Things I wish I had known before working a “Real” job!

Given the chance, I’ll totally toot my horn loudly about my awesome collage experience at an awesome university (BYU–Idaho). I had great classes, amazing professors and mentors, supportive design friends… however; how interesting it is to have a “Real World Job” with real deadlines with real consequences (not that failing/doing poorly in my classes in school wasn’t a real consequence to me at the time). So, here’s a list of “Things I wish I had known” before entering the workforce as a Graphic Designer.

1. Understand your own design process.

As a student I was learning about the design processes of other designers and theory about how best to create (although that seems extra arbitrary since i’ve meet quite a few designers, and none of them have the same process to design).

I’ve found that upon being hired and asked to design projects, I understood little about how much TIME something would take. I hadn’t really put my brain to thinking about and understanding my own design process and how long it take me to accomplish certain design tasks. Being the somewhat timid designer I can be sometimes (silly me), I didn’t know how long a new design job/project would roughly take me to accomplish.

Since it’s all about learning and getting better at what you do… you’ll inevitably get better as you go; but I had nothing really to judge myself by as a newly graduated designer.

If you can understand how you work, you can better fulfill commitments so when your boss /client comes to you with a task and asks the inevitable question “How long will this take/When can I expect this?” you’ll be able to more accurately give an approximate time.

2. Not all design is created equal, least of all your own.

I wish that I had realized how valuable being able to design in lots of different styles would be. Most designers have a certain style of their own, and sometimes that style is exactly what your client/employer wants or loves (and dude, treasure those moments). Then again, sometimes it’s not exactly what they need and they need you to adopt a style that is different from your fallback comfort design style.

When working on projects specifically for a company; you know, one with a pre-established brand… and all that jazz? It can prove a challenge to mesh your style with that of the company, and vise versa. I’ve had to come to the understanding that my final design needs to be inline with the brand. So having many styles under your belt will prove to be an extremely useful tactic when heading into the “real world”.

3. Understand what fulfills you creatively and make sure your getting it.

This is simple really but I totally didn’t realize coming out of school (again silly me) that I would on occasion… (sometimes frequently) be doing work for a client that I didn’t necessarily agree with or love. I toyed with the fanciful thought that I would get just the perfect job and love everything about it… nope not there yet! haha!

As a creative person you need to be creative and have that fulfillment because really often your going to have to take that job to pay the bills. So, find something that recharges your design batteries and do it in addition to that job. (I can say that a pottery class works wonders for me). Whatever it is that keeps you energized and creative, do it!

4. Communication with your client is key!

I can tell you that I’m not the most articulate person, and sometimes I find it hard to communicate my point, especially to a client that doesn’t understand anything about the design process and thinks very differently than I do. So… If I could have had practice before graduating collage; interacting with real client-type situations I think it would have been helpful.

Making sure your on the same page with a client before you start working a project is important. If you don’t you may find that you’ve gone in the wrong direction and thus a re-work of your design will need to happen. Revisions are the most difficult part of the design process… but vital in creating the best result.

5. Have confidence in your skills.

This is kinda like calling the kettle black. I’m guilty of being my own worst critic. Having confidence in your skills is going to help in every way. Not only will it allow you to be more proactive about selling yourself, but it’s going to help you make more decisive decisions (insert pep talk here).

Don’t get discouraged, things have a way of working out for those who are determined and forever pushing themselves to be better. If you can keep working at it you’ll be rewarded.