Jeong Kwan: Why Blog At All?

There's a lot that Stephan Sagmeister can tell you about good design. There's a lot David Carson or Paula Scher can tell you about their experiences and what they've learned and how that has shaped them as a designer and artist. There's an extremely long list of people I could add here that could all give the world a really inspiring lesson in design.

The Dilemma

I don't know how long you must be working at something until you get that privilege to talk about it. Last year when I was designing my website for my hopefully, illustrious career as a graphic designer I overlooked the blog option simply because I assumed that:

  1. I wouldn't have time to write anything! I'd be too busy working on freelance projects all day.

  2. I don't even care for writing! If I liked writing so much I should have majored in journalism!

  3. What do I even know about being a designer?

I'm sure a lot of peers would agree. When you’ve just graduated, you assume there's a staircase in front of you that you have to climb, and each step is a different, oddly specific goal you have to reach in order to progress. When you reach step 24, you can now consider yourself a real designer; step 45 and you can be considered an art director. By step 100, you better have your own design firm and a book on the way to precisely explain why you are a visionary of design.

It was this step process that made me feel like I was lying every time someone asked what I did and I would meekly reply, "I'm a graphic designer". I may love the field and want to jump into every project I get handed but I wasn't anywhere near where even an intermediate designer was on the staircase.

Jeong Kwan

As you can imagine from a recent grad, I was looking for full time work for a very long time and peppered between job hunting, existential dread and weekly at-home yoga sessions to keep me somewhat sane, I watched a lot of Netflix. Stay with me, there is a point.

For the record, I am not being paid by Netflix to talk about this show, but I must endorse at least one of these episodes. I watched the entirety of Netflix's documentary series Chef's Table, each episode dedicated to brilliant chefs around the world that are the rebels and innovators of their field. There is one episode, however, that does not revolve around a chef.

Jeong Kwan is a Zen Buddhist monk and she cooks for the temple and for anyone that visits the temple. She has no restaurant. No French schooling. No sous chef. She just cooks and cooks really, really well.  She was also one of the most peaceful and serene looking people out of them all. She spoke softly and humbly and just was so happy to live.

Jeong also was also dishing out the best advice and wisdom for anyone that does anything remotely creative.

Creativity and ego cannot go together. If you free yourself from the comparing and jealous mind, your creativity opens up endlessly. Just as water springs from a fountain, creativity springs from every moment. You must not be your own obstacle. You must not be owned by the environment you are in. You must own the environment, the phenomenal world around you. You must be able to freely move in and out of your mind. This is being free. There is no way you can’t open up your creativity. There is no ego to speak of. That is my belief.
— Jeong Kwan

Hearing her say all this was completely jarring to me. She hadn't climbed the chef staircase but she still talked about cooking. She had no restaurant experience but she was still completely valid and showcased among some of the most talented chefs in the world.

What Does This Mean Now?

It still took three months for me to really decide if I should take the teeny half-step of devoting time to a blog and talking about myself and my work, but I kept thinking in the back of my head that if I did take that step, I wanted the first post to revolve around that quote.

Moving forward, I want to make a new post every month, perhaps every week if I'm up for the challenge. I may not know everything but that's actually the important part, I think; I'm learning and shaping my work into how I want it to be and that's far more interesting to read about than someone who's already on that last step, isn't it?

And, in case you were wondering, I now have steady freelance gigs and more on the way so there's going to be less Netflix and more good design in my future.