When I was growing up, I was always doing something creative – from dressing my cats in doll clothes and taking pictures of them, then entering them into the county fair (yes, country living), to taking oil painting classes and drawing during every Sunday church service. When I went off to college, I thought that art could only remain a hobby and could never be the centerpiece of a career. That’s when I learned about something called graphic design – it seemed like a dream come true that I could actually be creative and get paid, live in the city, and live this (what I deemed) celebrity-like life. Seeing your own work in lights – it’s an amazing feeling!
2. What lessons from your schooling still apply to the graphic design industry in 2013?
Design techniques and skills learned in school are the basis in every designers success. From gestalt principles to art history and graphic design history to nationally known graphic designers, these things are critically important to all designers. Starting in sketch books is also important – as the mind and hand create different ideas than a mind and a mouse.
3. What is the most common mistake most undergraduates make in their college and career progression?
Being unwilling to do whatever it takes to become a more creative, professional, polished designer.
To become a great designer, it takes a burning desire to become a better person, to mature, and to challenge yourself everyday. Meaning, if you don’t know something or it takes you 2x as long to get a logo designed, work at nights and on the weekend. Even as a creative director, when my idea isn’t crystallizing (coming to fruition) – I have a sketch book next to my bed and I draw. I sit with my laptop an look at what other brilliant designers are doing. I search through documentation about my client’s industry to find that little bit of information that will set them apart from the crowd.
Also remember, you wont get paid a lot in the beginning. Even free interns are okay, because you are looking to gain experience so you can ask for more money in the future.
Most importantly: Be open to criticism. And when you see a successful designer, learn from them and ask a lot of questions. Emulate them, but don’t copy them.
4. What is something that entry-level candidates need to learn in graphic and web design that isn’t normally taught in schools?
– Thinking in your feet, or creative improv. Creative brainstorming is important to design firms. Many times, we will have a brainstorming session – and we need those big thinkers to come to the table and share their ideas on the spot.
– Your idea must be grounded in business thinking. A design can’t just be nice to look at. Think about the business, the customer, the goals of the business, the core business offering and tie it all together.
5. Do you have any advice for young professionals seeking to stand out in a pool of candidates or advance in their careers?
Perception is Reality. Your resume should not be in Microsoft Word. Every email, every phone call, every document should be designed. Your cover letter should not say “I want to grow as a designer.” That reads as, “I want you to pay me, to learn.” Brand yourself. Use distinct fonts, special sizes, special paper. If your materials don’t come through is clever, smart and creative – you will be forgotten.