by Andrew Bass
We’ve all been there as an emerging designer. Full of ideas, primed to work on as many projects as you can and eager to show off your creative chops. However, in feeling like that, young designers won’t think through everything clearly, and lots of missteps happen. Like I said, we’ve all been there.
Below are ten things I’ve learned the hard way over the years that could help you avoid some of those curvy roads I went down.
- Learn everything you can about the business of design—from contracts, agreements, non-disclosures, royalty agreements, copyright & trademark law, your legal rights as a creator, spec work, understanding how to calculate real rates and pricing your work to benefit you first. Creativity is just one part of being a designer.
- Always, always maintain a current portfolio of work and resume. This has nothing to do with whether or not you are leaving a job. It’s about always being prepared for the next opportunity because the business market is ever changing. Mergers, buyouts, closures, firing and lay-offs come out of nowhere and if you’re not prepared, you’ll lose out.
- Try never to be complacent creatively. Learn new programs or tackle an unfamiliar project or skillset to keep your skills ever growing and valuable.
- Do yourself a favor—create personal projects outside of work. Do more for yourself than just your job because it will help your creative process.
- Always take time for yourself (that doesn’t involve what you do professionally). Break away from the world, disconnect from technology and just let yourself be still. Your mind, spirit and body will thank you for it.
- You will suffer from burnout. It’s inevitable. And it’s totally okay as we all experience it. Don’t worry too much about it as you will focus again. That’s way it’s important to take time for yourself.
- Don’t take creative feedback too personally. It’s not a personal attack even though it feels like that. Most times the person giving the feedback doesn’t really know how to express what they are thinking. By sticking to concrete design points, it will help to educate them about how to give smart feedback on design.
- Once in a while, take on a pro-bono project. It’s about using design to do good for the community you are in or care about. It also provides gives you as an emerging designer a chance to take on different design challenges. Understand however that this is not spec work. Learn the differences between spec and pro-bono work.
- Understand that you won’t always have a winning concept. At times, you will need to get the job done even though you aren’t feeling it creatively. Not every project is an award winner. As long as it solves the problem in an effective way, it is successful. Don’t get hung up on thinking every project is a portfolio piece. It won’t be and that’s all right.
- Lastly, have fun creating. Don’t be so serious, let yourself laugh at foolish mistakes or absurd ideas. It’s when you can’t see the humor in what you do that will make design feel like a burden.
Andrew Bass is the founder of Straight Design consultancy and art director and production manager at RIMS (The Risk Management Society). He has also taught at CUNY New York City College of Technology and art directed at Nelson Haymarket Media as well as Essence. Andrew also serves on AIGA’s National Diversity & Inclusion Task Force and AIGA’s National EMERGE Team.