Sesame Street Tips for Back to School Design Students

The feeling of September recalls warm memories of excitement I used to have when going back to school. I love school. I was that kid who begged to sit in the front row and obnoxiously raised my hand to participate in everything. My thirst to learn was only expedited as I entered college as a design student where I grew to be an even louder pain in the ass for a few of my fellow students who preferred a softer design critique to muffle the pain of their early morning hang-over.

The memories of doing all-nighters to give life to ideal concepts and enthusiastic 10 am morning critiques with no client feedback simulates the illusion of happy clouds floating by and birds singing, after-all that lifestyle is just a dream to me now. Design school is like a happy simulated version of the real design world, a parallel universe where Big Bird teaches you about ligatures and gradient abuse. You have a hard deadline, but you are handing it over to Big Bird… how hard is a big-ass bird really going to be on you? People sing songs in the streets proclaiming great things about the grid and color theory. Sure there is negative feedback, but you can just close the trash can lid on him and continue skipping down the sidewalk… its not like he is paying the bills.

Looking back on the observations I have made since my graduation to K street from Sesame Street, here are my Sesame Street themed tips for the College Design Student.

Tips For Design Students

oscarDon’t Be a Grouch
One of my biggest pet peeves in school was students complaining. Complaints ranged from professors grading with bias to unrealistic timelines. When you get a job as a designer, clients can be biased and deadlines are often unrealistic. Suck it up and view it as preparation for the real world.

cookie monsterBe Hungry.
When you graduate your entire class is hitting the work force all at the same time. Not just your class, but design students with the same level of experience are all hitting the work force and there isn’t a whole lot more that separates them from each other than personality, school, and work. A percentage of those guys will go on to pursue careers completely un-related to design, another percentage will go on to do production work for copy shops, and then there is a few that will really excel. Be hungry to be in the percentage that excels. Design is not the easiest career path, you have to really want it.

The Letter HBecome a Typography expert
When looking at portfolios and resumes the one thing I find that sets apart the good from the great is Typography. The first thing that tips me off that someone has a lot of potential is a well-typeset document. In circumstances where there may be a low budget or undesirable assets typography can be the key component to a project.

Have Your Web Skills Up to Snuff
Design and Code your own Portfolio site website (using standards). Not all schools teach web development along side design, much less standards at all. Just because you are not taking a class doesn’t mean you can’t educate yourself. Cut out a beer drinking hour a couple times a week and cozy up to some books like Designing with Standards.Having this skill will make you more competitive in the job market.

Mix it up
Take classes like metal working or Fabric design and use the skills you learn in those classes to make better projects for your design classes.When you are asked to make a poster on Fibonacci numbers in Math class, turn it into a design project. it may not be portfolio material, but practice makes perfect.

Sesame StreetNetwork
With so much to learn in such a diverse field you never know who will be able to teach you the next thing. Go to networking events, meet people who are already out in the field and have fun! Having a diverse network that doesn’t just include designers, but also developers, photographers, and illustrators will make your toolbox of resources that much richer. It is also nice not to feel like an alien when passionately expressing your love for the lower-case “g” in Gill Sans over a beer.

Feel free to contribute your own Sesame Street Themed design tips… creativity rocks! PS: I know this is kind of a trippy association, I swear I have never done acid.