Every spring, I have the opportunity to review student portfolios at St. Cloud State University. Because graphic design students tend to have a fresh perspective on design, I’m usually looking for personal inspiration as much as they’re looking for my advice. For me, it’s a give-and-take situation. After many years of reviewing student portfolios, I’ve come across a few trends in my feedback, so I wanted to take the time to share a few of these tips with you.
1) Sex sells but so does typography.
We all know the old saying “sex sells”, and well, it does. BUT, in the design world, typography is the equivalent to a woman in a skin-tight cocktail dress in a Bacardi commercial. Your resume is the first piece of work that will pass before a potential employer’s eyes. If the type on your resume isn’t set to visually communicate, the chance of the employer taking time to look at your portfolio is slim to none. (Well, at least at Gaslight). Good typography is key to your success as a graphic designer. Remember, rules can be broken, but you need to know what it is you’re breaking before you do so. Click HERE for a list of guidelines to follow. With that said, if you’re resume is visually appealing but has typos, your resume is headed straight to the trashcan. Details are everything in design. If you don’t take the time to spell check your resume (or the email you attached it to), we’re not going to trust you with a client’s project.
2.) Just because your boss shits on your work doesn’t mean he or she hates you.
Everyone’s been there. You work tirelessly on a project only to have your professor or boss say, “ehhh…this isn’t going to work. What else can do with this?” While your first instinct might be to say, “Why do you hate me?” you have to remember you’re in this industry to communicate ideas. When you put your work out there, you’re putting it out there to be judged. Remember, this isn’t a judgment on your character; it’s about your work. If you haven’t already started seeing feedback as an opportunity for growth, I recommend you do so from here on out. Maintain a “sponge” mentality, and soak-up any piece of advice you can – especially as an emerging designer. While we don’t recommend drinking whiskey with your boss until you vomit as you work on a campaign idea good enough to present to the client, Season 4; Episode 7 of Mad Men perfectly exemplifies this point.
3.) Leggo your eggo.
Here’s a newsflash: 95% of designers work hard. 95% of designers think their hard work isn’t reflected in their bank account. GET OVER IT. A big ego is a designer’s own worst enemy. Your boss doesn’t care if you once received the highest grade for your packaging project; you’re in the big leagues now. When your ego gets in the way of your work, everything will start looking the same. If you’re struggling to push beyond your creative walls, don’t be afraid to ask for help. Talk to your co-workers, other designers or an old design professor who might offer an insight you wouldn’t have otherwise considered. Most of the time, when a designer hits a roadblock and starts thinking his or her work is bigger and better than where he or she is currently working, he or she is usually wrong. These are the times when you need to dig deep and channel those things that made you want to become a designer in the first place. View every project as an opportunity to better yourself. With this mindset, you can feel the same self-gratification working on small ad for a local lawn care service or a full-page ad for Vogue.
To all the students out there, believe me, these lessons are learned in time. After four years of college, you’re barely touching what it means to be a designer. Perseverance, patience and a great portfolio are what it takes to keep you on that journey. Good luck to all 2013 graduates!