The Best Design Advice I have Ever Received

Recently I came across a post by Veerle Pieters called “What a designer needs to do to get a job”. Packed full of advice, this article spawned a plethora of additional conversation on the subject matter proving that those looking to make career moves and students hoping to find a means to pay back their loans will forever be seeking that one magical door-opening tip to endless job offers. This post made me think back on the advice others have given me and what has rung true not only in making career-related choices but also in my personal pursuit of overall design happiness.

“Don’t worry about all the Bull$hit, just do good work, and have a good portfolio.”
-Rich Hilliard, professor

This tip has echoed in my mind ever since Rich interjected it into one of his colorful lectures. Designers often get sucked in to trying to make themselves look better with fancy language on their resum├ęs, awards, and expensive portfolio cases. It doesn’t matter if you went to the best design school in the world and have the slickest self promotional items on the block, if your portfolio sucks… no one cares. A good portfolio will say more than you could. The voice of Rich resonated in my mind as I met an interactive designer who I really look up to in Austin this past March. I asked him “So what did you do before you started your own studio?” He laughed, looks were exchanged, and he replied “I worked at Burger King”.

“Wake up every morning and be ready to come up with ideas… not excuses.”
-Paul Llewellyn, my High School art teacher

Sometimes non-creative professionals get an inaccurate impression that design is an easy career path to pursue. While I do enjoy boasting that “I draw pictures all day” there is a lot of pressure to come up with fresh, mind-blowing concepts. It takes work… and excepting that challenge with enthusiasm will help you be a better designer. Mr Llew said this in the context of drawing in a daily sketchbook. Challenging one’s self to draw something everyday can help sharpen your idea developing skills, so when you need to discover a big idea for a tough client… you are already on top of it.

“Hire people who are better than you are, then leave them to get on with it. Look for people who will aim for the remarkable, who will not settle for the routine. “
-David Ogilvy (sent to me in an e-mail from my friend Robbie Thompson)

While this piece of advice can be taken literally or figuratively it touches on a value that I have experienced to be true. Surrounding yourself with those who are kick-ass at what they do not only inspires you to work harder, but improves the overall product that you produce as a team. Recognizing other designers strengths and setting aside egos can not only help improve the work produced but contribute to positive design chi. If your fellow designer comes up with a killer idea, it makes you look better as a team, so embrace their talent and look to associate yourself with more of it.

[tags]design advice, job search, Design careers, Veerle Pieters,FL2, Rich Hilliard, Paul Llewellyn, David Ogilvy, Robbie Thompson, [/tags]