The Human Side of Designing, and How to Stay Classy.

Big Horn Henley Pullover – Knit this in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes

As enjoyable as designing is, especially to natural creatives, there is a down side. Maybe I should say down sides because not all the downers can be grouped together, and not all designers experience them. But with all tasks and careers, it isn’t always rosy.

Before I dive into the tea, there are many positives to designing. I have a lot to say about that too! However, that will not be the focus. That topic will be saved for another post. This post is going to discuss the “human side” of designing, which branches off of the phrase, ‘we’re only human.’ That means it’s going to include the not-so-great emotions that may come with it, but there are classy ways to approach the misfortunes.

First of all, designing is stressful! Is it enjoyable? YES! But it is also comes with a lot of pressure; especially with deadlines, pattern tests not always going as planned, and there is somewhat of a race to bring a design to fruition before a like-minded one makes it way to the scene. I will touch on this later.

Another honest truth…we don’t all get along. Boom. I said it. Now since this post is focusing on the not-so-great side to designing, I’m not neglecting the fact that many of us truly do get along, love and respect one another! Like with all communities and groups, there are cliques, disagreements and competition. Most of it is behind the scenes, of course, though sometimes it is brought to the surface when emotions are high. I’m not meaning to paint this dramatically, though sometimes there IS drama. These things are human nature and happen in all large groups – at least in some form.

What are the reasons for not getting along? The same as anywhere and everywhere! Political beliefs, personality clashes, competition and being protective of our work, general misunderstandings, stepping on each others’ toes (accidentally or purposefully), and sometimes…being too much alike. Again, this isn’t the majority of the design world, but sometimes someone gets a little upset.

So let’s get specific. One of the most common problems with designing is originality and uniqueness. I promise my tone is encouraging and understanding, as I am not cutting anyone down. Really, there is only so much that can be done with the set amount of stitches in knitting and crocheting. Then, throw in current trends in fashion, especially Pinterest inspired, and it’s a stampede to who can get their idea published first. I don’t think that other designers are ripping off other designers (with the exception of a few). Most of the time, similar designs are purely coincidental! That is often why similar designs come out near the same time.

Now…having an idea from trendy fashion is still taking inspiration from someone else’s design. Taking inspiration from another’s knit pattern and “designing” a similar style isn’t exactly independent creativity. In other words, that is what I would consider “copying.” I feel this is different than the coincidence of closely-related designs. And regardless of which incident may arise, major feelings are brought to the surface – on both ends.

With a lack for better words, publicly bashing another designer is in poor taste. It paints an ugly picture and isn’t professional. While it may arise interest in others to jump on the bandwagon in agreement and support, it also draws a line in a sand and brings negative attention to the outcry. I’m not saying that either side of feelings aren’t valid. They definitely are! It’s surely devastating and concerning.

What’s a classy way to voice emotion and clear the air? The first step is obviously reaching out to the other designer privately. Just like a business email, keep it professional and break the ice. Voice your concerns and have a discussion, if the other person is willing. If things don’t get worked out in the conversation, take on the next step.

I am in full support of one standing up for him/her/themselves in the form of focusing on the classic “I feel/think” statements. It doesn’t throw anyone under the bus, necessarily, but it allows the designer to share his/her/their voice and speak a side that needs heard. Maybe it is as simple as a designer sharing where the inspiration developed for the design. Or it could be asking the audience to view timestamps of the designs and come to a conclusion based on that. Maybe pointedly saying, “I am aware of accusations that a design of mine may not be an original, but I assure you it is. I got my inspiration from ____ and began planning it on ____. I have photo evidence on my grid of such design which proves when my design was underway…” or “I am aware that there are similar designs, and I don’t feel as if I need to state which designs are being compared. If you’re aware of the similar designs, I ask you to look at all the differences in the designs. Ease, weight, construction… Please know that I was not aware of another design existing…” or “Sometimes similar designs are designed. It’s part of the designing world. My efforts in designing still came from scratch and sometimes this happens. Great taste to _______, we think alike. However, if you’re looking for this in a pattern, mine has ____, ____, _____.”

If in private and with trusted friends, it is okay to reach out and discuss your concerns, in my opinion. Sometimes we have to vent! But please, do so with caution and only with loyal people. Refrain from mob calling-out, but find a supportive group that will uplift and encourage you. Even with hurt and bitterness, there are always two sides.

Whether being the accuser or being accused, there are griefs. Understandably so! It’s a definite down-side to designing which may truly happen accidentally! As a designer, finding that another has come out with a design that has major similarities – it stings…in fact, it causes PANIC and dread! I literally feel the blood drain from my face thinking about it. It feels like a threat, impending all of the hard work put into that design…and we may feel like, “and for what was all that work done?!

Then, on the other side, having an idea for a great design and finding out one comparable already exists, or is in the works, is still soul crushing! It feels like something was taken away. And excuse my my language, but it’s a true “oh shit!” moment that is full of anxiety and doubt. Any planning and brainstorming begins all over…as it should. It’s part of the job, but it’s starting from the bottom-up again. It is exhausting and draining, in other words, a let down.

Let flow into deadlines. Some of us design for ourselves or a self-made business. We sell our patterns for income. Maybe our deadlines are for our audience and are self-declared…therefore having a bit more flexibility. Some of us design for companies. Deadlines are much more set-in-stone, and there is a lot to accomplish between the proposal, designing, writing the pattern, testing and editing, creating the final product and photographing the design. Regardless, a deadline is a deadline. They can be trying, especially when dependent on testing and editing.

If a deadline can’t be met, what are some elegant ways to break the news? First and foremost, as soon as it’s known that a deadline will be missed – let people know. What people? Well…if it’s a company waiting on a design, discuss this with the person in charge of your communication ASAP! Politely ask for an extension with a decent explanation. Offer helpful information, like, when to expect the finished product. Lastly, give an update on project status. Show proof of progression, even if slightly missing deadline. If it’s a fan-base waiting on a release, let them know in your typical form of communication. Similar of letting a company know when to expect the deadline, tell your audience the new expected release date. Lastly, own it and apologize. Companies and/or followers may have been greatly anticipating the release, and those that have invested money, yarn, supplies and time are worth the apology and explanation. It’s just simple manners and etiquette, but it goes a long way.

Then there are pattern tests and failures. Sometimes testing windows (due to deadlines) are too short and cannot be altered. Sometimes testers flake or ghost, taking the spot of another worthy tester. Sometimes testers fail to meet all requirements, which poorly influences the test and affects the designer. Sometimes testing is just super stressful. That’s all. While on topic, here is a guide for what I personally look for in testers.

How does a designer address their frustrations to testers that let them down? First of all, calm down. Do not react when you’re feeling angry and vulnerable. It may bring out a less understanding side, and the tester(s) may be defensive in harsh confrontation. My suggestion is to nudge the testers when you may be feeling doubt on their progress (or feel as if they ghosted). Ask how they’re doing and send a deadline reminder along with the original requirements of the test. See if there is anything that you may help with, as they may feel unsure how to bring up their concerns. Be approachable and listen. If you feel worked up during the conversation, thank the tester for their honesty and take the night to think on it. Let negative emotions relax. Readdress the tester with your concerns when you feel more level-headed, as you’re allowed to feel let down. Calmly express your disappointment, as it is definitely justified. Politely ask if the tester would mind paying for the pattern, but move on after said discussion. Like with designer talk, do not publicly slam the tester. If a designer comes you you with concerns or questions about the tester, professionally and objectively share your experience. Otherwise, make note to not hire the tester again.

Some more straightforward talk…not everyone will like a designer’s designs. That’s totally okay, but it is still agonizing when there are deliberate negative comments and reviews. It is possible that even a famous designer will have duds, or that a designer has a specific audience. I am more than familiar with “haters” of my non-conventional designs. While I design for me and my personal style (and some out there enjoy it too), there is a handful of knitters that are especially vocal in their distaste. I really feel like it’s an “I can outdo you in bitter comments” contest under some of my shared designs (in certain groups and circles…ahem). Just saying.

Yup…it’s a bummer. In my own opinion, it’s not necessary. Yet in today’s society, negative feedback and trolls come with putting yourself out there in any form. Am I right? I still recommend staying above it. Thank the commenters for their feedback and point of view, and again, move on. Or…make humor if it. Maybe that’s not the classiest suggestion, but there is nothing like comedy to heal hurt feelings. Channel the pain into a comical reel or TikTok. But particularly, if there is anything constructive in the comments, try to learn from it.

Designing has a lot of wonderful things, and I believe it is worth it despite the above negatives. I will definitely do a post on the wonderful side of designing on another date. Creatives are HUMAN, and I meant to emphasize that because we are passionate, protective and sensitive beings. So of course there are going to be fickle times when designing. But regardless, we can still be classy.

Lovely by Lee is my full-time job and income. Small businesses are hard work, a lot of which is often done unpaid. So some of my links may include affiliate links. If you click the link and complete a purchase, I may receive a small commission at no cost to you!

When I design, I use all of my favorite yarn brands. My most used yarns are Wool Ease and Coboo from Lion Brand Yarn, Stroll and Wool of the Andes from Knit Picks and The Cotton from We Are Knitters. I highly recommend them!

Published by LovelybyLee

Amanda Lee is the Knitting Pixie (designer, dyer, knitter and owner) behind Lovely by Lee.

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