Book review: “Design is a Job” by Mike Monteiro

Chances are, if you work in design — or one of it’s many offshoots — you enjoy it. You love it. Putting all those hours in, creating awesome, cool stuff… But we make mistakes. We sell ourselves short. We’re too easy. We burn the midnight oil, off the clock. Living up the cliche that those creative types – they’re a talented bunch, but they can’t “do” business. This book addresses these issues, and points out that talent is only half the story when it comes to being a successful design professional: on top of the hands-on expertise in your trade, there’s also the business side to attend to.

Mike Monteiro is a likeable character. He talks straight, tells it how it is, and expects the listener to have the intelligence and thick-skin to understand it. One the most memorable examples of Mike Monteiro’s entertaining and somewhat infectious attitude is his infamous “Fuck You. Pay Me.” talk, at a Creative Mornings event in San Francisco, back in 2011. Just as he does on stage, his written style is humorous, to the point, and told through his own years of experience.

By the way, if you haven’t seen Mike’s talk yet, then stop reading this and go watch it, right now. I guarantee you’ll be better off for it.

The tone of this book is set out from the very first page. Of Mike, Erik Spiekermann notes in the forward:

Online and offline, Mike Monteiro is known as a straight talker. He is a living bullshit detector and will not suffer fools.

Erik Spiekermann, Foreword, Design is a Job

As principal of Mule Design, Mike Monteiro is both experienced and entertaining in his writing. He’s seen it all, as is demonstrated through the many anecdotes and accounts in this book. Early on, Mike recounts the many mistakes and problems he’s faced in his career, both before and during the early days of running his own studio. On top of these mistakes, of which many will no doubt sound familiar, Mike demonstrates how we as design professionals can avoid, limit and escape the many hazards that we will face along our career path, while offering vital, indispensable advice on the actual mechanics of running a business.

Design is a Job doesn’t simply dish out hard-nosed instruction. Recollections of situations which could have, or did benefit from the advice on offer, gives a far greater reasoning behind the advice on offer. Although the title of the book is “Design” is a Job, I’m sure there’s plenty in these pages to attract anyone from the realms of client services.

At under 140 pages, this won’t take you long to read. You’ll more than likely manage it on one sitting. But you’ll come back to it. You’ll read it again, and maybe even again. Because there’s something in here for all of us — in-house designers and developers, freelancers, copywriters, project managers, and even those seasoned top dogs steering the ship. The information in this book is not only applicable to all roles and job titles, but also to all levels of experience. And, dare I say it, all sizes of egos.

This book will leave you better informed, better equipped and most of all, inspired. Mike emphasises the value in working ethically, realistically and professionally, stating on numerous occasions that this is possible, with still remaining profitable and successful. Unlike many other design-meets-business books, Design is a Job isn’t simply concerned with making as much profit as possible – it’s more concerned with doing the right work, for the right people, for the greater good of both parties.

So I wrote you a book. It has a spine, and by the time you’re done reading so will you.

Mike Monteiro, Design is a Job

It’s a short book, and it’s cheap – so it won’t break the bank, nor will it end up stuck on a shelf, unopened. This isn’t just a simple guide, or a bunch of amusing stories from some designer guy in a far off land. It’s an investment, and a kick up the arse.

Design Is a Job by Mike Monteiro is published by, and available directly from A Book Apart.