“The great global sports extravaganza and world hug fest better known as the Winter Olympics is finally over at least for another four years. As I sat on my comfy sofa, cocktail in hand watching our athletes ski swifter, jump higher and skate stronger I wondered if there was anything that I could or should learn from them. Is there anything inherent in what they do in their respective sports that I could emulate in my sport – design? Are there a few techniques from the biathlon or giant slalom that could also serve me better in the design studio?
Now I’ve always considered what I do to be pretty close to a blood sport; however no one ever gave me a medal or played the national anthem when my work was done. No one kicked things off with a lighting of a torch – a lot of cigarettes, maybe, but no fancy cauldron of flame. And no one painted their faces for the final creative presentation. Perhaps if they would it would be more enjoyable, but it would also mean I would probably only get a job every four years as well.
As I thought more about parallels between the Olympics and my design career, I realized that I’ve indeed achieved Olympian heights much like those from my favorite Winter Olympic sport – ski jumping. Of all the winter sports, ski jumping has always appealed to me. It looks pretty simple. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym or days sweeping ice. And you get to keep most of your teeth.
So, in many ways, ski jumping and design are very similar. First of all, one of the hardest things about ski jumping is trust. It takes a great deal of trust to let go of the bar and sail down the ramp. It’s the same with design. Just like the ski jumper trusts his training and skis, I trust my training and abilities to solve the design challenges. Although I may not know exactly how I’m going to solve the problem or where and even when creative inspiration is going to come, I trust that it will. It always does.
Secondly, one of the most exciting parts of the ski jump is the leap at the end of the jump. It’s where the skier leaves the support of the ground and takes off into the unknown. I know that it’s hard and sometimes painful letting go of the familiar, the comfortable and the easy and leap into the unknown. It takes both courage and confidence, but it I’ve found it to be far more thrilling and rewarding than taking the stairs. It’s in the unknown where great design lives and it’s important to take that leap into that vast area in order to uncover it.
Finally, I balance. The last part of a clean jump for the skier is coming back down to earth and landing smoothly. I try to bring this into my daily life and release myself from the issues of design, the challenges of my client’s and the stress of running a business. I get way from it and focus on the more meaningful parts of life, bend my knees and stay in balance.
So, while our Winter Olympians have adopted their motto of Citius, Altius and Fortius (Faster, Higher, Stronger), I have adopted my own motto of Fiducia, Tripudio and Pondera (Trust, Leap, Balance). I encourage you to do so, too.”
Founder and principal of Kendall Ross Brand Development and Design, David Kendall specializes in the development and re-positioning of retail brands ranging from consumer goods and packaging to retail shopping centers. His work focuses on helping clients demonstrate and understand the value of their brand in a way that is distinct, authentic and relevant to their customers. Read more about David at http://www.kendallross.com