Along with speaking to our people about branding and finding your niche I’ve also been making my way around the local universities. A pattern I’m noticing across the board with senior design students is that they’re all freaking out about transitioning into the real world. Their professors are sharing horror stories about botched print jobs coming out of their paychecks, 80-hour work weeks and painful due-paying to be had. I’ve got a lot of compassion for these kids - because it wasn’t that long ago (was it really 8 years ago?!) that I was in the same boat.
So here’s some advice I’ve been sharing with students lately:
1. Be nice. It’s kind of a given that students right out of school aren’t going to have the best design skills. You’re being hired based on potential and personality. So be nice.
2. Be consistent. Now as I review student work I’m not necessarily looking at the work itself but how the portfolio is put together. Are all the boards trimmed nicely? Is the work presented in a consistent manner? Are the creative rationales well designed? The way a portfolio is put together says a lot about the designer.
3. Typography. Typography. Typography. At my design school there was a heavy emphasis on typography. Before we touched a computer we spent semesters drawing type with pen and ink. I feel like many students treat type as an afterthought - rather than crafting a piece of copy it’s as if they just haphazardly hammer it out on their keyboard - and it makes me sad.
4. Don’t default to black. It’s an epidemic. I feel like every student uses the color black as a default - especially when it comes to typography (see #4). I’m not saying black is bad - but be intentional about your color palettes.
5. Design students get jobs. It was my college friends who were English, sociology and psychology majors that were waiting tables and working at record stores.
6. These days it’s not about just having great ideas. These days you have to be a triple threat. You have to be able to wear at least 3 of the following hats to be hireable: design, write, communicate, coordinate, code, craft, illustrate, and ideate.
7. You have more to learn. Elsewhere. I remember upon graduating a lot of my classmates started talking about grad school or freelancing. But trust. You have more to learn - outside of a school setting. Get a job. Get a mentor. Work hard and keep learning.
Our part-time graphic designer Kristin shared what she learned about being a design student over on my blog here. And if you're currently a design student or wanting to learn more check out Larry Hefner's blog here for lots of practical tips.
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Last week Tara and I shared our inspiration boards with you and how we reveal them along the way on our projects, way before they are complete. Lots of designers and creators want you to pay no mind to the man behind the curtain, but we like being transparent about what influences us. And what influences us could be anything from other design trends to interiors to fashion to photography. So that opens up another conversation about inspiration-gathering. Though we’ve spent years and years honing our craft, our creative process doesn’t exist in a vacuum and we are inspired by outside trends. But when does inspiration cross the line into imitation and how do you avoid it?
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