Archive for May 2004

How to Make Friends and Influence Art Directors

One of the most common questions I am asked by prospective designers is how to best get started in the design industry. While I enjoy replying to everyone individually, I’ve decided to put together this page to answer all of the basics:

  1. Your portfolio is a whole lot more important than your résumé. Whenever I’ve had to fill a design position, I’ve always gotten tons of résumés and ended up going straight to URLs without even looking at the education or other qualifications of the applicant first. There are just so many people in this industry who are “all talk” that I’d rather hire someone whose stuff looks great but maybe hasn’t had a chance to go to a great college or work at a great company yet. The best thing you can do for yourself, résumé-wise, is to put together a nice one or two sheeter and offer it online, complete with sample URLs. That way, you make it very easy for whoever will be evaluating you as a prospective employee.
  2. With regards to your portfolio, spend every spare minute of your time on it. Nothing impresses me more than a clean book filled with thoughtful work. It doesn’t matter how big your clients are… only how good your work is. You should create imaginary clients if that allows you to flex your design muscle. I would rather see a beautiful poster for an imaginary band than a lackluster design project for a big company like Boeing. In other words, you will never be judged on the size (or existence!) of your clients — only the quality of your work.
  3. Consider volunteering your services for pro-bono work around the community to get your name out there. Pro-bono work is great because since you’re doing a public service, you are often given more creative freedom than you otherwise would be. Also, it’s a great way to meet people in the local design community. One of the first pro-bono projects I involved myself in was the Seattle Show — the annual advertising and design awards for the Seattle area. The Show needed a site designed every year to support the awards, and by taking care of this, I was able to meet and work with a lot of creative directors, art directors, ad agencies, and design firms around town. It has been a great networking opportunity and it only takes up maybe 40 hours of my time every year.
  4. Networking is just as important as any step you’ll take in your job search. When I was in business school, I was kind of “anti-networking”. I wanted to get a job after college based solely on my own skills and experience without the help of “being a friend of someone at the company” or “knowing someone who knows the hiring manager”, etc etc. The reality of the situation though is that in the end, it is people who will be hiring you, so you must meet a lot of them and be nice to everyone along the way. Word of mouth is the strongest form of advertising, and you want to be in a position where your name will come up in the correct circles whenever there’s a great project to be done around town. Early in your career especially, you should also concentrate on being very easy to work with, rather than necessarily producing what you consider your best work every time. For instance, if you’re doing a project for a client and they ask you to change something in your design, be flexible. Concentrate on pleasing them and making them feel like they are part of the design process rather than pushing your own preferences through, even though you know your way is probably better. I’m a pretty dogmatic person sometimes and it often takes a lot of self-control to let clients have their way, but it usually pays off in the end.
  5. Before you decide where you want to work right out of college, decide where you want to be, ideally, in 10 or 15 years. Once you do that, you can work backwards and decide what steps you can take today to get yourself on the right path. For instance, let’s say you want to be running your own design school in the South of France in 10 years (I do!). In order to do that, you’ll need to know French, be very familiar with the educational process, have a good amount of money, and a host of other things. Maybe that means your first job should be designing and running the web site for some sort of educational institution. Or maybe it means doing some pro-bono work for a local French community group. If you aren’t sure where you want to be in 10 or 15 years, you should just concentrate on working at a place where you are surrounded by people you can learn from and people you can network with in the future. Local design firms and ad agencies are great places to start, even if you take an entry-level production job.
  6. You should definitely definitely definitely have your own web site when looking for a job… even if it’s just a one-page résumé you’re putting online. It is so cheap to create and maintain a web site these days that it’s pretty much a no-brainer. In addition to letting you circulate your name and qualifications worldwide, it’s also a permanent e-mail address for life, which is important. So, for instance, you’d be permanently reachable through you@you.com instead of having to rely on a hotmail address. It comes off as very professional and shows good thought and consideration.

I’m always happy to answer any further questions people might have with regards to getting started in this industry, so if you don’t see what you are looking for here, please feel free to drop me a line.

Rejecting a Rejection

Looking for a job? Sick of getting your resumé rejected? Why not fire off your own rejection letter of the original rejection?

John Kador does just that with his rejection rejection letter.

Money quote: “I find that your rejection does not meet with my requirements at this time. As a result, I will be starting employment with your firm on the first of the month.”

Shared
How to travel around the world for a year:

Great advice for when you finally find the time.

LiveSurface:

A fantastic app for prototyping your design work onto real world objects like billboards, book covers, and coffee cups. This seems like just as great of a tool for people learning design as it does for experts.

50 problems in 50 days:

One man’s attempt to solve 50 problems in 50 days using only great design. Some good startup ideas in here…

How to Do Philosophy:

If you’ve ever suspected that most classical philosophy is a colossal waste of time, Paul Graham tells you why you’re probably right.

TIME: Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us:

Stephen Brill follows the money to uncover the pinnacle of corruption that is the U.S. Health Care system. A must-read article if there ever was one.

DIY Dot Org:

A beautifully designed site full of fun and challenging DIY projects. I could spend months on here.

The Steve Jobs Video Archive:

A collection of over 250 Steve Jobs videos in biographical order

Self-portraits from an artist under the influence of 48 different psychoactive drug combos.

Water Wigs are pretty amazing.

David Pogue proposes to his girlfriend by creating a fake movie trailer about them and then getting a theater to play it before a real movie. Beautiful and totally awesome.

Jonah Peretti's letter to BuzzFeed’s employees:

If you’re wondering what a excellent blueprint for a modern media company looks like, look no further than Buzzfeed CEO Jonah Peretti’s latest email to his employees. In it, Peretti explains a lot of his company’s virtues, the most important being a relentless focus on always providing what’s best for the user. Vox Media (operators of The Verge) is the only other company I can think of which approaches this level of reform and execution.

The Covers Project:

I love this so much: a cross-referenceable database of cover songs, searchable by song or artist. Slowed down, acoustic covers — no matter the song — are so enjoyable to me that I wish it was a requirement to play one at every show. If you like them as much as I do, make sure to check out M. Ward’s Let’s Dance or Sun Kil Moon’s entire album of Modest Mouse covers.

“More and more people in this country no longer make or do anything tangible; if your job wasn’t performed by a cat or a boa constrictor in a Richard Scarry book I’m not sure I believe it’s necessary. I can’t help but wonder whether all this histrionic exhaustion isn’t a way of covering up the fact that most of what we do doesn’t matter.”
- Tim Kreider’s denunciation of the cult of busyness is excellent. (via jimray)
The iPhone and Disruption: Five Years In:

Take your pick of about 20 great quotes from this Daring Fireball article. My personal favorite:

The iPhone is not and never was a phone. It is a pocket-sized computer that obviates the phone. The iPhone is to cell phones what the Mac was to typewriters.

sirmitchell:

Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror

The precision and innovation that is required for space exploration just blows my mind. I did not realize that Curiosity will have to basically land on Mars completely unaided by man, but it’s so much more complicated than that.