muddles the vision of a project rather than being able to see it both at ground level as well as the big picture.
The principles of lean design, which are revolutionizing project management in the design world, stipulate that everyone in the company should know what’s going on in every department. This helps to facilitate success and stimulate innovation, which means that generalists sometimes have an advantage over those who are only able to communicate about one certain subject or discipline. Being able to see the big picture is becoming more and more important these days, at all levels of employment.
On the flipside, others argue that having too many moving parts or having too many people contribute to the conversation only clouds the process. Sometimes having specialists who work independently and can contribute something that no one else at the company can is the most efficient way to get work done and not have to deal with conflicting opinions or potentially bottlenecking processes by encouraging everyone to try to shout over each other.
With more expertise comes confidence. Having confidence in your abilities motivates you to “play the field” and avail yourself to new opportunities and pursue exciting new ventures. Sometimes having more in-depth knowledge of a specific field or trade enables you to communicate your ideas more clearly and relate better to colleagues.
At the same time, being a jack-of-all-trades helps you to appreciate a broad range of thinking and accomplishments, which can be handy for managerial roles. Some companies or work situations call for more collaboration and your confidence may be bolstered by being somewhat of a dilettante in every aspect of the design process. So though you may not be an expert in a number of different languages or programs, you are still able to thoughtfully contribute to a conversation when needed.
What’s Your Idea of Fun?
At the end of the day, it boils down to a personal choice and what you actually like doing the most. Having a broad skill set means that employees and entrepreneurs might get to interact with colleagues, collaborate and offer opinions more. If, as a designer, you aren’t limited to strictly one program or way of thinking, you may find plenty of different opportunities to pursue.
Specialists, on the other hand, can often be restricted by their disciplines in terms of taking advantage of different opportunities or having more flexibility on a certain job. However, if your idea of fun is getting to be the best at a certain task and learning the ins and outs of it then you can leave the other tasks to everyone else and keep filling your knowledge base with the newest info and trends in your field.
How About You?
It’s clear that there is a lot to be gained from both having more general knowledge about all things design-related as well as becoming an expert in a specific skill that needs to be mastered and perfected over time. Everyone has to make their own choices when it comes to their individual career, but consider the career choices you want to make as a professional designer and which one will allow you to add more value to your environment.
Leave a comment below and let us know whether you’re a dedicated specialist or someone who likes to dabble in a bit of everything. We’d love to hear your thoughts.
Header image created using 25 Header/Hero images.