I was asked 3 questions for a young designers forum:
What do you do, how did you get there and what do you love about it?
One top tip for graduates leaving university?
One top tip considering challenges they may face in the world of design?
The answer to these three questions developed into 3 top tips for young designers.
TIP 1 – Your journey is as important as your destination
As a young designer you can get fixated on the next position or career move. Competing and winning promotion over your peers. Promotion is good, moving onwards and upwards is normal. But the opportunities to grow surround us every day, each encounter, each tube ride or chat over a meal. Learning and researching opportunities never stop. Ideas nestle in the most surprising places. If we let our minds become driven and clouded by our destinations we may well miss out on some gems along the way. So our journey is ‘as’ important as our destination.
TIP 2 – Understand tension between commercialism and altruism
I have one approach to work – each brief, each job gets treated the same. Whether it’s a not for profit, a freebie for a friend or a global re-brand. All get 100% of my energy and creativity. And all get the grumpy creative director when we hit a creative dead end or the job doesn’t go to plan. So is it possible to be altruistic and commercial? My experience says yes. If I had just worked for not for profits would I be poorer? If I had just worked for global brands would I be richer? Yes and yes or yes and no. I am not completely motivated by money but it does help to pay the bills.
There are times when a client says “we ARE going this way” and you have a choice – pay the bills or don’t pay the bills. Big commercial brands can be driven by the bottom line, not all, but most. As a designer or brand consultant you are there to help that bottom line grow. But not for profits have to raise money too – it’s just a lot easier to love the ‘why’ they are doing what they do. I love working for both. One can learn from the other. Just don’t get too frustrated if the commercial becomes dictatorial and the not for profit runs out of money!
TIP 3 – Don’t put your identity in what you do and what others say about your work
This is the hardest lesson of all, and I am definitely not sure that I have learned this one. But I do know that there are times in my career where I have taken things too personally and that has been damaging. We are creatives, we create and design. We risk all by putting what is inside us out there for comment, critique. I don’t want to be a big famous celebrity creative, but of course I like it when our work is complimented. I know that creative work is here today and often gone tomorrow, but I will still sweat it out to make it the best it can be. But I have learned to enjoy life, not to take it all too seriously, get out a bit more, give away freely and love my family (but if you’re a client reading this, please keep telling us we’re doing a good job!).