Creative + Co-Pilot

What I've Learned From Teaching as an Adjunct Professor This Year

3 Solid Tips for Designers Entering the Workforce


I recently received notice about AIGA Nashville's Mentor Match event, an event that pairs young professionals and graduating students with experienced creatives.  As you know, I'm continually trying to spread the creative gospel and truth to upcoming creatives. This seemed like a great opportunity to give some insight to those entering the workforce. It was a great event, with some of Nashville's creative leaders spreading around ample knowledge and expertise.

Upon volunteering, I was prompted to fill out a survey that asked me to list the 3 most important lessons or pieces of advice I would give young designers, and it seemed like a great list to share with everyone on the blog. So I'm gonna quit bullshittin' and get down to it.

  1. Don't approach the workforce as if you are entitled to a dream job.
    If you've seen my post on ChargeCon's site you'll know my idealist nature has had it's down side in my career. Being an idealist and approaching the job market with the mindset that employers owe you something is a great way to find your ass unemployed. As an entry-level designer, companies will judge you by your potential, talent and attitude. Check your sense of entitlement and ego at the door and be appreciative that someone is going to give you a paycheck and teach you how to hone your craft congruently. That is valuable. I'm not saying you should settle for whatever comes your way, but you should be willing to compromise to find a position that will allow you to grow as a creative and as a professional. Be gracious.
  2. Polish your typography chops.
    If you divide design into two sectors of content, you end up with imagery and type. Artists in general are image makers and although you can say a lot with strong images, most likely all forms of commercial communication will have a typographic element. 

    Think of type in complimenting pairs. If you have a large condensed sans serif headline, think of paring it with a serif body typeface. Even if you were to use the same typeface throughout a document, find one that has varying weights to add contrast. Utilize different caps and lowercase combinations within headlines and body copy. Explore ways that let contrasting type styles live together. Your type will be more dynamic and add value to your work.

    Immerse yourself in type history. Learning the unique characteristics and features of different typefaces adds tools to your tool belt. When you have a solid foundation in the main type classifications and understand the reasoning behind why certain choices were made during their creation, it is an enlightening experience. (i.e. letter spacing, x-height for legibility's sake and potential alternate characters) It builds a visual type vocabulary that can be catered, altered and integrated into your work. These are the little details that can carry a heavy punch. 
  3. Make. Make. Make.
    I talk about the necessity of constantly drawing and creating in one of my earlier posts. You can read the full post here. Below is a quick excerpt that hits on the importance of making.

    "I had my ass handed to me on multiple occasions during my internship at Chen Design in 2011, all deservedly so. It was not for lack of effort or time put in, it was more for not sketching enough, producing efficiently or staying true to the design process. (Plus I was super insecure working with so many talented folks) I remember the month leading up to my move to SF. I had decided to take a break from making anything substantial to get there fresh and full of life. Man did that backfire, it was like I had never drawn anything in my life!"

    You must consistently create. As a freelancer I've had to immerse myself in the different aspects of running a design business, and as a result I now design less than I had when working for an agency or studio. It's easy to get all caught up in the hustle of writing contracts, self-promoting and meetings so much that it's harder and harder to continually progress in my ideas and execution. Designers in general need to understand the power of cranking out a boat-load of work. When I was at the agency job a few years back, I was putting in a ton of time creating but on top of that I was drawing letters, filling sketchbooks and gaining a real confidence about my work. Shut off the social media for a bit so you can learn and stay sharp by creating something everyday. 


We can all benefit from making time to create. Educating ourselves, exploring typography and remaining humble is great way to stay grounded regardless of where we find ourselves in our careers.  Thanks for stopping by. You can find out more about AIGA here.



Stephen Jones