I found my self giving advice a couple times recently to students either recently graduated or still attending design school, and I have to say I don’t really know the point when I went from insecure frosh to someone giving out advice. Truthfully I don’t know if I’m 100% confident about what I do now. Actually I don’t know if I ever will be. Maybe that’s what drives me to keep getting better and perfecting my craft.
It brings up an interesting question on what is a professional? Let’s face it, we all step out of school clueless. Academia has prepared us to take tests, recite useless information, and get high praise for something gone right or gentle criticism for something gone wrong. None of this, or at least very little of it actually exists in the real work environment.
In the real world, a professional designer is faced with hovering clients, ever changing scopes of work, and deadlines that make you want to run for southern Mexico, tequila in hand. Somehow though, as a professional you wade those murky waters, holding your sanity as high above the water as you can. Day after day, week after week, month after month. But do we run for the border? Do we pull our hair out and turn to a life of crime. Well some might, but the majority of us don’t. We even go so far to say we like it. Hell we LOVE IT!
What is it then? I’ll tell you what I think (as if I hadn’t been doing that already). It’s because we DO LOVE IT. It’s our passion, our life’s work. Maybe it’s been said before, but I like to say “I don’t want my work to be my life, but I want my life to be part of my work.” Design is a part of me. I find myself always scouring my surroundings looking at other design. I drive my wife crazy sometimes because I’ll look really close to menu boards and signage in restaurants or stores just to see how well it was put together. I’m constantly taking pictures of signage and other things I find interesting. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a KFC sign, or the Sistine Chapel.
My point is that for you folks that are just entering the field or about to enter the field, prepare yourself as much as possible. Spend time looking at everything you can. Examine design. Make it part of your life. Read, look, learn, and repeat. Passion transcends fads, technology, recessions. Passion drives us when nothing else can. Passion can make you successful, but you have to feed it. You have to give it what it wants. Otherwise it will wither and subside. So FEED YOUR PASSION, and your passion will feed you.