How The Smurfs Prepared Me To Be A Great Designer.
This little secretive society of Smurfs is just like a throbbing design house- working on projects you can’t leak, with social and political dynamics that shouldn’t be talked about.
Here are some metaphors and lessons learned in my youth (about design) from The Smurfs.
La La La-La La La
The Smurfs need a Catchy song to get the job done.
Every commercial spot needs a catchy jingle, or a sonic branding palette to have legs.
Smurfette typically tries to avoid leveraging her power as the only female Smurf.
Only 11% of directors are women.
Girls: Learn to get along with the mass crowd of boys, and negate bad behavior.
Boys: Learn to get along with the handful of girls, and negate bad behavior.
Smurfette as a nun / Illustration by Becka Gruber / Get Em Tiger
Be Yourself / Work Your Differentiator.
Hefty, Brainy, Grouchy, Jokey, Chef, Vanity, and Painter Smurf all own who they are, and reliably leverage their differentiator.
In the design world its Illustrator, Photographer, Client Rep, Guy that’s good at badge style logos and beer labels, Chick that’s sick at modern hand calligraphy, dude that’s good at prop styling. Own it and become the best at it.
If you are not true to yourself and copy someone else’s style or talent you will never be the best you that you could have been. You will instead be a watered down version of the person you are aping. Be who you were meant to be.
Selfie Smurf / Illustration by Becka Gruber / Get Em Tiger
Face Your Fears
Every episode the Smurfs were up against it- but in the end triumph — save their friends and find happiness and safety. Even Scaredy Smurf, the most scared of all the smurfs, would eventually say OK, pull himself together and help out the team.
I’ll digress from mentioning details about the percentage of creatives having some form of anxiety. Pitching for clients, talking about money, hiring people (cringe), firing people (shiver), does this design look good enough? — OK SMURF TO IT.
By Becka Gruber
Smurf Ghost caught by its ball / Illustration by Becka Gruber / Get Em Tiger
Find “The Good” in your enemies (Or Something You Have In Common With Them).
Gargamel was a dick. He was always trying to capture The Smurfs or cause some issue for them. I’m pretty sure he wanted to eat them (even though he never got to eat any- so who knows what they tasted like, and why he wanted to devour them so bad)??? But mainly The Smurfs were patient and kind (even trying to relate at times). I interpreted this as the Smurfs knew they were going to best Gargamel out.
They had a history of winning after all.
In EVERY episode.
Some designers are dicks.
In America, we accept artists and designers can be less than couth (hellooooo Anna Wintour — who they based the “Devil Wears Prada” books and movie after). Try to be patient with these people. Finding what you have in common and empathizing (not sympathizing) will always make relationships more bearable.
Anna Wintour as Gargamel (she still looks good though) / Illustration by Becka Gruber / Get Em Tiger
Age Is Nothing But A Number
(Supposedly) Papa Smurf has a 500 year age gap over the other Smurfs, but he still holds everything together as their leader.
“Older” in years of experience in the design world equals talent management (in a good way). But you still have to get your hands dirty and save everyone’s a$$es when they need it (for the sake of the village).