After leaving college, you had some serious skills in hand and head full of ideas, but there are things they didn’t teach you in art school and you have to learn them from your own experience. In his little side project, Jamie Wieck – a successful designer from London – compiled those things in a single list dubbed as “The 50”.
The list includes fifty points that consist of short, 140-character descriptions and simple illustrations that are little nuggets of graphic design-related wisdom that you can print out and hang over your desk.
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1. You are not the first.
There are very few ‘firsts’ these days. Countless others have started studios, freelanced and requested internships. It can be done.
2. There is always someone better.
Regardless of how good you are, there will always be someone better. It’s surprisingly easy to waste time worrying about this.
3. Success is not a finite resource.
College fosters a zero-sum mentality: that someone has to fail for you to succeed. In truth, another’s success doesn’t limit yours.
4. You cannot score without a goal.
If you don’t know what you want, then how can you pursue it? Having a goal defines an end point, and subsequently, a place to start.
5. Starting anything requires energy.
It takes more energy to start than it does to stop. This is true for physics, your career, and that idea you need to work on.
6. The path to work is easier than you think.
To get into the industry you need just three things: great work, energy and a nice personality. Many forget the last attribute.
7. Have a positive self-image.
Your self-perception is your most important asset. See yourself as the person you want to be and others will see this too.
8. Get a clean, simple website up.
An online portfolio is the alpha and omega of your career. With a wealth of web services, there’s no excuse for not having a website.
9. Curate your work.
Never stop editing your portfolio. Three strong pieces are better than ten weak ones – nobody looks for quantity, just quality.
10. Listen to your instincts.
If your work doesn’t excite you, then it won’t excite anyone else. It’s hard to fake passion for mediocre work – scrap it.
11. Make your work easy to see.
People are lazy. If you want them to look at your work, make it easy. Most of the time employers simply want to see a JPG or PDF.
12. Hand-write addresses.
Clients, prospective employers and potential clients gravitate to letters with handwritten addresses. The personal touch goes far.
13. Time is precious – get to the point.
Avoid profuse humour or gimmicks when contacting studios for work, they’ve seen it all before. Get to the point, they’ll be thankful.
14. Never take an unpaid internship.
This is not a necessary evil – a studio that doesn’t pay their interns (at least the minimum wage) is a studio not worth working for.
15. Do as many internships as you can stand.
Internships are a financial burden, but they are vital. They let you scope out the industry and find the roles that suit you best.
16. Don’t waste your internship.
A studio’s work can dip, as can its energy. Ignore this and be indispensable, the onus is on you to find something that needs doing.
17. Make friends with a printer.
A good relationship with a printer is invaluable – they will help you save money and the environment.
18. Find your local D.I.Y. store and pound shop.
These places are invaluable resources of cheap and ready-made artifacts ripe for tinkering, re-decoration and re-contextualisation.
19. Be patient.
It’s not unusual to complete several internships and not find ‘a good fit’. Try applying to a studio you hadn’t considered.
20. Ask questions.
Assume nothing. Ask questions, even if you think you know the answers. You’ll be surprised at how little you know.
21. Ask for opportunities.
It will feel cheeky, but ask for things. Ask to be included in exhibitions, magazines, pitches – if you don’t ask, you can’t get.
22. Seek criticism, not praise.
You learn nothing by being told how great you are. Even if you think your work’s perfect – seek criticism, you can always ignore it.
23. Make friends, not enemies.
The creative industry is a small world: it’s a network where everyone knows everyone else. Remember this before pissing someone off.
24. News travels fast.
A good intern will find their reputation precedes them. Jobs are nearly always offered on this word-of-mouth evidence.
25. Don’t get drunk at professional events.
There’s a difference between being ‘merry’ and ‘paralytic’. The latter costs you your dignity, your reputation and possibly your job.
There’s some truth in ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. Talk to people, send emails; at the very least sign up to Twitter.
27. Dress smart – look business like.
Take your work seriously? Then take your appearance seriously. Clients are more likely to deal with people who look like they care.
28. Never work for free.
Not only does this devalue the profession, but it makes you look weak. Even a ‘nice’ client will take advantage of this.
If you really have to work for nothing, negotiate. Clients and studios have access to many resources that can be viewed as ‘payment’.
30. Read contracts.
Never sign a contract before reading it. Subsequently, don’t begin any job without a contract – you may have to write one yourself.
31. Make your invoice stand out.
Businesses are deluged with invoices. Make yours stand out with colour or shape and it’s likely to rise to the top of the ‘pay’ pile.
32. There’s no such thing as a bad job.
Always push yourself to do your best. Logically, there’s no way you can be dissatisfied with ‘having done your best’.
33. There’s no such thing as a bad client.
The onus is on you to make the client relationship work, not the other way around. If it’s not working out, ‘fire’ them as a favour.
34. Embrace limitations.
Limitations are invaluable for creating successful work: they give you something to push against. From this tension comes brilliance.
35. The environment is not a limitation.
The environmental impact of your work isn’t a fashionable consideration – as a creative, it’s your most important consideration.
36. Boring problems lead to boring solutions.
Always interrogate your brief: re-define the question. No two briefs should be the same; a unique problem leads to a unique solution.
37. New ideas are always ‘stupid’.
New ideas are conceived with no context and no measures of success – this falsely makes them feel silly, awkward or even impossible.
38. Do not underestimate self-initiated work.
Clients get in touch because of self-initiated work. Ironically, business is excited by ideas untouched by the concerns of business.
39. Justify your decisions.
Clients fear arbitrary decisions – they want problem solving. Have a reason for everything, even if this is ‘post-rationalised’.
40. Show sketches, not polished ideas.
Clients often mistake ‘rough’ digital work for the final design. Show sketches for as long as you can, it makes them feel involved.
41. Work with the client, not against them.
You may think you’re right, but look at the client’s solution along with yours. Occasionally you’ll be surprised.
42. Don’t always take no for an answer.
Fight for superior solutions. Demonstrate your thinking to your client, take them through it – it’s hard to argue with logic.
43. Pick your battles.
The creative industry is often infuriating, but not every argument is an argument that needs to be had. This takes time to learn.
44. If you’re going to fail, fail well.
Being ambitious means you have to take on things you think you can’t do. Failures are unfortunate, but they are sometimes necessary.
45. Be an auteur.
Regardless of who you’re working with, speak up if something’s not right. Take it upon yourself to be the barometer of quality.
46. Take responsibility for failure.
If a job’s going wrong take responsibility. It feels counter-intuitive, but responsibility means you can do something about it.
47. Share your ideas.
You’ve nothing to gain from holding on to your ideas; they may feel precious, but the more you share, the more new ideas you’ll have.
48. Get out of the studio.
Good design is crafted from understanding the relationships between things. These connections can’t be found when locked in a studio.
49. Awards are nice, but not vital.
Awards look good on the shelf, but clients seldom pick up the phone because of them. Solid work encourages that.
50. Don’t take yourself too seriously.
Take your work seriously, take the business of your craft seriously, but don’t take yourself seriously. People who do are laughed at.