Why personal relationships matter

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These are some pictures collected over the last six years. Most of are me and Akira talking with clients, at their offices or ours. Some are of us meeting like-minded creatives: illustrators, writers, artists, and game designers. We like to learn from the smartest people in the room.

Let me share our secret discovery.

More and more, we’re discovering it’s the conversation that’s the real design. It’s not about pixels. It’s about hearts, and expressing what’s in those hearts.

Are people doing what they really believe to be important and valuable? I’m not talking about quitting your job and running off to join the circus, or something. I’m convinced that if you want to make art, and I’m talking about True Art, the kind that moves people, you don’t have to buy into the idea that you need to be Starving.

To do any work well, you have to be attuned to people’s feelings. This is called emotional intelligence. Without it, your work will be a dud. Sorry, I know that’s super blunt, but it’s true. Look at the things people are making when they don’t actually get out and talk to anyone else. It’s flat, right? What I mean is, it doesn’t speak to you. Why is this? It’s because if you want to say something that people will love, will listen to and remember and even tear up about—the ultimate sign of having connected—you want to be listening to them. To the air that’s between you, even. There’s so much richness there, and we can only hear it when we shut down our tendency to want to speak up and be right.

“I hear what you’re saying”

Without great capacity to absorb what people tell us, there’s no way we could deliver remarkable brand stories, articulated and expressed as clean, contemporary design. It helps that in 2012, we hosted more than 30 roundtable discussions to practice this skill. It helps, too, that we’ve gone back over our notes on how to listen with empathy, notes gathered from TED talks, reading books on imperfection as well as business, and our previous careers in journalism and travel.

We’re not perfect, but we’ve gotten better in the years since we started DK in 1995.

Are you talking about redesigning your brand, so that it more closely aligns with your values? We call that designing legacy. Because unless and until you know can express yourself from a true, honest place, only then can you really do work that matters.

Then we’ll especially enjoy getting to know you and what you have to say.

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