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Single Best Career Advice – HOW Design TODAY August 2023

A couple of weeks ago, we started thinking about back-to-school season, and we sent an email asking you one question: What’s the single-best piece of design or career advice you’ve ever received?

We were hoping to net a couple solid responses we could share with designers hitting classrooms and the job marketplace this August—and our network at large. But HOWies, you *really* delivered. Your dozens and dozens of responses completely blew us away, so we’ve decided to dedicate this month’s newsletter to 15 of our favorites. Stay tuned for next month’s newsletter, where we just might share 15 more!

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“Give a damn. The foundation of design is empathy. If you care about the people, community, and world around you, then everything else will fall into place.” —Eileen Asher, Brand & Marketing Specialist, Educational Service Center of Central Ohio

“Less is more. My undergraduate advisor and graphic design professor encouraged us to embrace the negative space both in design and in life. Don’t over-design—simplify.” —Laura Viola Maccarone, Owner/Creative Director, Rizbee Studio

“The best piece of advice I received was, ‘Clients don’t want to hear about problems, they want to hear solutions.’ This pearl of wisdom was shared by a producer of pop-ups and art installations. He taught me to cultivate a growth mindset and be more creative and resourceful in the face of challenges. He walked his talk and inspired me to do the same.” Justine Clay, business coach and ADHD coach for creative professionals

“Speak up! Great ideas can come from unexpected voices. Be influenced by the brilliance of others, but bring your own lightning to the brain storm.” —Wes Richards, Creative Director, Deardorff

“The best career advice I received as a designer and now an agency owner was to replace a single word in my vocabulary: Instead of using the word price, replace it with cost or investment. In the minds of many, price is negotiable, but the cost or investment is not. That single vocabulary change eliminated any bargaining on the value of our work.” —Paul Feith, President, Paul Gregory Media

“[The best design advice I ever received] was from Stefan Sagmeister at one of his design salons at his studio in NYC: ‘It is your job as a designer to delight and surprise.’” —Adam Albright, Design Manager, Hagley Museum and Library

“Focus on what matters most to you—understand your ‘why.’ Your story matters more than ever; it’s what makes you unique and sets you apart from others.” —Michael Dimaano, Product Design Lead, Ford Motor Company

“My design professor in college strongly encouraged me to work with my hands. When you hold design elements in your hands (like cut-out letters), you can manually move and position them, and that gives you a physical connection to your design, rather than pushing a mouse or a trackpad. It’s a great exercise to physically work with letterforms—it helps you envision typographic designs, create your own ligatures, and fires up different parts of your brain’s creativity center. We’re long past manual pasteup, but there is still great value and reward in physically arranging design elements.” —Luke Duran, Art Director, Montana Outdoors

“If you aren’t uncomfortable, you aren’t growing. The goal is to never be comfortable in your career—seek discomfort, embrace discomfort, and you’ll continue to soar.” —Abbey Reifsnyder, CCO, Digital Relativity

“If you don’t ask, the answer is always ‘No.’” —Marcela Rodriguez Joos, Senior Digital Experience Manager, UPS

“I was only three years out of college and working at my first agency job. After a particularly rough string of weeks where it seemed nothing I could do would move the needle on several projects, the owner of the company told me, ‘You can’t care more than the client.’ At the time, I didn’t get it, but years later I realized you have to determine where to invest your heart and soul, and which client jobs are merely … jobs. Fighting the good fight with every project means no energy left for the projects that fuel your passion, with clients who feel the same. Know the difference. Shared passion makes for amazing clients!” —Melanie Shellito, Brand Strategist/Owner, Firebrand Cooperative

“Invest in becoming a T-shaped employee: good at a lot of things but great at only a few. That way you are able to help with many situations but also create a distinct career brand.” —Annie Rogerson, Director of Design & Marketing, Artisan Talent

“Approach your creative role as a strategist who is also concerned with what happens outside the creative team. This made a lot of sense because design school doesn’t teach business, and when we are promoted for doing our job well, we are completely unequipped to have conversations about business objectives and marketing strategy. But business school doesn’t teach how to inspire designers, so that’s why you’ll either get a brief the size of a novel or a few lines in an email; both are useless in helping us turn the rational language of business into the emotional language of design. Think how they think to do what we do.” —Douglas Davis, Principal, The Davis Group LLC

“Do not apologize for the way you get inspiration. Sitting at a café sketching; studying graffiti, people; typography on street signage; the color of a light pattern … is all just as productive, if not more, than sitting at a computer staring at pixels.” —Claudia Piper, Co-CEO/CCO, Foerstel+Piper+Martin

“If it is your calling, it will keep calling you.” —Madison Carritt, Graphic Designer, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium


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