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The term Design Leader gets thrown around a lot these days. It's bordering on meaninglessness because of overuse but most of us in the industry know how to spot a true design leader and someone who is just claiming to be one.
Questines for QBN:
1. What makes someone a "Design Leader" in your eyes?
2. Do you actively seek out design leaders in your community?
3. Are you actively working towards becoming a design leader? If so, what specific things are you doing?
Reflect, then answer. I know there's a lot of jaded ol' cynics here, but that means most of us have decades of experience. I want to hear what you think.
1. Someone with healthy doses of humanity, humility and honesty.
Imo, Tibor Kalman was a 'design leader'.
2 & 3. No.
Not so much as leaders, but more people to look up too.
I would say the AGI members are a start: https://a-g-i.org/members
Replying to your direct questions:
1. A good solid designer and respectful person, skilled both in craft and soft skills, good writer, good activist too.
2. In our design community here in Romania, we are pretty much equals, the "old" more experienced designers we know each other, and we try to push the younger generations to learn and be better faster, as design hasn't had that much history in a former communist country, so I would say we still look up to the great Western designers for leadership in a sense.
3. Personally no, not actively looking to be a leader, but I try to directly help the young guns with advice, finding jobs, recommendations, etc. anything I can do to make their designer lives easier.
Overall, I would add that leadership is not a thing to actively look for, you kinda become one when others see you like that.
Then again, the creative fields are so dynamic, it's getting harder to keep up and we need to always learn and re-learn anything and everything, so in this matter, we are all students and forever be.
p.s. If you write in your profile/bio that you're a "Design Leader" you pretty much aren't.
....anyone else want to weigh in?
The problem with leadership as view in the common sense in North America, is the ideal of the Steve Jobs, Art Director protagonist, but our craft has to be team oriented.
But if for leader you refer to the problem solving philosophy for a greater meaning, I recomend this book :
Distinguished cyberneticist Stafford Beer states the case for a new science of systems theory and cybernetics. His essays examine such issues as "The Real Threat to All We Hold Most Dear," "The Discarded Tools of Modern Man," "A Liberty Machine in Prototype," "Science in the Service of Man," "The Future That Can Be Demanded Now," "The Free Man in a Cybernetic World." Designing Freedom ponders the possibilities of liberty in a cybernetic world.
Most are not designers becoming design leaders. Most are managers saying they are now design leaders.
Well in game development on bigger projects you often have someone with the role “lead artist” which you could also call lead designer, but that would confuse some since a game designer rarely works with the visual elements.
The role of this person (lead artist) is to have a clear idea and a realistic scope of the entire production regarding the different visual elements in a game by making sure to find solutions and ways to make the art directors vision come through in the final product. This person also works as a support where help is needed throughout the production of developing the game to make sure the process is going along fine and easing out the bottlenecks that will occur doing the production.
This role is necessary since you have so many different roles for example environment artist, character artist, probs artist, texture artist etc. to name some.
A person in this position also has to have experience in various fields of game development including 3D modeling, animation, rigging, materials, lighting, shaders etc. but also a understanding and insight in the roles of the game designers and programmers working with the mechanics of a game.
For me, a Design Leader is someone you are inspired by or look up to in terms of creative courage (think of Sagmeister or James Victore – designers that are willing to take risks and have the ability to actually make something great out of it).
In the local design community here in Germany, people who title themselves Design Leaders often are just classical alpha male Art Directors. I am looking more for people that are able to push ideas back and forth across different parts of a design process. This would be the "interdisciplinaries", for example designers that also have an understanding of how software development works so they can work with devs on a level playing field.
I am not trying to become a Design Leader – I think the whole idea of Design Leadership as it is perceived in the industry is a bit outdated – but I always try to get better at Design Transfer (I need to come up with a more catchy phrase for this), by learning to code, studying sociology, generally staying open minded for arts, culture and politics.
State of QBN 2020!