Sage advice: What’s the one thing you wish you’d been told?

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Published:  December 16, 2014
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We rounded up some of our friends in the industry to talk about the one thing they wish they had been told upon embarking on their new careers. Now, older and (hopefully) wiser than they were on the day of their graduation, we asked Mark Bonner, Veronica Grow, Vince Frost, Ben Grosz and Anita Riley for that piece of advice that could have helped the younger version of themselves…

Grosz Co. Lab poster series, From Dawn to Dawn

Grosz Co. Lab poster series, From Dawn to Dawn

“Looking back on when I graduated, I know I left feeling well equipped and a tad over confident about day 1 of being a ‘qualified’ designer. I started my first design group while still at University and couldn’t wait to finish studying to start running my business. I spent the first few years of my design profession afraid to make mistakes, or ask enough questions, or work even harder to extend my knowledge. I now believe there is no finish line and the best designers spend a lifetime experimenting, making mistakes, challenging themselves and learning. The day I graduated I wish I had been told: ‘you’ve finished learning here so now go out there and keep learning’.”

— Ben Grosz, Grosz Co. Lab

Debut issue by Vince Frost, Zembla Magazine

Debut issue by Vince Frost, Zembla Magazine

“I wish I had been taught more about business. It’s taken me 25 years on the job to learn how to design and run a successful business. Without business there is no design and it still seems to me that young students coming out of college are being taught to think solely like artists.

“I believe it is critical for any budding designer to learn the basics around business, finance and marketing; essentially how the world works. I know it’s a more left brain way of thinking which most creatives have consciously avoided by going to art college, but I believe it is critical to designing successful solutions rather than self-serving decoration.”

— Vince Frost, Frost* Collective

Old School New School self-published title, Belly of the Beast

Old School New School self-published title, Belly of the Beast

“When I graduated in 1998, due to the narrow view I had received from the confines of my education, I thought that everyone who was successful in the industry must be mega good. I wasted a lot of energy hero-worshipping and believing myths about the greatness of others. I never realised (until many years later) that 90% of designers spend their day making work that is not that special – it just follows a safe visual formula that’s quite easy to produce.  Beating myself up was completely unnecessary. Things were much safer than I had believed them to be, and audiences are much more forgiving than I could have ever imagined! I never realised that if you make some mediocre design, people don’t even care, and they have very short memories.”

— Veronica Grow, Old School New School

Still from campaign film, D&AD Awards Ceremony 2014

Still from campaign film, D&AD Awards Ceremony 2014

“The one thing I wish I’d been told on the day of graduation was that I didn’t need to wear a tie. A wonderful man called Nick Wurr, sadly no longer with us (who taught me at the RCA in the early 90s and was an esteemed principal at The Partners), was insistent about this. G and H of GBH were there too, and Nick was adamant all three of us should wear ties at the ceremony. Sadly for us, each of us borrowed one from his selection, and a fine assortment of 80s finery they were too! David Hockney handed me my MA that day — it was such an honour as he’s a big hero to me — but of course, all he wanted to talk about was our ghastly ties.”

— Mark Bonner, D&AD

Branding and identity, Stokehouse by Seesaw

Branding and identity, Stokehouse by Seesaw

“To quote the very apt Good F*¢king Design Advice poster we have hanging in our studio, I think the following points are pretty relevant:

F*¢king collaborate. Don’t f*¢king procrastinate. Get over your f*¢king self. Keep f*¢king learning. Trust your f*¢king gut. Ask for f*¢king help. Believe in your f*¢king self.

“We are so lucky to work in such a supportive, exciting and challenging industry and if I could have told my younger self one thing, it would be to just have fun.”

— Anita Ryley, Seesaw

One Response

  1. toptucker

    I wish someone would have said a lot more people with a lot less artistic talent and knowledge are going to have a lot more say in your design than you realize. Put the ego aside and get peer feed back-up and down the experience chain, you will be better for it. Mentor as your experience grows – It feels good to let others get the credit sometimes. Learn to realize when your current work is crap, not working, and move on. Sometimes the win is that little detail you do that makes the design better even if no one else notices but you. Go beyond the design. Understand wholly your vendors, materials, substrates and printing methods because they can make a good design great. A side effect is professionalism, trust and added value to a cost and time conscious client.

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