Friday, November 18, 2011

Life Lessons as a Designer

by Christa Zinner

We can preach the mantras of design night in and night out, but there will always be greater issues at play that many designers overlook. Although we are not artists and we should not think of ourselves as an artist (for as a designer, as we grow and learn and become immersed within our work, design suddenly overwhelms our lives and begins to take root in everything we do), we should be aware of our own personal shortcomings in life. Perhaps everyone struggles with these issues in life; there may be points in time where we struggle with our own identity or why we are pursuing such life-long studies while we toe the fine line between work and passion.

I've always been a huge fan of Stefan Sagmeister. Maybe he's not for everyone; he does do a lot of conceptual design that's hard to understand and can seem silly or worthless. There's a great world he tends to live in where he speaks about great life-lessons and philosophical ideas through his designs that can sober you and bring you out of the clouds and down to reality. Thinking realistically is a huge part of my life, it really touches base when a designer speaks to me about life-lessons I can understand and I really like seeing that outlook from other people as well.

If you've never seen the whole Hillman Curtis' Artist's Series he did a few years back, I would highly recommend watching all of them. I remember watching them myself my first year in college when they were brand new and watching these videos of advice from highly successful designers completely changed my outlook on my life as a designer. I began looking at myself and my work subjectively and the different ways I approached ideas and solutions changed as well. There's some other great sagely advice from Milton Glaser, Pentagram Studios and Paula Scher if you like the video of Stefan Sagmeister and want to see more.

There's also a fantastic book that I picked up about 4 years ago written by Stefan Sagmeister called “How to be a Graphic Designer Without Losing Your Soul” (which is something we all struggle with even in school, let alone the real world) that I also would highly recommend picking up if you have some extra money. He gives some great, realistic advice about how to land jobs, start up your own studio, work with clients and how to in general keep yourself somewhat sane. The design world is an insanely fast-paced jungle and as both new and old designers we can quickly become overwhelmed and swallowed whole in the hustle and bustle.

While I understand the merit of looking at “pretty pictures”, inspiring design, beautiful type-faces and how discussing these things as designers is important, I think sometimes we need to tackle the harder subjects and shouldn't forget about them. It will be extremely difficult (unless you're bizarrely lucky) to find your dream job if you don't work hard and push yourself and set goals every single day. You will have to choose one day between losing sleep or going the extra mile on a project. Those choices are yours, and yours alone. Deciding where you go or how far you want to push yourself will end up reflecting upon where you end up in life. You can never, ever give up. You may have to submit your portfolio and resume to 200 different studios before you even get an interview. But if design has completely consumed your life, then these struggles should be small obstacles to living out your passion. Failure is inevitable at some point in time; but we should learn and grow and never give up. Design isn't a 9-5 job. It exists every second in your life, waking or sleeping. Your life as a designer doesn't start the moment you get your diploma and leave school; it started the moment you decided you wanted to be a designer and you should be actively working towards it every day of your life.

1 comment:

  1. I love, love, love this post. Being an artist isn't something you turn off and on at will. That is, not if you truly live and breathe it. It's not a matter of doing work because it's due or because you're being paid to meet a deadline. Instead, it's about passion and love and desire to create every single day of your life.

    P.S. Hillman Curtis is a fantastic venue for inspiration and I've shown several videos over the years, most notably the Paula Scher and James Victore (especially the latter).