I’ve been going through the January issue of How magazine and came across a great article where Doug Bartow, the principal and design director at id29 in Troy, NY, offered 29 tips for young designers. I graduated back in May of 2006 and nearly four years, nine months later I’ve come to rather big conclusion about my college design education experience – it really feels worthless. Don’t get me wrong, I learned some things while attending college and it has been nice having a journalism background as a graphic designer but when I’ve zeroed in on my design courses in particular I’ve realized I really graduated having been told or taught little to prepare me for real world design.
Young designers really have it bad these days. Most probably have a background similar to mine – they grew up loving art, enjoying drawing and making things and then showing them off to the world to marvel at. I went through that phase most artists go through with thinking I could never make a living off of being an artist … until I found out about graphic design. Being a graphic designer, or graphic artists as I’d like to think of myself, has kept me employed from May of 2006 through the present. It’s gotten me internships, freelance work and all around it’s been enjoyable. A lot of what’s made me a good designer though isn’t what I learned through a class but lessons I learned outside of college and on my own while trying to stay afloat and relevant. That’s why I liked Bartow’s article and would like to harp on his 29 tips for young designers. I’m still young(ish) at 26 and know I’m still learning but I’d like to put my perspective and thoughts to some of his points over the course of the next month.
Bartow’s first tip was to sweat the details. My college degree doesn’t say anything about graphic design or even art. My official degree title or track was visual communication. Designers are communicators first and foremost. When you create a poster for a concert, it can’t just be pretty but it has to clearly communicate the information and ideas pertinent to the event. If it does not get the point across, no matter how pretty it is, it’s a bad design. Something I’ve noticed with young people in general is that they have absolutely no concept of communicating like professionals. Everything is communicated with acronyms. LOL! IDK WTH these PPL are thinkn!
Communication is important to success. The sentence above looks ridiculous and I hardly take people serious when they choose to communicate with me in such a manner. I have clients who are years or even decades older to me who will send me an E-mail typed in all lowercase letters or one that’s decorated with profanities and obscenities. Really? This is your idea of professionalism and at times your idea of how to make a first impression? People, keep it professional.
I believe all graphic designers or creative types in general need to learn how to communicate in professional manners. That means in a way, you need to think of yourself less as a designer and more so as an editor or journalist. Edit everything you do to death. While Bartow recommends having a Chicago Manual of Style by your side at all times, I recommend going with AP Style as it’s the guide used by most publications and in other professional writings. Never write in shorthand. Get into the habit of communicating in sentences – start off with a capital letter, end with punctuation and have proper spelling and grammar running throughout. People seemed surprised that even on Twitter I write complete sentences and use punctuation and hardly shorthand anything. Sure, it may make me look or seem like a geek or an ancient old man but I have rarely encountered an issue of not getting a point across due to it.
When you are looking for a job, employers will be looking at how you communicate your ideas. They will notice grammatical errors on your resume, in your cover letter, even glaring issues that may be present on your design pieces. Anything you publish – whether it be online or in print, for work or for pleasure, to family or a friend, on a blog or for Facebook – should be edited, reviewed and easy to understand. It sounds a bit much or a bit of a pain but believe me, being a great communicator will take you far in your career.