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Single Best Career Advice Part 2 – HOW Design TODAY September 2023

What is the single-best piece of design or career advice you have ever received? Part 2

Well, right now we’re saying: “We asked … and you answered!” And we’re immensely grateful.

With back-to-school season on the horizon, we sent out an email last month asking one question: What’s the single-best piece of design or career advice you’ve ever received? Your responses were so great that we featured 15 in the August newsletter—and this month, we’re back with 15 more of your insightful, intriguing and downright inspiring gems.

As summer ends, whether you’re headed back to school or back to your regular grind with decades of experience under your belt, you’re sure to find something in these responses that resonates. And, if you find yourself moved to share your own, you can do so right here!

Also (whispers): Right now we’re finalizing the dates and location for the next HOW Design Live. Stay tuned for the reveal 😎

“When it comes to branding and a client asks for a logo, they’re not just asking you for a logo—they’re asking you to solve a business problem. Solve that problem, overdeliver, charge what you’re worth, and your business will thrive.” —Aireen Arellano, Brand Designer, Brim Branding

“The best advice I’ve ever received was to keep a side hustle going—not to make money as much as to keep frustration at bay. We are all idea factories, and for every one we get through there are 100 more that are orphaned due to a multitude of factors. [Did you] come up with a funny URL? Do something with it. Got a killer logo design that was passed over? Adapt it into something else. Use your side hustle as a home for all the wayward ideas that maybe didn’t make it, but don’t deserve to die. Creativity is our unique currency, and it shouldn’t go to waste.” —Bobby Tyning, VP of Marketing & Creative, TTI Success Insights

“Advertising is news that’s so boring you have to pay people to have it seen. So make it good.” —Carl Sastram, Creative Director, Prudential

“I was lucky enough to study with Ed Gold, author of The Business of Graphic Design. He shared a lot of amazing and useful pieces, but the most significant was to consume all the information. He said to research, read, watch, listen, view and interact with everything you can that has to do with the problem you are solving. Let it marinate, and go do something else. Your brain will work on finding the solution in the background. This has served me well since I first heard it, and I make it a point to create the time to marinate on all solutions.” —Jill Blum, Senior Graphic Designer, UMBC

“When I was a young designer, I had a manager who told me to act as if everything I designed was the last piece that I could add to my portfolio. This led to attention to craftsmanship, and I take pride in every single design I create, no matter how small.” —Marin Smith, Creative Director, Shift•ology Communication

“Always stay informed of what’s up-and-coming. This single piece of advice has shaped the last 10 years of my career, knowing that staying up to date and alert to trends will not only improve my own work but benefit clients and partners.” —Zipporah Briceno, Content Marketing Designer, The ZDigital

“When using design software, think about what a feature does, not what it’s named. The name in the menu or panel is just how the programmer at Adobe or Microsoft (or wherever) thinks the tool should be used. If you think about what it does instead of what it’s called, you’ll find yourself using the software far more efficiently and cleverly!” —David Blatner, CEO, CreativePro Network

“Way back when I was first starting my career in the early 2000s, one of my first design directors (Chris Bradley at Arnold) told me to think of design as a muscle. By saying this, Chris was encouraging me to ‘work out’ and practice and push (or exercise) design even more routinely—even outside of project work. Later that year, as ‘exercise,’ I decided to design a whimsical self-promo holiday card that appropriated the U.S. tax form. Lo and behold, my holiday card got featured in HOW magazine!” —Dan Vlahos, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, Merrimack College; Dan Vlahos Design

“Be the connector and invest your time in knowing the product, knowing the people in the company, and knowing the users you are designing experiences for.” —Anjali Desai, VP of Design, Cornerstone OnDemand

“Design (and any field within marketing, for that matter) is always about compromise. It’s about working with your colleagues who may not have experience within your field to find a good medium between a design that fits goals on both ends, without sacrificing the look or feel. It’s a complicated process that is developed throughout your career, but a skill that becomes invaluable once you learn how to utilize it.” —Michelle Fredricks, Web Designer, UC Berkeley

“You are working with people, and people are complicated.” —Rose Kleefman, Student

“I’d have to say the one most helpful piece of advice I’ve received is to not burn bridges. The design and advertising industry is actually smaller than one would think, and reputation is everything. It’s easier to obtain a job with a positive attitude and strong work ethic, and park your ego at the door. This isn’t design advice but applies to just about any vocation. A lot of hiring managers put great emphasis on references, so keep them good!” —Carol Armitage, Senior Art Director, Marbury Creative Group

“Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” —Heather Bastin, Executive Director, External Relations, Coast Mountain College

“Production skills will get you very far. It’s one thing to be able to come up with creative solutions to design problems and art direct. But when you can execute them as well, you will have even more skills that make you valuable. Self-edit, know your vendor specs, keep clean/organized files and please, spell check.” —Amy Congemi, Senior Lead Designer, Core Creative

“Sometimes done is better than perfect.” —Brad Will, Creative Lead, Thorogood

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