Photo © Nikolai Zinoviev, via 500px.


Howdy. How was your weekend? Mine was pretty hot. Temperature wise and activity wise. No, get your minds out of the gutter! I mean it was packed full of pretty great events like the The First Emperor Exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW (absolutely mesmerising – go see it if you can), magazine photo shoot at home (in 42 degree heat, I nearly DIED), friend’s birthday, many swims in the ocean to cool down, The King’s Speech (holy macaroni, what an awesome movie), plus I had one of my favourite pizzas in the world – Big Brother from Love Supreme. Oh and our dearestest friends also got engaged. Hooray! So yeah, it was a pretty awesome weekend.

But there was one thing in particular I wanted to talk about. On Friday night, Husband and I went to see Smoke & Mirrors at The Famous Spiegeltent. I can’t tell you how much I loved the show. It was fun, entertaining, emotional, intelligent, silly, bizarre, spirited, clever… Truly wonderful stuff. (Have you seen it? If so, what did you think?) One of the many acts consisted of three guys from This Side Up Acrobatics and a female physical performance artist who delivered a mesmerising and nail-biting acrobatics show which involved the guys pretty much throwing, catching and twirling the girl all over the place. It was crazy to watch. So many times I thought that she was going to crack her head on the floor with only millimeters to spare before they swung her back up to safety. The amount of speed, skill and precision involved was mind-boggling. Part of the act made me feel quite nervous but I was left feeling so exhilarated each time she was ‘saved’ from what seemed like a ‘near-death’ throw, spin and fall. And during this entire act all four performers seemed to be having so much fun – smiling, laughing, high-fiving, making their highly skilled and perfectly rehearsed moves appear as though they are the easiest thing to do.


One of the super intense nail-bitting moments from the acrobatic act at Smoke & Mirrors. Photo © Sydney Festivalvia Flickr.


I thought to myself – How completely crazy is this girl? She must be such an adrenaline junky. Doesn’t she fear for her life? How can she let go to this extent and keep smiling while being spun head-first into the ground, then thrown up high in the air hoping they would catch her on the way down… And how about these guys? Are they crazy? Aren’t they worried that they might slip, or that she may tense up and not land the way they expect her to? Etc, etc. And then I realised that, what actually made this act possible (apart from their crazy skill, athletic fitness and countless hours of practice) was an incredibly strong bond they all shared which enveloped the entire room and captivated the audience. Trust. This trust gave them unimaginable power to let go and allow each other to just do what they are trained to do best. Just think about that for a moment.

This got me thinking about what I do day-to-day, about what every other designer does – in fact, what each and every one of us does, regardless of our profession… But I will just talk about designers for the moment because that’s my ‘thing’ (in case you failed to notice… yeah right!) So what exactly am I talking about here? First thing is this – as designers, our primary job as ‘artists’ and ‘creative business owners’ is to build trust with our clients. Without trust, our path is difficult, if not impossible. Trust with clients is built over a period of time and gradually, just like the acrobatic act which crescendoed from the beginning until the end, as trust with the audience was building with increasing risk-factor creating the excitement.


Cardboard People by Singapore-based artist Anton Tang. Image via Concrete Playground.


Now the trust I am talking about here extends beyond just our clients. It also needs to include our entire team – those working directly with us, but also the consultants, suppliers and people who eventually execute our vision – builders, joiners, craftsmen etc. Now here is the thing that bothers me about what we do – so many times our job as designers is to ‘cover our arses’… Make sure this is in writing, that is specified correctly, check what everyone is up to and doing what they need to do, is the client going to be on board with this idea because it hasn’t been done before – and doing something new presents a risk etc. I could go on and on. This to me is exhausting. By the way, I am not in any way suggesting that we ought to be doing things on the dodge by not conducting our due diligence, or communicate and document properly etc. But what if we could remove all the ‘crap’ out of our process, and simply focus on delivering our absolute best performance, trusting that our entire team would do exactly the same? Imagine that for just a moment. Instead of worrying about arse-covering and risk, what if we just focused on pushing ourselves above and beyond our comfort zone, outside the boundary conditions of our usual thinking? By doing this we would soar to new heights, knowing full well that, should we ever fall from all the way up there and collapse to the ground head-first just like the female acrobat, our amazing team would be there to catch us. Trust allows us to create fearless and extraordinary results. Sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Slightly naive and simplistic? Perhaps. But I think it’s possible. At least that’s what my ‘work utopia’ looks like.

Trust is liberating. If you think about it – it is the lack of trust that creates issues on most projects, and in most relationships – professional and personal. Without it, we are unable to focus on being our best, and more importantly – getting even better than our current best.


Image © yellowtrace. Quote inspired by Olivia Tabert via design is mine.

16 Responses

  1. Ian McCallam

    Great post Dana. And very true. I was also at Smoke and Mirrors on Friday (9.30 performance). Truly truly amazing. The Sydney Festival has not disappointed this year :)

  2. Beattie

    Hi Dana,
    I have been enjoying your blog for a while now and heard great things about you from Suzie Idienz.
    This post was the best way to start this new week!

  3. yellowtrace

    Thank you all – Victoria, Nina, SW, Peter (you have a blog – hooray!), Ian (we were totally at the same show!), Beattie (ah, isn’t Suzie just lovely?) and Heather (I cannot wait to see you back here – I’m sure it will be good).

    x dana

  4. Linda from OEKE

    Phew. That was a doozy … but a well written & thought out doozy. It’s true what you say (about covering what we write/say/itemise) regardless of the industry. Your’s must be far more important and costly though. So, hoping your new ‘work utopia’ becomes more than a dream (-:

  5. captain kk

    couldn’t agree more ms. yellowtrace. trusting your client & knowing that the client absolutely trusts you, your judgement, your opinions, your decisions & your design is the most important factor in achieving a great result. oh yeah & a killer budget doesn’t hurt either :)

  6. Oliver @ Sabi Style

    This post is likely going to have me thinking for the rest of the week. I am with you 100%! The hardest thing with trust is that you can work for so long to build it up and then in seconds it is destroyed. I hate it when I see someone taking advantage of the trust given to them – and feel no guilt from doing so. I confess I am guilty of being slow to trust but I know that life would be so much better if I could be more open to it.

    I love what Hemingway says: “The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them”.

    But it would be a wonderful world if we could all embrace trust and indeed strive for it. If people really valued truth and honour. When your word really is your bond. Sadly it seems that the moment money or power come into play the dance changes.

  7. Sara Longworth

    Dana, interestingly enough, I am often surprised at the amount of clients who engage an interior designer yet question and don’t take on the designer’s suggestions! From my point of view, I am in awe of designers – how they take each product, each element of design and then turn a ‘space’ into a welcoming home that inspires and reflects a person’s passions via their house, office or hotel room. Keep weaving your magic and trust will follow!
    Those that doubt tend to do so because of their own insecurities, not yours.
    Guru Sara xo

  8. Mandy

    What a great post Dana … I agree totally with you on the trust issue …..
    Love Supreme pizzas are so great … and the Sydney Festival has been a goodie this year !!!
    Have a great week.

  9. Suzie

    Hey Dana,

    Really enjoyed reading this post and got me thinking…something so simple, yet the lack of it seems to be a constant handicap. Come on people….!


  10. Dana Tomic Hughes of Yellowtrace | Front & Main

    […] Importance of Trust. A visit to an acrobatic show became an “a-ha” moment and got me thinking about my own work. This post became a bit of a manifesto and described my utopia – a collaborative existence in which trust allows us to create fearless and extraordinary results. […]


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