Dear Design Martyrs: The One About ‘Getting Rich’

Posted inDesign Inspiration

“Dear Design Martyrs” is PRINTmag’s latest advice column from Debbie Millman. Debbie will respond to your most burning questions about design, branding, work-life balance, and so much more.

Dear Design Martyrs,

What advice can you offer to someone who wants to grow rich and build wealth?


Poor in the Pandemic

Dear Poor,

The first thing I’d ask is why

“Why do you need to grow rich and build wealth?” It’s a rather fleeting experience, this romantic attachment to wealth, and I find that if I’m not careful, the search for having more or better or best is a precarious journey into the infinite. 

When you depend on money or things to provide you with a long-term sense of self or love or pride or achievement, you start on a path with no end. No object, no product, and amount of wealth can provide you with ultimate, infinite satisfaction. You also must be very careful about what psychologists call the “hedonistic treadmill”—if you’re always looking to validate yourself with the size of your bank account, then you are never going to be satisfied. You are always going to need more. As Dan Pink states, “The evidence is overwhelmingly clear that human beings metabolize things very quickly. I’m specifically using the word metabolize because we are talking about hunger and thirst. If a big-screen TV is your symbol of stature and significance, it’s a fool’s game. These kinds of external objects do not provide enduring satisfaction.” 

Therefore, my advice would be as follows—be careful you are not using wealth as a replacement strategy for a strong sense of self-worth. If you are, examine the underlying motivation for needing wealth to feel good about who you are, deep down.

No matter how good you are, how popular, or how fabulous you are, there are still business cycles. Nothing lasts forever (well, perhaps Styrofoam), and there are always going to be ups and downs, no matter how much you try to avoid the downs.

Need some design advice? Got a question for Debbie Millman? Send your questions here!