Jun 6, 2023
Introductory graphic design students reflect on insights that young designers should carry forward as they expand their design practice.
Don’t Be Scared
What is scary in graphic design education? Nothing really, except failure. But failure is part of the learning process. In education, like life, only some things will go as planned. And, when things don’t go as planned, we need to embrace failure. In these moments of failure, we learn. We observe. We reflect. We begin to understand how we might change our approach.
Trying new things is difficult. However, you will be surprised at your capabilities if you work hard and focus on the process. Any type of design is complex and takes work. Design is making a series of decisions. Decisions that may need to be fully informed. You may need to go into spaces (physical and intellectual) you have never been to before to be informed. Embrace these moments.
Use anything and everything. When creating communication, the final message is all that matters. Visual communicators must craft content and context to send the most explicit message. Make it out of wood or make it out of code—it doesn’t matter. Do what it takes to craft a message that will resonate. Full stop.
Google, Google, Google
The caveat is that education does not begin or end with Google. Young designers need to establish a foundation for their practice. Then, they can understand how to filter the information they might find on the web. More than ever, we will have machines delivering us information. The real skill will be interpreting and identifying the value of this information.
Have Grace For Yourself
If things don’t go as planned (see above), give yourself a break. We know that failure is part of the design and learning process. Yet, we learn how to deal with progress and setback through reflection. We reflect on the process and the outcome, acknowledging that our work is not us. We separate ourselves from our work to objectively understand the effect of our work. One lousy project is not a reflection of your character.
Just Start, Don’t Procrastinate
If you don’t know where to start—start anywhere. Just start the process. “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” To understand the project or the process, you must engage in both. Once engaged, the work will lead you to the next logical decision. Listen to the work, and it will lead to an appropriate result.
No Right or Wrong, Only Appropriate
The result will not be right or wrong, yet appropriate. Too often, designers get caught up in pursuing the “right.” Whether that is affirmation from their professor or peers, being a designer is about something other than being right or accepted. Designing is about achieving a desired outcome. An outcome that serves a specific need or explores a new intellectual space. Outcomes are not right or wrong; they are. They are appropriate to the needs of the endeavor.
Do Your Best
We have direct control over two things—our attitude and our effort. These character traits define our approach. You can be proud if you have a positive attitude and substantial effort. The outcome may not have been entirely successful. But objective assessments will clarify the priorities of the work. However, having a poor attitude or a lazy effort is a personal problem, not a project problem.
Crafting communication should be fun. If you are not having fun, you should ask yourself, ‘why?.’ Only some projects will indeed be fun or engaging. So, often you will have to find something in the project that will excite you. It could be the research. It could be a crafting method. It could be using a new tool or program. Ultimately, though, you will learn from each project, so find ways to make the learning fun.