The countdown to 30 continues! Since last month I shared that I am a self taught designer, I thought this month I would share five important lessons I've learned on the job. 💪
1. Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should. Lolz my first design manager told me this after reviewing one of the newspaper ads I had just designed — I was 18, the only freshman girl on the design staff, and I had never used InDesign before!
Annnnnd I had recently figured out how to add a stroke/outline to text so I put one on the headline (I'm pretty sure the headline was an aqua color and the stroke was black... the type was also round and kinda bubbly LOL).
My boss sat me down and asked if I saw a lot of other designs out in the world using headline treatments like this. I thought for a second and said "actually, no." Then he told me that just because I can do something in a design program, doesn't mean I should.
I've learned to keep it simple and use those fun bells and whistles with purpose!
2. Keep your eyes open — observe everything around you. What's popular in design, what's not? What do you like that you're not seeing anywhere? Same boss, same convo as #1. That quick chat was both a *duh* and *aha* moment for me that I'll never forget. So for the last 12 years, I've taken time to soak everything in, analyze, appreciate the beauty of simple things, and also look for ways on how something can be improved.
3. Copy is just as important as design!!! This is a biggie for me. Design is visual communication, right? So the words on the page/screen should have just as much effort put into them as the design itself.
I know not everyone agrees with this. 😜 Maybe it's my advertising and not-design background that makes me think this way. Maybe it's because I was the editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook and the story on the spread was just as important as the headline treatment and photo selections. (Hah, yes of course I was on the yearbook staff... it's funny how some things never change.) But, anyways, words matter!
I used to butt heads with an old manager allllllllll the time on this one. She thought copy was an afterthought and that design should go first. I thought (and still do) that copywriters and art directors should be best friends, work on projects side by side, and walk down the street holding hands.
The best, most impactful, creative happens when art and copy work together. I believe this so much that two of my best friends are copywriters and I bring them on to work with me as much as possible! Not only is it fun for me, but my clients also receive a well rounded product when everything is cohesive from the logo and brand tagline to the website design with the most perfect headlines and call to actions. ✨👯✨
4. Have some sort of design plan before hoping on to the computer. Whether it's a real pen and paper sketch, rough wireframe, inspiration image or even what I call "air sketching," you need something in your head or on paper so you can digitize it!
Most of the time I use a pen and my notebook to work through ideas. But sometimes I know what I want and I will kinda skip the paper part. Call me crazy, but I'll sketch things in my head, air draw them on my leg, etc.
I never have anything 100% worked out before I grab my laptop, but I would say that 75-80% of my idea is created and ready before I start my digital process.
5. Be confident in your abilities and super professional — no matter your experience level. For the first five, maybe six years of my career, I was the youngest staff member anywhere I worked. Hands down.
Once at an office party a colleague started talking about MC Hammer and asked if I remembered this or that. I looked him in the eye, laughed, and was like um no... I was maybe 3 or 4 years old when that happened? To say he was shocked is an understatement — he thought I was 5-10 years older than I actually was.
Which was funny at the time but was also a compliment since his assumption was based off both my behavior in the office and the work I produced — if you're professional and confident, you can work anywhere and great projects will find you. 👍