Designer Justin Dauer Turns Successful Guest Article Into New Book Cultivating a Creative Culture
After receiving high praise on his guest article, “Resetting Agency Culture,” Justin Dauer took his method a step further and turned his procedure for how to create a positive work environment into a new book, Cultivating a Creative Culture (Lead Hand Books, Release Date TBD).
The belief behind this book is simple: a happy and well-supported employee is a fueled, charged, inspired creator. Quality of work is elevated, quality of life is strengthened, and the organization’s brand becomes organically championed by the very people it supports. This book outlines how to get there, from specifying what to do on a new employee’s first day, to how to manage egos and expectations, to how to create a level playing field for all. Focusing on the human beings behind the projects facilitates them doing their best work, which leads to a successful company.
Cultivating a Creative Culture: We create human-centered interactions and experiences in our field. Empathetic purpose drives our every decision. Mobile First? In reality, it’s humans first. This same mentality, turned inward, forms the cornerstone of something amazing: a creative culture.
Designers and front-enders have a unique advantage in solving the cultural problems in business that are sucking the life out of us. Several, in fact. The principles discussed in this book derive from the perspectives and skillsets we already use daily: empathy, objectivity and, yes, ample creativity. Join Justin Dauer as he notes through examples, case studies, and human-centered tactics how we can all get there.
Justin Dauer graduated from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago at a time when the job title “Web Designer” was an ethereal mystery to our moms and dads. With Josef Müller- Brockmann and user advocacy claiming equal parts of his creative heart, he’s crafted digital experiences for clients like Sony, Chase, SRAM, IBM, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Through bloodshot tunnel vision, he’s drawn from those career experiences across agency side, client side, design studio, and pure tech to foster healthy, dynamic, supportive creative cultures.
In his miniscule spare time he endlessly pursues side projects over a variety of media; pixel design, and the inherent constraints of the medium, has long been near and dear to his bit-based heart. He founded The Dead Pixel Society with some of the world’s best icon designers to carry on that tradition. His published written work has covered everything from usability in video games to the value of coffee toward inspiration. Justin lives in Chicago with his family. He can happily
An Interview with Justin Dauer
- How did you develop the strategies for Cultivating a Creative Culture? How have your own experiences in the workplace influenced your outlook on creative culture?
Quite simply, through human observation, dialogues, listening, and enacting. Some of the strategies are practical common sense (weekly creative inspiration meetings), while others required more trial-and-error (the inspiration camp program). For my part, both positive and negative experiences in the workplace over the course of my career equally helped shape my viewpoint on what a successful creative culture is.
- What was the process of adapting your guest article, “Resetting Agency Culture” into a book like?
The original article was through the lens of an agency, which is a limiter toward the bigger picture of the subject matter, ultimately. The feedback I received on that piece was from people working in all forms of media: radio, television, print, online. They cited that the themes were equally applicable to their livelihoods; this was the catalyst for expanding upon the material into book form. Copious research, dialogues with peers, and interviews with thought leaders later, here we are.
- What is the number one problem in workplace culture today? What is the best way to fix this problem?
Forgetting that the human beings behind the sites we design and products we produce are, well, human. We’re not simply names on a spreadsheet and our dedication is not determined by the last out the door at night. Humility, empathy, and an well of inspiration that never depletes ultimately augments quality of work, quality of life, and the business on whole.
- Where did the idea for the pink bird come from?
My incredibly talented friend and illustrator, Bobby Price, has had this character in iterative form for years. His overall illustrative style aligned perfectly with the tone of the material, so I put the concept of the book before him, and we moved forward from there. I broadly wanted a genderless character to be in the chapter illustrations, and Bobby and I conceived the idea that this character would be demonstrating / interacting with the general theme of the respective chapter in kind. His hummingbird design – a chill, pensive, self-confident little bird – was the perfect fit.
- How do you best indulge in and develop your own creativity?
Idle hands absolutely drive me bonkers. Though spare time is a precious commodity in having a toddler, I’m always sketching, designing a side project, reading about my craft, refining my skill set, or pushing myself into a medium I’m not immediately comfortable in. Sleep is the ultimate causality, but coffee is my solace.
- What is the number one thing you hope readers take away from your book?
Creative cultures contribute to the resounding success of an organization and the work its team creates. They permeate the interactions at our office, the meetings we attend, and the manner in which we produce. It’s very much about being focused on the human beings behind the projects and facilitating them doing their best work; getting there represents a shift in thought as much as in procedure. The good news is we all can get there.