Towards the end of this year I will have spent 14 years in the design industry. That is either a really long time or not enough, depending on how old you are. I like to believe that my ever increasing bald patch is a reflection of these eventful but often trying years. Even though there is always more to experience, I believe I have reached a stage in life where I can start sharing some of the things I have learned along the way.
So here is a list I have put together for the young graphic designers who are hyperventilating and burning the midnight out trying to finish their projects.
1.There is nothing called ‘excessive workload.’
No, this is not a catchy headline. There is only so much you can accomplish in a work day. Even if you stretch yourself every once in awhile and work for 14 hours, there is only so much you can do. You can’t do more, you can’t do less. There is absolutely no point losing sleep over too much work. Unless of course, you are a slacker. That's a different story.
2. One thing at a time.
Multitasking is the buzzword. Screw it. It doesn’t work in our industry. There are times you will be required to handle five or more projects at a time. You will jump from one task to another, often leaving one midway to take care of another. What is achieved in the end? Absolutely nothing! You will feel overwhelmed when you find you haven’t closed anything. Instead, take a deep breath and lose yourself to one task. When you are working on it, tell yourself that nothing else exists. Complete it, save the file, go out for a walk. Come back and start working on another.
Trust me, your blood pressure level will thank you.
3. Don’t lose your sleep.
Our industry romanticizes tales of people working for days at a stretch without going home. I have done the same and here’s what I say to pulling all nighters now - it’s utter crap. If you are working through the night, there is a good chance that you have been procrastinating through the day or the management team is horrible at their work. We are a qualitative industry, not quantitative. A tired brain will rarely create good ideas. Unless you are working on something that is highly mechanical, working overnight is completely pointless. Sure, there are rare occasions when you have to do it but make sure that the occasions are rare.
4. Your work stops the moment you step out of the office door.
We love what we do but to keep fueling this passion we have to give our brain enough time to unwind. I know it might seem lucrative to take your work home, answer that email, sketch that idea, figure out that color palette. Well, just don’t. Be sincere, work hard, don’t slack during work hours but once your leave, forget all about it.
5. Have a life beyond your profession.
This is a piece of advice my tutors hammered into my head in college. Graphic design theory is extremely simple. Everything that is there to learn can be taught in 3-4 month but it takes a lifetime to perfect. Doing just design will not make you good. It is what you do after you have left your studio that determines how far you will go. Lead an interesting life. Be curious. Try something new. Fail. Laugh at yourself. When you do these things, the brain will form seemingly unrelated connections and that’s how the bright ideas will appear.
6. Play nice.
Don’t be an asshole. Just don’t. An industry veteran once told me that there are two ways to managing a team.
A. The easy way. You scream, shout, bully. You get the work done but the people you work with will abandon you at the first given opportunity.
B. The hard way. You inspire people around you. Guide them. Help them. Struggle with them. Work harder than they do. You will form life long alliances. People around you will deliver more that you asked them to do.
7. Learn to disconnect from the digital world.
Creating design solutions require an extreme amount of focus. I see too many people being constantly distracted by phone calls, messages and status updates. Do yourself a favour - turn your mobile off. Nobody will die if you miss a call or don’t respond to the latest status updates. These distractions absolutely ruin your trail of thought and you will end up feeling irritated for no good reason.
8. Learn your craft inside out.
I run into too many young designers who don’t know the very basics of their trade. I can’t stress enough on the importance of knowing every aspect of your craft inside out. Perfect your illustrator, photoshop and indesign game. Learn to draw if you don’t. Go to a printing press and understand the process. Go for meetings with client servicing and learn how to build client relationships.
Also learn how to make invoices and collect payments.
Some of the biggest graphic design studios are also extremely small. They manage to do this because every member of the team knows everything that there is to know about the industry.
9. Keep up with the times.
We are currently experiencing a rapid change in the way we create and publish graphic design. While the fundamentals of graphic design will remain unchanged in the future but i am certain that our profitable publishing platform will not be paper. Whether you like it or not, you will be required to understand and write codes.
Adapt or die.
10. Don’t get personally attached with your work.
I am sure you have heard this many times before and I know how annoying it is when those who are not designers casually say, “don’t take it personally.” What does it even mean?
A senior put it quite aptly to me many years ago. He said that to survive in the industry you will need to develop a binary relationship with your work. When you are working on the ideas and designs, be extremely attached to it. Love it like your child but the moment you stop working on it, detach yourself completely from it. Don’t be precious about your ideas. That’s a trait reserved for people who are not creative. You will always have more ideas.
This is easier said than done and takes years of experience to realize but it is good to know that you will get there someday.