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You are responsible for your own success.

22 Sep

Yes, YOU. Not your teachers, your parents, your friends—you. You are the only one who can work hard and make things happen for yourself. And, rightfully so. You are the one who has to live with the results.

I wish someone had told me this as I worked toward my bachelor’s degree and searched for my first job. Instead of busting my hump, I simply did what was asked of me and waited for accolades and job offers to rain down upon me. Much to my surprise, neither were forthcoming—and I was at a loss to figure out why.

Eight years later, the answer is very clear. I was waiting for something to happen, instead of making something happen.

Instead of taking fair criticism from my teachers and classmates and turning it into important lessons learned, I was defensive and irritable. Obviously they were all idiots who didn’t know genius when it was right in front of them. I cursed them silently, and subsequently did nothing to improve.

Instead of doing an exhaustive search for firms to interview at and people to network with, I simply looked in the phone book for graphic design companies and despaired at how few there were. And then did no further searching—obviously those were the only places to apply.

Instead of looking for opportunities to continue building up my design skills outside of class, I lazed around, listless, feeling uninspired. I could have looked into doing pro-bono work for a local charity. I could have offered to do business cards for a friend of a friend. I could have created projects on my own—to practice composition and typography. I did none of these things. I was unable to recognize that design is everywhere and anywhere, and that constant motion within it is necessary to keep the spark of inspiration alive. Design is not just what your teacher, boss or client assigns you—it is your lifeblood! It’s the spark of creativity pumping through your veins!

So for all the students and recent grads out there lamenting the fact that success is not knocking on their door—rejoice! There is hope! YOU can make something happen!

Ask questions. Ask everyone questions! Write these questions down, as well as the answers you get. Ask about design, design firms, other designers. Ask about job opportunities—if there are none, ask about an informational interview. Many firms will sit down with you and look at your portfolio even if they don’t currently have a position open. If they are willing to do this: DO IT! Every interview you have will be beneficial to you—even the ones that seem like they were a disaster. At the very least, you will learn what NOT to do next time. And remember, amazingly enough, designers know other designers. So even if the firm you’re talking to has no open positions, the designer there may know of one somewhere else. (In this vein, remember that the design community is smaller than you think, and designers like to talk. Always conduct yourself in a courteous and professional manner. You never know who will hear about your actions.)

Make business cards for yourself (spend some time with the design!), get them printed, and give them out to everyone you know. In fact, give those people more than one and ask them to give them out too. Make yourself a website while you’re at it. And if you don’t know how to do the technical part, look online for a free portfolio site (designerid.com is a particularly good one). Again, spend some time with the images of your work and anything you write about it. You want to exude professionalism. Ask a few trusted people to check your work—and carefully consider their feedback.

Keep creating! Create as much stuff in your free time as you can. If you don’t know how to do something, get a book and then do it! Try it! Keep creating! And keep asking for feedback from other creatives. This is the only way you’ll keep learning and growing. If you don’t have a computer with all the software you need, buy one!  It will be well worth the investment. The internet is full of sites dedicated to graphic design and creativity. Find these sites and use them! Poke around and see what you can discover. Do the same at your local library and bookstore. And don’t forget to look around you in your local community. Design is everywhere. It is ubiquitous!

Don’t give up hope. If you haven’t heard this already, you need to know that design is a very competitive and tough industry. There are only so many good jobs in the market, and scads of designers waiting to fill them. Not everyone will be able to find a job immediately, and many grads give up and move onto other careers. If you’re one of the lucky ones to land that first job right away, it will probably not be very glamorous or creative. But don’t despair! Remember what inspired you to go into this amazing field and hold onto that. Keep creating work in your spare time. Keep your eyes open to opportunities around you. And if you’ve got the guts and moxie to stick it out, the determination to keep pushing and knocking on doors, the desire to keep developing your talent…if you’re able to make it in this industry, you’ll never look back.

Hello Graphic Designers…

30 Aug

Welcome to my brand spankin’ new blog! I have been a graphic designer for over 8 years, and want to share what I’ve learned during that time with students, young designers just starting out, people thinking about going into design, and anyone else who wants to take a look.

So, please, look around, and feel free to ask questions!