The Passionate Rookie
It’s a cliché word that I hear in almost every cover letter, “I have a passion for design” or “Design is my passion”. At this point, it really doesn’t mean much. For me it’s really easy to see passion in someone else’s work. I tend to glance at resumes; looking carefully at the overall design, color scheme ( black and white is perfectly acceptable by the way ), the choice of type and the grammar ( big one ). The portfolio is where I see an individual’s strong points. Not where they went to school or what kind of references they have. Internships are always a huge plus. Even a bigger plus if they chose to work for free. This shows me that they are well aware of the fact that they know absolutely nothing and they’re willing to sleep on floors to get some real world experience. As far as artwork goes… school work is not impressive. A project that an instructor gives his/her class to complete over a weeks worth of time, under certain general guidelines, is not “real work”. It’s a lesson. There’s nothing worse than seeing a brochure design that was made in Illustrator 101 meant to facilitate a certain level of understanding between vector artwork and rasterized graphics. We want to see work driven by “passion”. What are you creating outside of class? What kind of work have you created for local businesses, free of charge, because you absolutely couldn’t stand looking at their current marketing materials. If you don’t have these kinds of assets in your portfolio, I tend to ask… why not? If design is your passion, where’s the “work” you’ve been slaving over in your free time? What good are you if you’re not creating good. Which brings me to my next point. Rev Pop has become somewhat of a conductor. It’s a place for us to meet everyday and express ourselves through art, design and naturally… feed our obsessive need to help those we feel are in dire need of our hands and eyes in their disorganized, creative pool of confusion and aesthetic clutter. We’ve been forced to acquiesce to the business side of things. We all need to support ourselves. But we’re passionate for the work that we do. We’re not working for the passion. My goal has been to make Rev Pop a room full of rockstars doing what they do best, and when they come together and work as a team… it’s something unique and difficult to match. We’re doing it for the love of what we do… just getting paid for it on the side. My experience working for larger advertising agencies was exhausting. The many levels of design phases and hands touching one campaign made the process feel impersonal and unsatisfying. Similar to… going to work everyday and putting a puzzle together that would only be kicked over by the weeks end. Ultimately unsatisfying. No matter what your pay check looks like, this to me was the antithesis of what it means to feel creative and accountable. Alas, passion lost. My advice to those seeking a career in our field is to work on yourself and your own work first. What makes you a rockstar? It’s not listing every Adobe Creative Suite application on your resume and saying you know some HTML on the side ( huge pet peeve ). By the way, if you say you know HTML or PHP on your resume… be prepared to write some code. Once you discover what you’re really good at… find ways to showcase your work. Make some posters for a local band, redesign your favorite restaurants menu ( or one that needs some love ), offer to design a brochure for your local karate studio, illustrate a t-shirt design for an upcoming charity event ( good luck with placing all those sponsor logos on the back – but make sure they look f$%&#$@ awesome ). You’ll find that it’s much easier to land a job if you know your strong suits and you’re confident with your style. Find a firm that aligns with your style and your chances of landing a job multiply. “What if I don’t know my style?” What style is not – style is not creating a portfolio filled with horses, because you love horses. That’s a theme and a theme is NOT what you’re looking for. It’s ok to create a theme around the paper you use to display your pieces or the design of your personal identity. But don’t create 12 portfolio pieces with a horse on each page. I’ve seen those. For real. Discover your style by searching for and obsessing over good design. Everyday. If you don’t like reading books and collecting magazines, go back to school and try something else. Get a subscription to PRINT magazine or Communication Arts. Look at GOOD work. Constantly. The issue I have with many design schools and college programs is that they continually have their students critiquing each others work. This method does anything but exercise your eyes. It’ll only make them hurt and your feeling of misunderstanding will lead you deep into an abyss of creating shitty “artwork”. Create a portfolio of stuff you like. Call it an “inspirational folder” or scrapbook of collected images, photos, typography, layouts, etc. You’ll begin to find a theme while your doing this. Emulate it. Copy it. Rip it off! Here’s a good book you should buy. It’s important to know that becoming a multi-tasker is good. But becoming a rockstar in a specific area is key. I’d rather hire the best illustrator than an ok photographer that also knows his/her way around Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and Dreamweaver. If you’re interested in hand-lettering, master the tools and programs it takes to become a legitimate hand-letterer. Sign up for Skillshare and take some lessons from Jessica Hische. Do whatever it takes to hone in on your passion and what you feel you can contribute to a team. Then go out and dabble in code, photography, print production, etc. The extracurriculars are always welcomed. Yes. I’m about to quote Jim Carrey here. “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love.” Do you love typography? Do you get excited when you discover a new typeface, like the feeling you get when you hear a killer new song on the radio? Do you find that you talk about typography with your design friends at the bar or in places where you shouldn’t be discussing “work”? If it feels like work… it’s most likely not your passion. Who really wants to drive to work everyday, sit at a computer, create stuff and have it feel like a burden! In the end, your passions become transparent through your work. And if your work doesn’t feel passionate… you may just want to hit control-z a couple times.