There is a certain magic with new designers – the ignorance of the rules, the endless motivation, the fearless approach to trying new things – it can make a seasoned designer jealous and yearn for the drive of early career enthusiasm. I like to think of these new designers as noble savages.
Civilization Vs the Wild
Back in the late 16oos, John Dryden coined the term “noble savage” in literature. The Noble Savage was a man who was uncivilized but possessed the goodness of humanity that was untainted by civilization. His lack of culture protected him from corruption and questionable influences.
The design community has noble savages among us that are often scorned, ridiculed, and sometimes driven away. These savages can bring a fresh perspective on old problems if we let them. If we are patient, we can cull their weaknesses and help them develop the child-like perspective that many of us have trouble attaining now that we are so “corrupted.” These savages often look to us for this guidance and we should gladly give it to them. If we do, two things happen.
1. When You Give, You Receive
Giving requires an opening of oneself in order to share personal knowledge on a subject. We cannot open ourselves one way. Our brains go into an intense mode of alertness on the subject that explains and examines at the same time. When we explain something, we are placing our understanding out for others to criticize and this makes us more perceptive to how people are receiving our advice. We are more inclined to hear and examine what feedback or reactions they have. I believe this heightened sense is a result of our egos.
When our brains are in this examination mode, the noble savage types can often give us the insight of seeing a problem like we’ve never done before or appraising ideas as more valuable than we first thought. Even if the only thing we have to receive is the raw enthusiasm of the receiver, this can still pass on to us and do wonderful things like jolt us out of a creative slump.
2. Teaching Teaches Us
When you teach something, you learn with the student. Teaching forces you to articulate the material and elaborate on the concepts for them to understand. Often you must meet the student at their level and this requires you to thoughtfully consider how to teach the subject rather than blindly repeat information someone else has prepared.
Merging Nobility with Savagery
Is it really us versus them? New versus old? Educated versus instinct? We are successful when we realize that not only are both sides required, but they are often required at the same time. We should be noble savages throughout our lives. Don’t we pride ourselves on learning the rules (noble) so we can break them (savage)? Aren’t we thrilled when we connected something completely new (savage) with something we’ve already learned (noble)? And when we find that sweet spot of using just the right amount of disciplined process (noble) only to complete it with the wild instinctive (savage) call on a design or idea, we know we’ve struck gold.
Yes, what I’m saying is this noble savage archetype is not limited to new designers. In order to stay on top of our game, seasoned designers recreate themselves often by exploring new techniques, new experiences, new information. They take in things they’ve never heard and learn about it with enthusiasm and fervor. This can come out of necessity because a project often requires a designer to learn new things for a well-performing design, but it can also be from the sheer joy of discovery and curiosity. When coupled with our experience, there are moments in these discoveries that give us that noble savage ability. When we find the savage, we find inspiration. When we merge it with nobility, we find the winning combination for unlimited success.