Some 7300 days ago, I started my career as a graphic designer. From my humble small desk nested under my bunker bed and a computer I assembled myself, one day I was given the opportunity to sit on a proper desk, with a pro machine to create & design for real clients. My work started to be valued and I started to get paid for it. “Option 2 approved!” is the very first phrase that kick started my professional career.
7300 days in the making and I am still in awe about how much my mind is capable of, always grateful and still as excited, as if I had just begun.
It’s been 20 years of visual expression, experimentation, learning, successes & failures. They funnel down into 20 valuable lessons, tips & methods I accumulated along the way.
For that, I present 20 tips in celebration of 20 bright, colorful and fantastic years, with hopefully many more to come!
- Be thankful
To those who believed in you and granted you a job, a project, a chance. Especially so, in your early start. They saw something in you that others didn’t & gave you a chance to take off. To shine.
- Don’t follow
Trends are cool. Utilize them but never set them as benchmarks. They will go out of fashion just as quickly as they dominate the scene, and if you base your work on them too strongly, your designs will suffer the same fate & become outdated too.
- Pressure is good
Some of the best ideas come from under pressure, short deadlines or with limited resources. You have the power to manipulate pressure in a way that can work to your benefit. If you channel your skills & methods to work more efficiently & give yourself space, pressure can be your friend. Pressure is the only force that makes diamonds after all!
- Seek unique
Believe in your ideas & methods. Even if it means going in different directions as those that others typically follow. Don’t fit into pre-made molds, you have the power to set molds for others to fit into.
- Go the other way
Where everyone goes, go the other way. Safe & common roads are crowded. Undiscovered roads are empty, waiting to be discovered. Choose those, explore, discover and experiment your heart out. You will learn so much and you will have unveiled new roads in the process.
As much as you can. Far, near but more importantly, to new places. Lay your eyes on things they have never seen. Hear new sounds. Taste, smell, touch, feel and experience new things. By growing your senses you are also growing your creative repertoire & you learn a lot about yourself in the process.
- Craft with your hands
Hand crafting & production in graphic design is a heritage that should be celebrated and kept alive. You have been gifted with a creative mind, imagine the possibilities if you combine that gift with your hands. Keep making mockups & prototypes whenever you can. Invest in craft gear and in setting up a mockup space at work or home.
You know what’s more powerful than a brain? Multiple brains. Creating something alone will get you there faster. Creating something with more people on board will take you farther.
- Say no
Avoid settling for low bids or salaries. By doing so you are setting the pricing bar lower than what it deserves, and hurting fellow artists in the process. Creativity does not have a set value. Even with little or no experience, negotiate to take what you know is right & fair.
- Plateauing is good
When you find you are stuck in a repetitive loop, it means you have explored all available roads in your proximity. Which is a good thing, as you are now ready to broaden your horizon. It’s time to shake things up. Start to think bigger, or smaller, or, crazier!
- Answer the call
When you often start to feel uninspired or as if you can no longer keep growing in your workplace; you have maxed out your vertical growth. This is caused by a limitation in the structure & environment you are in, not a fault in you. The call to elevate your position, branch out, to look for growth even if elsewhere, has been made to you.
- Hit the breaks
Being very ambitious means sometimes you will take on more than you can chew. Be realistic, know your capacity and learn when to hold the breaks. Taking on ‘too much’ will have you burn out and underperform across everything you do, personal life included.
- Pass it on
Your community becomes a fertile land which you share with countless others like you. It keeps on giving everyone working & nurturing it. The harder the work, the more fruits for you to take. Remember to give, share & lend a hand when you can.
- Don’t milk it
Free resources are great but remember to donate to those who provide it when you can. Fellow artists are depending on that income and one day you may find yourself depending on such income too.
- Sketch sketch sketch
Not just design sketches, but also thought process, roadmaps & projects timelines. Paint the big picture. This is crucial to visualize the entire project at a glance and is especially effective with large scale/multidisciplinary projects.
- Experiment, constantly
Bring in other mediums into the mix. Combine tech with art, sound with light.. Pretty much anything works with everything when you put your mind into it. The results will elevate your thinking and skills to whole new levels, each and every time you do that.
- Prestigious awards are ‘ok’
Trophies are bright and shiny. They require a lot of coordinated effort so spend that effort wisely because that shiny trophy will eventually & eternally sit on the agency’s or clients’ shelf. Not yours. The award is seeing your work implemented and the real trophy is seeing your work being imitated.
- Music is bliss
Music has rhythm and when you are synchronized on a rhythm you become much more concentrated & deeply immersed into your thoughts. Use music as a time measurement. Time your working sessions by albums or track length rather than hours & minutes. Think Pomodoro Timer, but with music! Let it play. Let it flow.
- Document & Archive
Take pictures, videos, notes throughout your projects and document them in any available form. Make a clip or a simple PDF presentation. They will add up, and one day, years into your career, they will serve as an album of your greatest work. Some will make you cringe, some will make you smile and more importantly you will see how you have grown along the years and bring back valuable lessons.
- Follow your ethics
There are industries that are hurting our planet & our well being. If you contribute to their growth, you have a hand in the harm being caused & subsequently hurting yourself too. Pick your projects with that in mind, making sure what is being promoted aligns with your ethics and seek to work on projects that serve in the greater interest of the environment, all forms of life & society. All will benefit, you included.
Upcoming: What do 20 years actually look like? I am working on visualizing 20 years down to 631,139,040 seconds and will be sharing the outcome soon. Hint: It looks awesome ;)