Thanks for the Lessons
Making the transition from design student to professional isn’t as jarring as students might expect. The concept of learning and sharpening skills is the same, but the classroom becomes the world and professors become its inhabitants. Everyone you meet can make an impact on you if you make a decision to be open and receptive. Over the past couple of years, the designers I’ve worked with outside of the classroom have taught me valuable lessons. Being that it is Thanksgiving, I’m going to take a moment to recognize them and share the lessons they taught.
Brian Robertson is the first designer I have had the pleasure of working beside. My biggest takeaway from working with Brian was that you need to understand the medium you are working with and the environment in which your design will be placed. In our case, we were typically working with yard signs or vehicle wraps, which are read by individuals speeding down the road with a million things on their minds. Less is more with such signage. Remember to make the signs attention-grabbing and as legible as possible.
Brooke McGee is my current Creative Manager and I continue to learn things from her. What stands out to me the most, however, is her ability to make every element on a spread attractive and effective. Sometimes I am caught up in making the most prominent thing as attractive as possible. Always remember to give every element on a page the attention it deserves— whether it’s the headline of an article or the back of a brochure. It’s easy to get lazy when you’ve spent several hours working on one part of a design. If you need to, take a night off from the project, come back refreshed and persevere until everything is masterfully crafted.
Nikki Pulfer worked alongside Brooke during my internship at Baldwin & Lyons. She is now a successful full-time freelancer specializing in invitations. She taught me a variety of things about invitations and design, but I cannot emphasize enough her drive to try new things. She’s like a conquistador of paper and printing, always exploring new things. Nikki taught me that if you can dream it up, you can find a way to do it. Don’t rest until you find a solution. Always try out new ways to fold things, materials to include, paper combinations… if you’re afraid of failure you’ll never do anything unique.
Greg Beall was my Creative Director for a while. I was finishing up my senior year when I started working with him, and I had the standard student view of teamwork (an unfair share of work). Greg showed me how awesome teamwork can be. When the group can recognize each person’s strengths, they can build something much better than one member could create alone. I really enjoyed the environment of enthusiasm and positivity during our brainstorming and collaboration. His attitude is definitely infectious!
Julia Spangler is a fellow UIndy alum and my current co-worker. She’s a pretty impressive gal. If you spend any time around her, you’ll notice that she’s always asking intelligent questions. Before beginning a requested project, she will ask why the medium was decided on, who the target audience is, what the goal is, etc. In-house designers tend to work with the same audiences, so it is easy to forget to ask the important questions and evaluate if the communication methods are effective. Julia reminds me that it’s okay to ask questions. Your designs will make a greater impact when you have all the information.
Honestly, these designers are awesome folks and it’s really hard to narrow it down to one lesson per individual. These lessons stand out to me the most, though, and I find myself thinking about these things regularly. I hope others making the student to professional transition will keep these lessons in mind as they create.