5 Years In: A Designer’s Retrospective

A motto to live & design by.

The LinkedIn app on my phone is opened once a year: June 2nd. Apologies to my LinkedIn friends (connections?), but it’s not to actually interact with any of you. Nope— instead, it’s because that particular day is my work anniversary at City Grounds, a company that I have now been with for 5 years.

On that day, the not-so-subtle auto filled messages tumble into my inbox, congratulating me on being able to hold a job for another year. I thoroughly enjoy this moment, it’s a strange feeling of accomplishment. I did it you guys, I didn’t get fired.

“Congrats on your work anniversary [Name], hope all is well…” — Your LinkedIn Internet Friend

Sarcasm aside, it actually does provide for a nice moment of reflection. Especially at the 5 year mark, in an industry where fellow designers jump ship as often as you get left-swiped on Tinder.

In that span of time, I’ve gone from a deer-in-the-headlights / fresh-out-of-college newbie to a grizzled veteran of the design world (or, more realistically somewhere in between). At City Grounds I’ve gotten the chance to work on a little bit of everything including retail based print projects, digital marketing, web design, ux/ui conceptual design, social media management and photography.

I’ve also had the chance to help conceptualize and create products and packaging design for Crew Bike Co., an urban cycling company.

Along the way I’ve even managed to score some freelance gigs — everything from logo designs for small local businesses to websites & assets for advertising agencies.

To mark the occasion, I wanted to share a few serious and not-so-serious pieces of advice that have worked for me along the way:

1. “Yep, I can do that.”

Say the above, immediately open up Google, and type whatever you just said that you can do. Someone somewhere has made a tutorial on how to do whatever it is you just stated you can do. Not kidding, this is going to be the best advice you read in this article (but read the rest anyways). Thank you interwebs.

2. Stand for something, or stand for nothing.

Based off that dramatic title, I bet you thought this was going to be about standing up for yourself. Nope. Surprise, it’s about standing desks. In order to achieve maximum hipster levels I decided to try a standing desk, and I actually really like it. Highly recommended for those avoiding the dreaded dad bod.

3. Find Inspiration & Learn Stuff

Looking for new illustration techniques? Dribbble. Looking for a tutorial on how to do the [blank] that you saw on [blank]? YouTube. Just want to get inspired? Instagram. The blueprints, steps, and examples for whatever you are looking to accomplish are out there. There really is no excuse why you can’t learn and apply new skills daily.

4. Brand yo’self.

I am admittedly bad at this. I might have been watching too much Mr. Robot, but I have become highly (read — weirdly) guarded when it comes to my personal privacy. No really, I recently took a 6 month sabbatical from the interwebs. However, I have realized that this is doing myself a disservice. I should be using social media as a tool and self promotional piece.

5. Freelance

Freelancing is a weird world. If you are a full-time freelance designer, hats off to you. Clients are often strange, entitled, and looking to save a buck (not you, future / past client reading this — I’m sure you’re great). Don’t let the bad ones scare you off — there are plenty of great opportunities out there. Just make sure you do you due diligence to protect yourself and get paid. #FreelanceIsntFree

That’s it. I don’t want to get all preachy. I’m sure we’ll talk next year, on June 2nd of course.