I’ve given some thought to the future–a future where zombies will inevitably overrun the general population. With that future in mind, I’ve often asked myself the question, “sniper rifle or sawed-off shotgun?”

A Sniper Rifle is a specialist weapon, the proper use of which requires skill and dedicated training. The Shotgun is more of a general purpose solution, able to be effectively utilized by more people and requires less instruction.

Now, let’s apply this principle to design. (No, it’s not a stretch…it makes complete sense, I promise.) I’ve known many types of designers who range in skill, style and focus. But, generally, there are two types I encounter the most: the specialist and the generalist.

The specialist has an established skill or style that they are known for, whereas the generalist could be viewed as a jack-of-all-trades.

Disclaimer: In the next couple of paragraphs, I don’t want anyone to think that I favor one type over the other. Or that one is right and one is wrong–neither is right nor wrong. They’re just different, and I fully believe there are times when each are better suited for certain projects or tasks.

In other words, when used correctly, the sniper rifle and the sawed-off shotgun will both effectively mow down the persistent undead.

Since we have that established, let’s talk about the differences:

Much like a trained sniper, the specialist has spent much more time harnessing their creative energy toward a specific skill set, which is, hopefully, aligned with their passion(s). This will show itself as a huge strength when a project arises that

  • a) centers around their passion and calls for their particular skill, or
  • b) in a collaborative environment where their skill and passion is needed as a contribution and an important piece to a larger puzzle.

Potential drawback:

The specialist could begin feeling neglected or used when they are sought after time and time again for their particular skill. Also, in choosing the sniper rifle, you have to find some good high ground with a low risk of ambush. Alternatively, the generalist–who I’m sure has a propensity for buck shot–has spread his or her energy over a wider range of skills.

This does not necessarily mean that the generalist has trouble finding a skill or skills that they are passionate about. It may mean that they enjoy several different types of art or that their passions fall across multiple disciplines.

The generalist will thrive in a creative environment where

  • a) he or she has the freedom to use their many skills across a wide range of projects that engage their passions, or
  • b) on a team that doesn’t have specialists that can focus on certain areas.

Potential drawback:

The generalist could begin to feel like they aren’t a master of any one particular skill and that there is always a specialist–or sniper–who could better fill a certain role or more effectively put down an approaching zombie horde.So, whether you are a trained sniper or if you are a generalist who happens love the sound of a pump-action, there is always a need for your skill(s) and creativity.