The truth is, your career is a permanent work-in-progress and it won't unfold as you had planned. The learning and growing never stops.
When a design studio called Duane King and asked him if he knew how to use Illustrator, he replied, “Yes.” Then he went home and downloaded the program. When we talked to him he said, “I reported for work the next day and did my best. But inevitably I had to spill the beans and admit that I was still learning the program. Still, I had proven my adaptability and willingness to learn. My journey from not knowing to knowing continues to this day.” That’s a refreshing statement coming from someone who was selected as one of the 50 Most Influential Designers in America by Fast Company in 2011.
As the creator of Thinking for a Living, and co-founder, with Ian Coyle, of a creative studio and consultancy based in Portland, Oregon, Duane’s influence reaches much further than the work he creates for clients like Nike, Neiman Marcus, and Herman Miller. He is a prolific writer, and a proponent of the written word. “Design is communication and writing is too,” he said. “Writing feels like design when it has intent and purpose. Although my tendency is towards visual communication, I am a storyteller by nature. Writing is just another way for me to exercise that skill.”
We first discovered the website, Thinking for a Living when we were hungry for platforms where designers published writing about the ‘whys’ of design. The site, a collaboration that Duane curates, delivers an archive of thought-provoking writing, an innovative blog format, and a bookshelf you can lose yourself in. Duane told us, “Thinking for a Living was created for those who believe that while design is a profession, it’s above all a passion. Great design is an art, not a commodity or a formula. It’s a structure and process that needs to be tested and re-examined as it evolves. The site attempts to aggregate varied influences because brilliance exists in the broad search and the clever linkage of one seemingly unrelated event to another.”
Like Thinking for a Living, we hope that Kern and Burn can become a platform for designers to share their perspectives on a world that is bigger than the design community alone. It’s a difficult task. Duane said, “I think that one of the biggest challenges is the attention span of our audience. As designers, we skim and scan. We skip from item to item with only a brief passing glance. Collecting, at times, seems more valued than comprehending.” We know that the internet, by nature, promotes constant, quick consumption of information. We hope Kern and Burn provides a place for people to pause and be inspired, if only for a minute or two.
Duane’s work is a combination of smart concepts and well-crafted execution. We asked him what advice he has for designer’s who pursue their craft in a time and culture that too often rewards speed and desires instant gratification. He said, “I’d advise people to take their time. Savoring is as much a skill as mass consumption. You don’t have to know it all. Instead, find something you have aptitude for and that you love, and then nurture it. Do everything you can to build a career around it. The truth is, your career is a permanent work-in-progress and it won’t unfold as you had planned. The learning and growing never stops. But fortunately, you are allowed to wander and make mistakes. Enjoy your freedom and make plenty of mistakes while you still can. Never be afraid to start over.”
We loved Duane’s answer when we asked about his work-life balance. “Really I have no separation between the two. Life is work and work is life. I do what I love and I love what I do. Time seems to disappear when I am engrossed in the playful pursuit of a good ideas. I truly do lose myself in my work.” For Duane King, thinking is living and living is thinking. We were glad he was able to share some of his thinking with us. Now, go lose yourself in Thinking for a Living’s archives and continue your journey from not knowing to knowing.