Advice for (young) designers.

March 9, 2011 at 10:46 pm 3 comments

Advice courtesy of John C Jay, Doug Bartow, and Mitch Goldstein. Synthesized and condensed by me, since I found the words of these three to be super inspirational. Here we go:

John C Jay’s second bit of advice (out of of ten) is “Work harder than anyone else and you will always benefit from the effort.” This includes everything from proofreading your resume to making your content as compelling as the eye-catching packaging in which you put it. Jay even concludes his top ten by saying that “[working harder than anyone else] is the greatest competitive advantage of any career.”

Do research on: yourself (potential employers and clients are already doing it); the people you want to work for and with; the audience you want to have for your work; your competitors (to figure out how and why they’re doing better than you); and the history of your industry (so that you know, among other important things, how to advance it). Yes, this is a lot of hard work (#1). Yes, you will definitely see a return on the investment.

Doing your research (#2), will provide the context and the confidence for moving forward independently. Doug Bartow offers that we should “observe trends (then avoid them),” i.e. get a strong understanding of existing work in order to inspire new work not simply inspire clones. A unique gut instinct (grounded in research) is an incredibly competitive asset. Or in Jay’s words, “instinct and intuition are all-powerful. Learn to trust them.”

Some of the best research (#2) and self-discovery (#3) happens when you’re outside of your comfort zone. Whether it’s traveling somewhere you’ve never been, actively seeking out critical feedback, or simply having a willingness to make mistakes, the state of being open to the unknown will help you learn and grow. In Mitch Goldstein’s words, “Truly great, interesting, inspiring design comes not from comfort but from discomfort.”

“Try not to work for stupid people or you’ll soon become one of them” warns Jay. “Learn to say ‘No’… [and] know when to walk away from an impending train wreck” writes Bartow. And “once you find a good client, never let them go” advises Michael Bierut. Enough said.

It’s always good to give back to the world that you’ve benefited from, whether it’s helping specific people or sharing your ideas abstract audiences. Examples include writing a blog (Bartow’s #8 thing is Be a Design Author – woot!) and teaching or mentoring a colleague. “The Golden Rule actually works,” writes Jay.

March 9’s daily design idea is what’s the best professionally-related advice you’ve ever received?


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Beautiful ways of documenting NYC. and piece of advice #6.

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