Knowing Your Limits: In Praise of Great Designers (and a Great Project)

by Ken Mueller on February 27, 2012 · 3 comments

Kern and Burn I’m a complete and utter design moron. Truth.

I can look at something — a logo, some branding, a layout — and I can tell you whether I like it or not. I might even be able to tell you why I like it, but I could never start from scratch and design something that looks even remotely good. As a result, I have a great appreciation for those who are good graphic designers. I love seeing how they can take a vision or idea, and turn it into something which pleases the eye. Plain and simple, it’s art.

I’m fortunate to live and work in a community that includes so many great designers. And I know my limits. And while I can put together a very functional and decent looking WordPress site, I’m not a web designer either. And while I can build it, it may not look very nice.

Again, I know my limits. I don’t want to try to be all things to all people. I’m a marketer; a communicator. I know the tools of the online and social world well, and I know how to effectively use them to generate business. That’s what I do, in a nutshell. I know how to help you change the culture of you business (both on and offline) to make you more effective. But when my clients need some design work, or a website, or photography, I have a great community of friends who can meet their needs. I don’t want to be a Jack-0f-all-Trades-Master-of-None type. I strive for excellence in my own area, and will point my clients to others who are excellent in their own chosen areas.

Which takes me back to the world of graphic design and the many talented people in my community. One of those is Tim Hoover. I first met Tim when he was working with a local group called The Infantree (some incredibly talented guys). Tim left the business to head back to school and has done some very cool things.  While we haven’t been in touch very much lately, I recently stumbled upon his Kickstarter campaign for a book that he is putting together about the topic of design.

You see, Tim knows design. He’s good at it. I love his work and respect his abilities. That’s why I know this book of his will be a success. Tim’s new project, in collaboration with Jessica Heltzel, is called Kern and Burn, an online publication that celebrates and curates the work of design entrepreneurs. A key component of the site is a very cool blog project called 100 Days of Design Entrepreneurship.

Which brings me to the real reason for this post. Tim and Jessica’s Kickstarter campaign for Kern and Burn: The Book, a project, which they describe as

a book that captures the energy and excitement of design entrepreneurs. A book that inspires the design community to Kern and Burn—to perfect our craft and to work obsessively hard. It is a book that focuses on designers’ lives, decisions, and aspirations rather than their techniques and color palettes. A book that challenges our peers to believe in themselves, and think about their lives as a design problem.

Here’s the deal. With just 18 days to go, this Kickstarter campaign has already been fully funded. But Tim tells me they would still like to reach the $10,000 level to really get this project off the ground. So if you have an appreciation for great design, and particularly love the work of design entrepreneurs, I’m urging you to at least check out the Kickstarter campaign for Kern and Burn: The Book and consider backing it financially. And even if you can’t give, please spread the word by sharing this blog post as well as their Kickstarter page.

I’ve featured a few Kickstarter projects on the blog here in the past, including musicians like Adam Taylor and Joy Ike, who both used the funding to record great albums.  Recently, my friend Andi Cumbo completed a campaign so that she could write a book about the slaves who were enslaved on the plantation where she was raised. And then there was a cool campaign from the folks at walk in love on Indiegogo to open a store in our local mall that sells clothing that gives back to non-profits.

So not only do I love the great design work and other work done by entrepreneurs in my local (and online) community, but I love supporting the work of these entrepreneurs, whether they are writers, musicians, artists, designers, or whatever! And I love how this can be done through platforms like Kickstarter. The online and social realms are allowing many of us to make our dreams come true. This is a wonderful thing. While this isn’t my motive, I do know that when I support my friends in their entrepreneurial efforts, they very likely will support me. And even if they didn’t, I would continue to support them. It’s just the right thing to do. This is how small businesses, projects, and non-profits get started and become successful. What’s not to like about that?!

Please support this worthy project, and spread the word, and you can even follow Kern and Burn on Twitter, as well as on Facebook.

Do you know your limits, or are you trying to be everything to everyone? How are you supporting entrepreneurs in your area, both on- and off-line? Tell us about any campaign you’ve ever run on Kickstarter or similar site, or perhaps a campaign you’ve supported.




I personally know my limits and like you Ken, I am not a designer by any means. I wonder sometimes about how others perceive me though because I am constantly being asked to do things that involve design (even after I have stated that this is not my forte). As a marketer, are we expected to just 'know' this stuff? I dont believe so but I keep running into people that think we should be able to do everything. As long as I know my strengths and weaknesses, the best I can do is continue to communicate these to the people who are asking for things beyond my means.


On the flip side, I was in an interview with a gentleman who said I was a 't shaped' person. I didnt really know what he meant and actually started thinking about my phyical stature (yes, I have heard of pear-shaped, but t-shaped?). Turns out the bottom long piece of the T is a concentration on one area that I know really well and then the top of the T is my experience across many facets of marketing (probably from all those years of being the marketing department :) ). Thought is was a cool way to articulate it.

KenMueller moderator

 @C_Pappas I think that's the way I'm "shaped" as well. I know my strengths, and can dabble in some other things. And I'm OK as long I just dabble. 

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