More from Matt Mattus‘ great book, Beyond Trend: How to Innovate in an Over-Designed World. In a world where anyone has access to design tools, to paraphrase Mattus, true designers need to work harder to rise above. Design innovation isn’t a matter of what you do with your hands, it’s more a matter of how you use what’s between your ears. The good news is that designers have a real weapon that cannot be imitated – passion. Passion, he says, defines an authentic designer from those who design simply because it’s fun, or just to have a career. Or as I like to say, it’s not something you do – it’s something you are.

More traits of true designers, aka “culture creators”:

Trait 06: They develop expertise

Nothing ticks off a culture creator more than incompetence. Culture creators have little tolerance for underperformers, poseurs, fakers, dishonest designers or opinions from unqualified evaluators. They may be perceived as naive or even arrogant, since their ideas and recommendations are often based on where culture has directed the project – instead of the solution that matches the client’s personal opinion.

Becoming an expert in their niche or talent is more important to them than pleasing thyeir client or their boss, so conflicts can easily arise. Culture creators respect proven expertise in almost any field, and they measure true acheivement more by the quality and efficacy of what has been created – instead of by mass appeal or commercial potential.

Trait 07: They’re interested in validity

Culture creators listen to their inner voices above anyone else’s. Not motivated by pleasing their bosses or their companies, they’re instead focused on how the end-user desires what they produce. They’re good at assessing the capabilities of someone who’s evaluating them. As such, they resent evaluation and critique unless it comes from a person they deeply respect – preferably another cultural leader.

Trait 08: They create fearlessly

Culture creators are fearless. They’re naturally tactical and strategic, although not necessarily in the business sense of the terms. Creatively, they seek challenges, such as attempting to solve unthinkable problems.

They surround themselves with peers of equal or greater significance. If challenges are set too low for them, there are generally poor results. On the other hand, high challenges paired with highly skilled creators often result in extraordinary work.

Achievement and success for the fearless might mean changing conventions or even establishing new ones. These fearless leaders boldly go where others have only dreamed.