Eminence or exposure is this important “thing” that often gets overseen. Designers and non-designers often think they don’t have time or that they have nothing special to offer. Working on yourself or your personal brand can actually be a daunting task, a blocker for many. It is really easy to get lost in the process and end up not even knowing where and or how to start. This is unfortunate because we all have opinions, thoughts and experiences. This is something I hear way too often, unfortunately. When this happens, I turn and say:
Let’s go, don’t be shy — expose yourself! You have so many things to share to the world, you just need to start.
Eminence is all about creating perceived value at the highest levels. Oxford describes it as:
“fame or recognized superiority, especially within a particular sphere or profession.”
Basically, your value as a professional is determined by how much value you end up creating. The more value you create, the more your value goes up which in return has an impact on the number of opportunities, you get. By being active and by working on your external and internal eminence you will get more chances to achieve your career goals. Regardless of how much experience you have, you can still add value and the more you create value, the more you will become valuable.
In simple terms, eminence means the quality of standing out…. standing out as a designer, a leader, and someone who thinks, shares, provides value and does not just follow along.
Anyone can work on their eminence really. It doesn’t matter if you are in school, a junior designer just entering the field, or someone who’s been around for a long time, you can and should work towards it. I always say that everyone has an audience. Yes, it takes time but eminence is there for anyone who is willing to put in that extra time and effort. A key mistake is thinking that this is reserved for the leaders, the gifted and that it comes naturally for them. Yes, it takes time… it truly does but if you are willing to put in that effort you will reap the benefits.
How does one create value or, how does one create additional value in a field where there are so many others competing for attention? Well, to really appreciate eminence you must consider how it is that you create value. Each and everyone one of us is different and we all have different personal capabilities.
What to do = add value
Who = it's for you. It’s for everyone
Why = more opportunities + more possibilities
A lot of designers just don’t know how or where to start… or ever what to actually contribute. It is pretty easy to get overwhelmed and actually end up doing nothing.
For many different reasons, people are afraid to share their thoughts, provide feedback or challenge the status quo. Writing a blog post on a topic because it may have been written twenty times over will cause many to remain silent and that is unfortunate. Everyone has an opinion and should be encouraged to share it. Everyone will approach it from a different angle, a different point of view and that is exactly the beauty in all of this. Even if you want to create a new blog post on White space in design and you know many have gone there before you, you should still go ahead and write it. You will have your own perspective on things and you will get your own audience. Heck, you may end up with the best-written article ever, who knows!
The same thinking applies at work. Many are afraid to contribute because they get caught up with their job titles or with seniority. It’s not because you are new or that you collaborate and work with more senior stakeholders that you can’t bring value. Always remember that they may actually end up learning a thing or two from you.
Another way to look at creating value could be to approach it from the Craft and utility or Thinking, process and intuition angle. Good designers should be thinkers and craftsmen/craftswomen. Verse wrote a good blog post around this subject. They go deeper in explaining the differences between a junior designer and an exceptional designer. Your skillset and what you will bring to the table are things that will make huge differences in your designer journey.
Ok, know that you are ready to dive in and start creating value, you may not know where to actually start. There is always value in being thoughtful and intentional about what you share and how you will want to contribute to the field. You obviously want to put your best foot forward and think of your objectives and the value this will bring to others.
These questions are a great way to start thinking of how and what you may contribute to. It really does not have to be complex, you just need to start.
This is actually a really reasonable question and one that I personally asked myself when I started all this. As I’ve stated already, eminence is for everyone who wants to work for it and I insist this is true. For me, all of it started when I was working for a startup called You.i TV. We were designing television apps and documentation or research on this subject just did not really exist. I would spend hours searching the Web for references, best practices on typography, colours and layouts yet, I would find nothing. That’s when I decided that if none of this exists, why not write about it… which I did.
The Re-Thinking User Interface Design for the TV Platform blog post was made to be simple, informative and help anyone out that was in the same boat I was, trying to understand scan lines, type sizes and how to design for TV. I was not doing this for fame but to help fellow designers out.
Through my design journey, I suppose I have achieved external eminence. That is what fellow designers and colleagues actually say to me. My intentions have always been to bring value and help others out along the way — never to be famous (which I am not). But I must say, that my ability through time to add perceived value has really made me feel good. It has given me a lot of possibilities and an enormously satisfying career and life. I have always tried to apply this same rigour to my internal eminence. Always looking for new opportunities to help and go beyond my day-to-day role. This is a great way to learn, to get challenged, to meet new folks and — to get exposure.
Everyone is special and everyone has something to offer. Look around you. Look at fellow designers or colleagues you know and respect and who you may feel have achieved eminence. Do they have anything special? In fact, they are probably quiet, reserved and extremely ordinary folks. They, however, have probably worked hard and have put in that extra time… all of this doesn’t happen by itself, you need to go out and get it.
You need to take a step back and look at your abilities to create value. Look at your personal capabilities and how you can or could achieve market awareness. Those capabilities that you will sell are in fact, your product. Think of yourself as a brand or a product. The more you increase your capabilities, the more you will increase your market value.
All of this sounds cool, right? But without awareness, this has zero value. It’s just like a product. A company can create the best product ever, but if no one is aware of it and the value that it may bring to them, how will they know it even exist? All this eminence is the same thing. You have some awesome capabilities that should be exposed and you need to let others know that they exist.
You need to think of yourself as a brand. You need to know what makes you special and unique. Who are you? What are your unique capabilities and not someone else’s? How can you create value in the industry?
This comes down to basic marketing. In order to sell products, you need to create awareness. You need to let people know you even exist and how you will be able to add value to their lives. Don’t worry, you don’t need to be the most extroverted individual in the room to achieve this. You just need to communicate. Think of who is your intended audience. Who are you creating this blog post for? What is it that you want them to learn? This will help you frame your approach and help you better understand to whom this is intended for, what you can do for them and how you can create value.
We are always only a perception of what people think of us. Our reputation super-seeds us. From articles, we may have written, through past projects and collaborations, colleagues, the market, and anyone else in the fact that we may have interacted with will remember us by what we’ve done. What impression did we leave behind? What is the one thing they remember of us?
We are our reputation. We are our brand.
Through increasing our awareness out to others, we must also think hard about what it is that we are making people aware of. Not us, but the image of us. Our brand. Just like a product brand, you need to manage your own brand. The perception of what you leave behind is what will make them come back to you. It is the reason you become a trusted source. A go-to person. People will follow you, they will ask questions and — they will trust you. 99designs tells us that this is just like a business, it’s all about branding and building a name for yourself.
The value we create as individuals is determined by the value we create. All this is not just related to external eminence but can be applied internally at work too. Even if others have written blogs post on certain subjects, it doesn’t mean that yours won’t add way more value. There is an audience out there for everyone.
Probably the most valuable form of marketing — the one that consumers trust above all others. Let’s look at the facts. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. You need to be careful and ensure that every interaction you have with others will reflect positively on you. This is a great way to influence your brand but is also probably the one you have far less control over.
This is not a one-stop-shop. It’s not training you do and get the eminence badge. This is an ongoing thing. Once you have achieved eminence you must keep going if you want to keep it alive. You must continue to grow, adapt and look for opportunities to learn and contribute. It is always good to reevaluate where you are once in a while and course-correct if needed. You need to take care of yourself — your brand. You need to manage awareness and keep ensuring you get the right exposure for yourself.
Keep reading books or blog posts on anything design and share what you have learned. Respond to LinkedIn threads on design and add your two cents. Keep in touch with past colleagues or past customers and actively seek out opportunities.
When you want to stand out at work use your job description as a starting point, not an endpoint. Take initiatives, build rapport everywhere, be a team player and speak up. Put yourself out there and learn as you go.
You have something to offer. You have value to add to others. Whether that means solving a problem or providing unparalleled customer service, a stakeholder that sees value will share this with others. There is no secret sauce here and no one size fits all. Value is what you will bring to the table.
You, your brand, have something to offer. Everyone has an audience, you just need to put yourself out there and find yours. Trust me, you won’t regret it! You are a valued asset.
Good luck and have fun!