Design School Skills I Still Use


Sometimes I will be working on a project and the voice of a professor from the past will pop up in my head with their favorite piece of advice. I was thinking the other day about the little bits that I actually still remember and use often.

1. Measure twice, cut once. You will save so much money and heartache.

2. Adhere it twice. When sticking two things together, adhere them using two different methods. For example, pin it together AND glue it. This will guarantee a strong bond.

3. Take a picture. Before I glue something together, or move something to a different workspace, or disturb it in any way whatsoever, I take a picture of it. I've probably tried a bunch of different compositions already, and if I take a picture and then something gets messed up I don't have to sit there trying to remember how it all went together. Don't trust your brain to remember what it looked like. Just take a picture.

4. Change the blade. When using an X-acto knife, you cannot change the blade enough times. Seriously. Paper and foam board dull the blades SO quickly. I change 'em out often so I don't mess up my project.

5. If you don't know how to do something, learn it! I once told a professor about my concern that my Photoshop skills were not very developed yet. He brushed this off, and told me the ideas are the most important thing. "You can LEARN Photoshop, but you can't learn how to think." So true. He repeated this idea frequently to the designers throughout my college career.

6. Shiny black paint shows every flaw. As a freshman in Industrial Design, we had to make 5 perfectly shaped spheres out of 5 different materials, and then paint them black. The professor intentionally chose a shiny black paint because it will showcase every dimple, every crack, dent or rough spot. I don't use a lot of shiny black paint, but I always remember that. (The balls were never returned to us, for fear of passing them along to other students. When asked what they did with all those spheres after the project was graded, the professors told us that they stood at the end of the hallway and bowled them down the hall for fun. I don't think they were joking.)

Surviving As a Corporate Designer

I am almost a year out from my time as a corporate designer. Working in a large corporate setting was quite a learning experience--and I mean that in the best way possible. I am very, very happy to be working from home, but I could not be the designer I am without that training (boot camp). That being said, I've had some "survival tips" rolling around in my head that I've been wanting to share.

1. It's not your baby. Do not become attached to anything you design for a corporation, because it does not belong to you. It belongs to the company. You are simply there to help them realize their ideas and help them sell product in the way that works best for them. In a large company, chances are there are many links in the food chain that need to approve something before it moves forward. That means lots of revisions. You simply cannot have overwhelming feelings for a design under these circumstances.

2. Pick your battles. You have to be willing to compromise your designs most of the time, but occasionally there will be something you believe in with all of your heart and soul. Fight for that thing. Don't fight over simple things that don't make a huge impact to the idea (ie if they want it to be pink, just make the damn thing pink.)

3. Share your ideas...over and over and over again. I don't know what it is with people, but they need to hear something multiple times before they start to believe it. If they hear it enough times, eventually they will think it was their idea. Let them have it. You have done your job.

4. Learn from other designers. I have worked with so many amazingly talented people. Don't be intimidated. Learn from them. You will make yourself a better designer if you ask questions, watch, listen.

5. Take every opportunity. Volunteer to help with projects, extracurricular activities, etc. Leaders will take notice, and the opportunities will get better and better.

6. Connect with other designers in the local community. This is important for so many reasons. Networking, staying fresh, and basic social enjoyment. You want people to know who you are, so you can reach out to each other when you need an extra hand, or help finding the next job. And, designers are my people. It's always fun to be around your people. 

7. Work fast. Guys, you just have to.

8. Let it go. They can't all be masterpieces. Promise yourself you'll do better on the next one. Move on.

9. Go home and turn it off. Don't work extra hours unless you absolutely have to or else people will take advantage of your time, and your energy will be drained. You need that time to recharge. Spend time with your family, hang out with your friends, and work on personal projects that are creatively fulfilling to you.

10. Move on when it's time. Don't stick around so long that you get bored. Because you will be bored and then you will get bitter. This is not fair to yourself or to your company. Find a new challenge, and let your position be that same new challenge for another designer.

This Week.


I am a dabbler. A Renaissance Lady, if you will. I like to acquire lots of different skills, just because I like to do lots of things. I like to try everything. Continuing with the hand lettering tool kit I am arming myself with, I started dabbling with calligraphy. Here are some things I wrote last night.


Molly Crabapple's Rules for Creative Success.

If you haven't seen it, this article by Molly Crabapple about creative success is worth a read. She makes a lot of good points about not accepting anything less than what you are worth. I have done this to myself at times, offering "friend discounts" and lowering my rates. I realize now that this not only hurts myself, but the creative industry at large. Companies will almost always choose the lowest rate, so if you are not offering a comparable and fair rate for your work, you hurt everybody. The reason some companies don't value design is because there are people offering it at a rate that does not demand the respect deserved for the amount of work put in. So, you know....respect yo bad self. This is your job.

A New Home.

This is my new blog, guys.

Generally, I hope to show you what I'm working on, and what inspires me. I love, love, love to peek in on the creative processes of my favorite designers, so I want to share that part of me with you. I will also throw in a few posts about what is going on in my life with me and my family. Check back soon for more updates to the blog, my website, and all that good stuff.