What I've learned during 4 years in the design world.

04 December, 2011 § 4

Last week marked my 4 years of working at WonderEight. I've thought long and hard about this post because there's been lots of highs but also lots of lows. The process of figuring out who you are as a designer and where you want your career to go is never an easy one, especially in Lebanon. The lows may have helped better in that discovery but I will not linger on them. Instead, I'm going to share with you the lessons, some are life lessons, others are downright clickable but just as important.

1. A good designer has no pride at all.
We designers have this "better than thou" attitude that seems to just come with the job. And when we're working on something, we get so immersed in our perfectly justifiable color palettes and obsessively kerned type, it becomes hard to look at what we're doing like total strangers. And that is essential for effective design. I made it a point to always work on a visual, leave it be for a night, then look at it the next day to find all the wrongs of the world in it. And when you don't have time to do that, another designer's point of view is all you need. And this is where your pride should leave the way to objectivity. Listen closely, discuss, you might not be convinced but still you should try. This wasn't always so easy but if you try it a couple of times and it works, then it's silly not to try it over and over again.

2. A graphic design degree is the last pre-requisite for becoming a design God.
In my working environment, we don't all come from a graphic design background. And this is the one things that has made these 4 years all the more enriching. I found this offending at first, having my work criticized by people who hadn't spent years being formed into designers. But then I found that a different point of view is always a good one. It's not what they teach you at college that makes you better. It's the osmosis of different minds and backgrounds that does. You'll find yourself back to stage one a lot of times and your pride will have to zip it here too. Because this process of re-working things is what makes you better whether you like it or not.

3. Client education rarely ever works.
Clients will always want their logos bigger, will always ask you to copy their always better competitors and you will always have to shrink your visual culture to fit theirs. This will make you hate your job. And your life. But then, out of the blue, you'll get a client that is willing to take your advice and see things your way. Forget about the others, give them what they want while keeping your design conscience as clear as possible. You don't need their stress. And quoting Baz Luhrmann: "If you succeed in doing this, tell me how!"

4. The advertising/design community is a shallow, deceitful one.
I've been to a couple of community gatherings these past years only to discover that they would be better titled masquerades. Fake smiles, even more fake praise and the whole "better than thou" thing tattooed on everybody's forehead. I'm lucky not to be working in a big agency and lucky to be surrounded by people who are exceptions to the rule.

5. You are the sole responsible for keeping your creativity alive.
Through these last years, I always felt like I was falling into some sort of routine. Even if I've seen a lot of people come and go and made it a point to learn something new from each and every one of them, 4 years can still weigh you down. But then I decided I should take matters into my own hands. Now I always venture into unknown territories when I'm working on a new project. Sometimes I even imagine myself being someone else working on it, kind of like 'what would whoever do'.  And although these trials might sometimes turn out to be a waste of time, they remain essential to keeping a fresh perspective on things. So are personal projects, personal research, freelance and everything non-design that you do outside the office. But most of all, so is giving yourself a break every now and then and not taking yourself too seriously.

6. Comic sans can be used right.
Okay no, not really. But, on a more technical note, I've learned that gradients work, that shadows make a huge difference and that the lens flare can be your friend. I've also learned that the designs you dream of doing are rarely the solution that needs to be met, that in order to convince a client you will have to work longer and harder on the preview than on the actual design. There may always be things that I will refuse to succumb to but I'm sure a day will come to prove me wrong.

So, 4 years have passed and I still can't claim that I know better who I want to be as a designer. How long the self-discovery process is supposed to last, I have no idea. Has it gone too long? Should I know by now? I'm not sure. But looking back, what I'm sure of is that I have gone from one phase to another, never lingering in one too long. And I'm just curious to see where the next phase will take me!

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