My Iterative Career Manifesto

In September of this year I will celebrate my 10 year anniversary of living in New York City. Over the past few months I’ve been reflecting on my personal goals I had in mind prior to moving here — hoping to evaluate whether I achieved any of them and to what extent. In doing so, I’ve been looking through old digital and analog notebooks.

In college I was an avid note-taker, having at least two notebooks going at once. I’d recommend keeping at least one, as looking back on these are quite enjoyable; from the late night brain dumps, to-do lists, and pie in the sky thoughts. I found the following list written in one of the last notebooks from my college days:

2005 Manifesto—written in Storrs, Connecticut

  • I want to be a part of a successful design studio.
  • I want to enjoy the work I am doing and the people I work with.
  • I want to feel a sense of accomplishment everyday.
  • I want my colleagues to push me, and I them.
  • I want to create, design, and discover.
  • I want to work late hours on projects I am in love with.
  • I want to please client by creating successful projects.
  • I want to learn from my colleagues and teach them.
  • I want to be wrong.
  • I want to be completely proud of my portfolio.
  • I want my design ethic to be dynamic and always morphing. (I think I meant aesthetic.)
  • I want to live, eat, breathe, and sleep design.
  • I want to create printed matter.
  • I want to design a vinyl record.
  • I want to create a promo kit for myself.
  • I want to design books, posters, postcards, business cards, identities, websites, and EVERYTHING ELSE.
  • I want to design shirt graphics.
  • I want to design skateboard graphics.
  • I want to write.

It’s pretty funny to read these now; as you can tell what started as a manifesto slowly turned into a to-do list of what I wanted to design. This is a great representation of my younger self, determined but distracted. I loved design but at that point was very heavily invested in my band and going on tour. My ultimate goal was to move to NYC but I didn’t have a clue of where design would take me and the experiences I would have over the coming years.

Looking back on this list 10 years later, I can say I’ve been somewhat successful in maintaining my initial hopes and dreams for my career. That being said, these aren’t items I can just check off—to stay true to these goals I really need to check back year after year to confirm that these are still valid and that I’m aligned.

In addition to looking back and reflecting I’ve decided I should adjust this list based on my experience and my new goals. With this re-write, I am hoping to move away from an idealized want list to a more informed declaration of intentions.

2016 Manifesto v1.0—written in Brooklyn, New York

  • Focus solely on the work that interests you most.
  • Always be an individual contributor >50% of the time. Designing is the reason you got into this business.
  • Don’t jump to the computer right away in the process.
  • Talk to users.
  • Listen. Stop, and listen.
  • Solve for the disease, not the symptom.
  • You work to live, not the other way around. Never put yourself in a situation where you can’t take a few days off.
  • Speak your mind, make sure your voice is a part of the conversation.
  • It’s ok to internalize, process, and then respond.
  • Work to feel a sense of accomplishment everyday.
  • Allow your colleagues to push you, and in turn you should push them.
  • The two most important components to a job are the people you work with and the work you are producing.
  • No job is worth it solely for the money.
  • Keep your personal life and work life separate.
  • Embrace criticism, from everyone.
  • Take risks. Lots of them.
  • Always challenge yourself, your comfort zone will be there to come back to later on.
  • Take the time to smile and laugh, after all it’s just design.


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