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notes from 13thirtyone: Interview



A college student recently wrote me to ask some general questions about being a designer. I thought the interview was actually interesting and thought I'd post the questions and answers here.

1. What first attracted you towards graphic design?
I always knew I was interested in design. When I was younger there was a contest at the facility I took dance classes at. It was for a T-shirt design for the dance school’s annual recital. The best T-shirt design would be printed. I won the contest and from there continued to design all sorts of things. I think I was about 12 at the time I gained an interest.

2. Why did you choose graphic design over another concentration in the art field?
While drawing and painting tend to be a passion, I also appreciate the importance of making a steady income. Graphic design allows me to still be creative, to problem solve and to count on a paycheck!

3. What topics are currently being discussed related to graphic design? Do these topics actively affect you?
There’s a lot going around about eco-friendly graphic design. This is something I’m very passionate about and I have incorporated sustainable practices into my personal life for years. When I started my design business, it only felt natural to do the same.

Being an eco-friendly designer means thinking the entire project through right from the start. This means planning a design that will use less paper and that has overall less ink coverage. I push my clients to print on eco-friendly papers and to use soy or vegetable-based inks when possible.

Because this is such a trend in the design world right now, it’s been great for business and for gaining clients! Plus, I’m working a job that I’m passionate about.

4. What type of reading do you do for your job?
Since I’m an entrepreneur, I read a lot about running a business, specifically a creative one. I have to wear a lot of hats as a business owner. While I’d much rather be designing, I also have to play the role of the sales rep and of the accountant, etc. Since I went to college for art and design, I didn’t learn a lot of those business skills in classes. Now I have to pick them up on my own. Furthermore, I think it’s important for any designer to have decent client-relation skills so books on selling and communication are highly recommended.

When I’m not reading those books, I’m flipping through books such as Logo Lounge or magazines like HOW to get a feel for what’s going on in the industry (aesthetically speaking).

5. Could you suggest any academic journals that might help me learn more about the field?
The American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) is an organization dedicated to graphic designers and the field. They put out loads of helpful information and deliver it as a newsletter and as informational updates if you join. If you want to check it out, their website is loaded with articles and references too. Visit http://www.aiga.org.

6. What type of writing is expected out of you in this field? Do you do any writing on a daily or weekly basis?
I have to write a lot more than I thought I would. First there’s the client side of things. They may bring me a sale or event that their store is having and ask to have a post card designed. The next question usually is, “Can you give us a headline for this as well?” I’ve picked up a few writing skills along the way, but for anything that requires real talent, I have a copywriter I pass referrals to.

I also have to write at least once weekly for my blog. I take those posts and format them into articles to gain traffic for my website by posting them to search hubs like http://www.scribd.com/. Finally, my website took a little copywriting too. I did have some input for that by a professional as well.

7. Do you have any advice for students who are hoping to enter into the field of graphic design?
I think it’s really important to get an internship. Not only does it build your resume for job-hunting some day, but it also allows you to “test-drive” the career. Some people find out design is not for them, and that’s okay. Of course, learning this sooner than later can be a big help!

On the technical side, there’s quite a learning curve from the classroom to the actual job site. While colleges and university do the best they can to prepare students, there’s nothing like diving right in to gain experience, learn new skills (both design and people-wise) and to get an inside-look at the design world.

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