We’ve read the medium posts, listened to the inspirational talks, subscribed to their newsletters but designers’ favorite personal narrative that their success is due to talent and hustle is a mirage.

Two days after a frozen steak salesman became President I was invited to DynamicMTL in Montreal and asked to speak on the designers’ role in the world. Below is an edited version of the talk.

Hi. I am white.

Despite all my advantages as a white person, I too am oppressed!

:(

As a child, I was bullied for having a speech impediment!

:-(

As a Jewish teen raised in the Midwest I got anonymous letters telling me to convert to Christianity!

:,-(

As an adult I fight infinitely harder for the same promotions and salaries my male peers receive!


Last month I spoke at Lincoln Center for the 99u conference. Here is an excerpt of the talk.

“There’s one… and there’s the other!”

That’s how she said it. Just like that. That’s how my OBGYN told me I was pregnant with twins.


On my way returning from Mountain View I started to feel sick. I had terrible food poisoning or possibly the stomach flu. Either way, I was heaving every half-hour regardless of how empty the contents of my stomach were. Alan took care of me, rubbing my back and helping me hydrate. So, around midnight when a baby started crying Alan went to soothe him. A few minutes go by when I heard a loud banging followed by what sounded like water ricocheting off the wall and splashing to the floor. It got louder as he continued throwing up, running out of the nursery. Apparently, while holding our son Alan had suddenly gotten ill. Throwing the kid into the crib he tried to run to the bathroom but it was too late: he spewed onto the nursery door, down the hallway, he spewed everywhere. For the next ten hours we threw up together, almost every hour, sometimes into trash bags other times on the John in separate bathrooms, shitting and pissing … our ralphs echoing each other like garbage song birds.


My husband has Type-1 Diabetes. Not the old person kind, the kind you’re born with. He also has seizures. And not just seizures caused by low glucose, but by actual Epilepsy.

Alan is sitting on the floor next to a second glass of orange juice I’ve poured for him. His forehead is covered in sweat like he just got back from a two hour run. He’s staring at his feet. In about ten minutes he’ll snap out of it, look up and ask, “It happened again didn’t it? Was it a bad one?”

We just returned home from celebrating the Lunar New Year. I don’t know how long he was hypoglycemic for but in retrospect the signs were there. It probably started around the time he yelled at a man who…


I have neither the wisdom nor energy to write about my first year of motherhood longer than thi


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Q: How long should I stay with my employer? The old way of sticking to one company for life feels too long but the new way jumping from place to place feels too short! Help!

A: Great question! But enough about you let me tell you a story about me. I worked at the New York Times for six years and I left for a risky but exciting new job. For years everyone asked, “Why don’t you work for the New York Times anymore?” with the same inflection of concern your mother chides, “Why aren’t you and Penelope dating anymore?” Listen, mom. Believe it or not I’m happy with Wanda. OK? OK?? Back. Off.

Now that I’m back with Penelope I mean working for the New York Times the question I get asked is, “Are…


Q: Jennifer, outside your lack of talent and limited access to famous or powerful people, what is the toughest obstacle you must overcome to win at life and become rich and famous?

A: I’m going to pretend I don’t sense sarcasm in your tone, dear design student. ~*I am*~ an influencer and important person. I mean, I write on this here b̶l̶o̶g̶ medium publication sponsored by everyone’s favorite graphical design making software Adobe, don’t I? I no longer have to chase Fame and Money, they come to me. And, if I’m not too busy trying to beat my high score on Tetris, I let them in.

Speaking of Tetris, have you seen the new Super Mario Maker? I’m conflicted. It looks both sadistic and yet…adorable! While I can’t imagine making anything better…


Q: I’m new to San Francisco and every time I go out for a burrito and network I never hear from anyone again. I’m tired of hanging out in an empty slack channel all day. How do I get people to be friends with me without coming across like a needy loser?

A: You had me at burrito and lost me at networking. Also needy loser.

JK JK JK. I understand. I also recently moved to San Francisco and I’ve been doing a lot of lonesome networking lately. Most of the time I can’t focus on other designers with this…


Q: I’m an independent designer. The kids say my success depends as much on self-promotion as it does on the quality of my work, but I can’t take the idea of a “personal brand” seriously. Am I just a tired reactionary unable to accept that any public output is brand management, whether I want it to be or not? Or is there a way to engage in the world without reducing myself to a product?

A: I think your problem is not about the struggle between letting your work speak for itself vs self-promotion but how little you actually respect…

Jennifer Daniel

I’m Jennifer.

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