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Graphic Artists? How Important Was Your Degree?
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Salty
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Mar 6, 2009, 02:45 PM
 
OK, so I've resigned from the Church I was pastoring (Turns out trying to keep a church full of homos running is really fraking hard!) Basically the only other thing that I can think of that I'd want to do would be design work. I put together a portfolio using iWeb (surprisingly nice looking I might add). I have phoned two places that said that they're always taking resumes. I feel a little non-confident going into an interview because while even the stuff I do on my own time just for fun looks pretty good, and certainly better than the professional stuff I see come out of some places, I'm kinda worried that if I did walk onto a job, I'd be great at some things but someone could well use a term that everyone else in the office knows and I'm just left trying to figure out what random letters mean or something.

So anyway, I'm just wondering if anyone can tell me how worried I should be about not having a degree? I mean I'm sure within a few months of being on the job I'd have learned all the software I'd be using and I'd be doing a great job. I'm just wondering if you think that a design firm would even look at me?

My current portfolio is up at smolderingreformation.com/portfolio any helpful suggestions would be greatly appreciated
     
ort888
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Mar 6, 2009, 03:17 PM
 
I don't have a degree and I've been a designer for almost a decade now. I made my original portfolio from scratch... meaning that I created a whole bunch of fake pieces and put them in a book. I really did design them, it was just that non of it for real clients or use in the real world.

I don't think a degree is that important honestly, but it might make it really hard to get your foot in the door in this economic climate. You are going to have a lot of competition right now.

Honestly I feel like print design is a bad field to go into right now. Print is on a big downswing and it's only going to get worse as the tools get easier to use and the supply for print design dwindles.

Looking at your portfolio I am honestly not sure how in demand your skills would be. It's not very diverse. It needs to show a greater of range. There are a whole lot of young kids who know a little photoshop and think they can design... and maybe they can and maybe they can't... but dabbling in photoshop isn't not really a skill set that is in demand. Most design houses are looking for people who can crank out professional looking stuff fast. Piece after piece after piece. It's not about making one amazing flyer a week... or a day... it's about making 5 halfway decent ones in a day. Every day... day after day after day...

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Mar 6, 2009, 03:23 PM
 
Degree was very important for me. College connections and having real world experience at internships especially.

Also, knowing Indesign and how type works is more marketable (at first) than being good at drawing.
     
Salty  (op)
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Mar 6, 2009, 03:25 PM
 
Grr. So wait... how does type work?

Hmmm apparently I just missed the deadline for next september, I'm emailing the admissions dept to see if they'd still take me.

Dang... I just need to be in a better job. Pretty sad that after getting a BA in Church ministries I didn't last over two years in the field... they should really make that program shorter.
     
ort888
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Mar 6, 2009, 03:26 PM
 
Yes. Indesign, Quark and Illustrator are all more important then photoshop. Everyone knows photoshop.

Make some pieces that don't center around your illustrations. Find some things in the world that you think look bad and make them look better. Brand a restaurant. Make a multipage newsletter. Design a package for something.

Back to the degree...
I've met a lot of really bad designers with fancy degrees that couldn't do crap in the real world... I've also met a lot of fantastically talented people with fancy degrees... so I don't know.

To be honest I'm the only person without a design degree I've ever met working in design... so it might be tough out there. Hard to say.
( Last edited by ort888; Mar 6, 2009 at 03:38 PM. )

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KSE7696
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Mar 6, 2009, 03:58 PM
 
To be honest, your best chance is in a Marketing Department in an industrial company or other industry. I don't have a degree... like ort888 and have built my portfolio and skills on my own and learning from fellow co-workers.

I have been pretty lucky in that my promotions have come from higher-ups, in the company I work for, have noticed my work and dedication and have appreciated it. I am very happy where I am and feel I have a nice solid future where I am at as well... even in this economy.

Start at the bottom, work hard, and make good connections along the way and you will do just fine. Do some side work along the way to build up your reputation, confidence, and connections. The company I work for came to me to help them out in the beginning and asked if I would stay on as a full time employee after just a couple months. Good pay... Good insurance... Good company all the way around.

Good luck on your quest. You will do fine I'm sure. I would look more toward trying to get into a Marketing Department in a company or corporation if you can. Also, knowing how to use other programs, other than just Photoshop, such as InDesign and Illustrator is a must if you want to get your foot in the door.
( Last edited by KSE7696; Mar 6, 2009 at 04:15 PM. )
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lyanma
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Mar 6, 2009, 05:29 PM
 
I am an advertising student and already took all my design classes. I´m currently working as Graphic Designer at my family´s printshop.
At High School I learned photoshop, and just a little bit of Corel Draw, so before I even started studying advertising I was already working as a Graphic Designer.
From my short experience what I can say is that out there are lots of people who know how to use photoshop, indesign, freehand (you name it), but there are only a few who you can really call designers. You need to know at least 5 basic things about design and use those things on your work so that I can call you a designer.
There are people with amazing talent that have never even read what design is and are good at it; as well as there are people with a degree in design who aren't that good.

Your portfolio is really cool, you really know how to use the program you were using and I can tell from your work that you will do amazing when someone ask you to do something exactly as they want it to be. I think though you could do even better if you read a little more about design so that you know when you can use a color/font and why etc.
Read graphic design magazines, learn from others so that you can improve. It is all about improving yourself.

"Don´t try to be original, just try to be good." Paul Rand
( Last edited by lyanma; Mar 6, 2009 at 09:04 PM. )
     
angelmb
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Mar 6, 2009, 05:58 PM
 
Originally Posted by lyanma View Post
From my short experience what I can say is that out there are lots of people who know how to use photoshop, indesign, freehand (you name it), but there are only a few who you can really call designers. You need to know at least 5 basic things about design and use those things on your work so that I can call you a designer.
Iyanma speaks the true.

Read graphic design magazines, learn from others so that you can improve. It is all about improving yourself.
Great advice. Magazines are dirty cheap there in the States. And buy books, lots of them. They are going to be your finest friends.

"Don´t try to be original, just try to be good." Paul Rand
Paul Rand, easily the best designer ever. He would burst into tears with all those damn marbles logos so popular nowadays… just for the sake of design done right, your new wallpaper:



Design is so simple, that's why it is so complicated. Paul Rand
     
Chuckit
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Mar 6, 2009, 06:42 PM
 
Slight sidetrack, but what is a "marbles logo"?
( Last edited by Chuckit; Mar 6, 2009 at 07:14 PM. )
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ort888
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Mar 6, 2009, 06:52 PM
 

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axlepin
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Mar 6, 2009, 07:14 PM
 
this is sort of a can of worms because most people do not grasp what is meant by "graphic design."

most think that it's something done with "graphics" software, and whomsoever can twiddle the buttons best is a good designer.

if you can work programs, you'll find work. if you are a good visual communicator, you might find work...depends on what the market wants.

as a general rule, bean counters and suits are not visually literate, and they find it hard the idea of paying somebody for "having good ideas."

they find it much easier to pay for editing documents, photos, etc..because there's a result that even a cat turd can see.

If you are reasonably good with Quark/Indesign, Illustrator and photoshop, you should be able to find work in the $20/hr range, depending on your market.

but be aware that there are no "rules," so if you're looking for a map to finding that juicy design gig where you pump out the eye-popping visual whiz-bang for a fat paycheck, you'll be looking for a long time..

and, nothing personal, but this isn't the first or the hundredth time I've heard or read a comment by somebody who's fed up with their career in (insert field) and thinks that graphic design is just the ticket.

You hear it from bank people and insurance people and accountants. they get 10 years into their gig and decide, for whatever reason, that graphic design is for them. Most likely because they perceive it to be easy and about 90% fun.

the reality is that graphic design involves a lot of hard work and isn't for lightweights. you have to be an excellent conceptual thinker, and have a lot of mental fortitude, so..be prepared.

It's possible that "managing a church full of homos," to paraphrase your comment, has prepared you for the demands of graphic design, but if I were you, I'd carefully examine your reasoning that "managing a church > graphic design" is a career change that actually makes sense.



a
( Last edited by axlepin; Mar 6, 2009 at 07:22 PM. )
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Andrew Stephens
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Mar 7, 2009, 06:44 AM
 
Being good at something, really good always takes time and effort. College is important for designers as it immerses you in the world of design and ideas and thinking for three solid years (in the UK, don't know how many years you yanks do).

If you have no talent, this really won't help a lot, but if you do it will allow it to blossom.

To be a good designer you really need to know how to think and this is what college will hopefully teach you. It will give you time to explore and develop ideas in a way that few clients will allow.

It will also give you a degree, which will open doors to your first job. After that the paper qualification becomes essentially redundant and you sink or swim on your own merit. Then the value of your degree will be entirely in the training you have received in thinking. What you make of that from then on is up to you and becomes your experience.

It is possible to become a good designer without a degree but it's far less likely. It is also of course easy to become a bad designer with a degree.
     
Phileas
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Mar 7, 2009, 09:59 AM
 
By way of establishing credentials, I've worked as a Creative Director for large agencies for years, now I am owning my own place. I started as a junior art director at O&M in London, when traditional ad agencies were still the place to be.

Throughout my career I've met worked with some amazing people who had no formal training of any kind. They just decided one day to get going, had the talent, had the commitment and became amazing.

I don't mean to be harsh Salty, but the work in your portfolio is.... well, it's just not very good in it's current state, in my opinion. You're a creative guy for sure, and that's much of the battle, but your lack of training shows. You also have too high an opnion about your own skills, and that's always something that worries me. Brilliant people tend to be deeply insecure - often secretly - that what keeps them searching. Get yourself to school, get yourself knocked about somewhat, lose the attitude and see what happens.

And make it a good school - it makes all the difference.
     
LegendaryPinkOx
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Mar 7, 2009, 02:32 PM
 
As someone currently in a graphic design program, the most important thing I've learned is good hierarchy is key. Simply put, designers are paid to communicate; clients aren't looking for fancy imagery, but rather something that will get their message across. The best thing you can do is take a few typography classes, and learn how to ignore imagery, working purely with type. After you've mastered that art, then you can reintroduce the image to your work, and you will be a much stronger communicator for it.
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Wiskedjak
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Mar 7, 2009, 03:32 PM
 
I'm not a Graphic Designer, but as a User Experience Designer I work closely with several and most have degrees. Having said that, for them the degree wasn't as valuable as much as the portfolio they built while getting the degree. The ones without degrees all started with very low paying graphic design jobs until they built up their portfolio, which took them a lot less time than getting the degree.
     
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Mar 7, 2009, 04:17 PM
 
Originally Posted by Chuckit View Post
Slight sidetrack, but what is a "marbles logo"?
Here you go… logos with multiple personality disorder,

     
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Mar 7, 2009, 05:40 PM
 
It's not about acquiring the degree. It's about acquiring knowledge and skill. It's about learning the subtleties that make a difference in a design. That's the real value of the time and effort it takes to get the degree, and not the degree itself.
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NobleMatt
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Mar 7, 2009, 06:53 PM
 
read the first half of this thread, couldnt be assed with the second, its all about your portfolio man, im in the 3rd year of my degree and see plenty of people on my course who i worry might not make it in the real world, and i see people out side of degrees who wouldnt have a problem getting a job.

atm im gonna be honest and say i wouldnt employ you from looking at your portfolio at the moment, you need to show some more ideas based work, some killer stuff that shows u can think. at the moment ur missing that, get rid of the repetitive stuff and reduce to key things

im putting together a new portfolio this week for an interview on wednesday, but heres my old 5 min jobby, www.5colouredcubes.co.uk and feel free to message me asking for opinions on anything
( Last edited by NobleMatt; Mar 9, 2009 at 11:55 AM. )
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ort888
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Mar 7, 2009, 07:28 PM
 
Originally Posted by angelmb View Post
Here you go… logos with multiple personality disorder,
Except that 1/3 of the logos you showed are just circles with stuff in them.

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Mar 8, 2009, 01:35 AM
 
Originally Posted by ort888 View Post
Except that 1/3 of the logos you showed are just circles with stuff in them.
Like... a marble? Well, I guess a marble would actually be a sphere with stuff in them.
     
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Mar 8, 2009, 01:39 AM
 


I meant a third of these.

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lyanma
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Mar 8, 2009, 11:35 PM
 
Originally Posted by ort888 View Post


I meant a third of these.
Those are not just circles with stuff in them, they all have a reason for the way they are. Maybe if you read a little more about Paul Rand and some background about those companies then you will notice those aren't just circles with stuff in them.
     
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Mar 9, 2009, 12:51 AM
 
Huh..I never knew some famous guy did the Cummins logo.

I used to work there.
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Mar 9, 2009, 02:03 AM
 
What does the circle with the broken coat-hanger signify?
     
Cipher13
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Mar 9, 2009, 02:12 AM
 
Gotta say, the only logo in that picture that I like and find memorable is the IBM logo.

The rest are pretty awful.
     
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Mar 9, 2009, 02:47 AM
 
I agree with Andi — the college experience shows you what it's like, how to act, what to expect, who to meet and other intangible items that invaluable.

However, inherently talented people do not require a degree. Once they start to get experience, it's a non factor. The one exception may possible be trying to get a job at a corporate environment.

My specific advice for Salty is that you need to show more communication based work otherwise you're closer to a illustrator than a designer.
     
lyanma
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Mar 9, 2009, 10:17 AM
 
Originally Posted by Kerrigan View Post
What does the circle with the broken coat-hanger signify?
That's the Borzoi Books Logo...
If you do some research, as I said, you will understand all of those Logos. From what I could find Borzoi is a dog

They were used for hunting, so they are seen as elegant runners. From what I could appriciate that's an abstract form of a running Borzoi. He used those thin lines to reflect the elegance of the Borzoi.
     
Salty  (op)
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Mar 9, 2009, 10:33 AM
 
Originally Posted by crazyreaper View Post
read the first half of this thread, couldnt be assed with the second, its all about your portfolio man, im in the 3rd year of my degree and see plenty of people on my course who i worry might not make it in the real world, and i see people out side of degrees who wouldnt have a problem getting a job.

atm im gonna be honest and say i wouldnt employ you from looking at your portfolio at the moment, you need to show some more ideas based work, some killer stuff that shows u can think. at the moment ur missing that, get rid of the repetitive stuff and reduce to key things

im putting together a new portfolio this week for an interview on wednesday, but heres my old 5 min jobby, www.5colouredcubed.co.uk and feel free to message me asking for opinions on anything
your link didn't work.
     
lyanma
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Mar 9, 2009, 10:43 AM
 
Originally Posted by Cipher13 View Post
Gotta say, the only logo in that picture that I like and find memorable is the IBM logo.

The rest are pretty awful.
When someone is making a logo the only thing they should care about is functionality / where is the logo going to be used, how many colors and why. You also need to research bout the company, the company's name and everything related to the company...etc.
There are so many things that a designer has to accomplish while making the logo that the least they have to care about is if someone liked it. The IBM logo is memorable as well as all the other logos, but there are some you might not even recognize and that's because those companies are not that famouse and you have not seen them around as much as the IBM / UPS logo.
     
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Mar 9, 2009, 11:55 AM
 
Originally Posted by Salty View Post
your link didn't work.
oopps typo, still getting use to it, its www.5colouredcubes.co.uk i'll make sure to post my portfolio once i have finished it for my interview on Thursday
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Mar 9, 2009, 02:04 PM
 
Originally Posted by crazyreaper View Post
oopps typo, still getting use to it, its www.5colouredcubes.co.uk i'll make sure to post my portfolio once i have finished it for my interview on Thursday
1. Is that huge blue space underneath the white cubes on purpose? At first I thought the page was empty, needed to scroll all the way down for content.

2. You REALLY need to proof-read the site.
     
lyanma
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Mar 9, 2009, 03:27 PM
 
Originally Posted by Apple Pro Underwear View Post
My specific advice for Salty is that you need to show more communication based work otherwise you're closer to a illustrator than a designer.
That's so true! you need to do more communication work, less illustrations.
     
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Mar 9, 2009, 04:19 PM
 
Yeah, I can't say that I really like any of Paul Rand's logos. Yes, they are iconic, but I find them all ugly. I hate that UPS logo and I always wondered how IBM can be taken at all seriously as a modern company with that logo.
     
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Mar 9, 2009, 04:42 PM
 
What would you prefer? Some trendy web-2.0 3D shininess? You have to remember that those logos were created many years ago and became iconic. And, while they were definitely a product of their times, you don't change your logo just because styles change...especially if that logo has become an icon.

As for them being ugly...well...that's in the eye of the beholder. I disagree. Certainly, even Rand can toss-out some clunkers (the Enron logo, for instance, is not very good, IMHO. But, one could argue that it came at the end of his career.) But, if you take a look at his life's work, I think you will see why the man is considered one of the giants of graphic design. His influence throughout the decades, and even today, is quite obvious.
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Mar 9, 2009, 04:58 PM
 
I recognize Paul Rand for his contributions but in terms of actually enjoying his work... meh. I prefer Milton Glaser's if we're going to look back at influential designers.

Rand was great great great for his time though.
     
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Mar 9, 2009, 07:10 PM
 
Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
1. Is that huge blue space underneath the white cubes on purpose? At first I thought the page was empty, needed to scroll all the way down for content.

2. You REALLY need to proof-read the site.
1) yes

2) i would accept suggestions as to corrections, i had a quick scan read, didnt pick out up
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Mar 9, 2009, 07:39 PM
 
You may want to hide your email address link with a PHP script.
     
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Mar 9, 2009, 07:51 PM
 
Originally Posted by crazyreaper View Post
1) yes

2) i would accept suggestions as to corrections, i had a quick scan read, didnt pick out up

underdog
overcome
outlook
apostrophe missing in 'its'
turnaround

Copy also needs editing, it is almost impossible to comprehend. Not trying to sound like an ass, I can guarantee that your profs will have similar comments.

Ohh, and text as an image is poor web design. Hard to read, impossible to index.
     
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Mar 10, 2009, 02:22 PM
 
There is way too much for me to read on this thread to give an answer that may not have already been given, but:

For me, it was a line that I put on my curriculum vitae, and that was about it.

The most important thing was the portfolio. For the few job interviews that I had before I landed one, it was like "Oh, you are qualified. Well, that gets you in the door. Now, let me see your portfolio."

I guess it was important enough for people to grant me a job interview, but it was really a non-issue.

The most useful thing about having a degree was, in fact, not the piece of paper, but what I learned.
     
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Mar 10, 2009, 03:12 PM
 
Originally Posted by calverson View Post

The most useful thing about having a degree was, in fact, not the piece of paper, but what I learned.
I want to note that it's vastly more difficult to become a competent designer with no training.

Being a good designer is hard enough, I can't imagine doing it without formal training. It can be done though!
     
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Mar 11, 2009, 04:11 AM
 
Originally Posted by Phileas View Post
By way of establishing credentials, I've worked as a Creative Director for large agencies for years, now I am owning my own place. I started as a junior art director at O&M in London, when traditional ad agencies were still the place to be.

Throughout my career I've met worked with some amazing people who had no formal training of any kind. They just decided one day to get going, had the talent, had the commitment and became amazing.

I don't mean to be harsh Salty, but the work in your portfolio is.... well, it's just not very good in it's current state, in my opinion. You're a creative guy for sure, and that's much of the battle, but your lack of training shows. You also have too high an opnion about your own skills, and that's always something that worries me. Brilliant people tend to be deeply insecure - often secretly - that what keeps them searching. Get yourself to school, get yourself knocked about somewhat, lose the attitude and see what happens.

And make it a good school - it makes all the difference.
Thanks for this.

My own experience is very limited — I've taken two courses, Typography and Graphic Design, and didn't really push myself in the second. I've also taken drawing, a handful of art history courses and am currently taking a digital media course. (And for some reason, I'm a CS major.) I'd say that the most important part (and most difficult) of graphic design is relationships. Not necessarily relationships within the design (content vs. form, light vs. dark), although that's important, but rather the relationships between the people involved. The trick is to either find someone who is much better than you and whose criticism you can respect or to take all criticism equally and use it to improve yourself. The first one is a lot easier — working with someone that said I sucked, showing me how I sucked and then made me suck less was incredibly valuable. That's something that's difficult to receive when you're tracing photos for friends.

The second one is harder, and demands a lot of the self. Someone that comes to mind that I worked with several years ago is Mike Matas. You're probably familiar with him, but if you're not, if you've ever used OmniWeb, OmniGraffle, Delicious Library, or the iPhone, you've seen his stuff. The thing that amazes me the most is that if you look at some of his earlier stuff, pre-Omni, he was already at the top of his game. Nobody was telling him that he sucked, because frankly he didn't. But even so, he kept moving and improving himself, almost frighteningly so, whether it was introducing 3D into his work, or working on his pure design skills, or picking up photography to keep it interesting. What also inspired me about him was his brashness in approaching and forming relationships with people. He just showed up at OmniGroup one day. He just walked up to Steve Jobs and introduced himself one day (and he would go on to work with him on an almost daily basis). It was his own brashness that inspired to me to land my own internship and to even convince him to let me work with him in the first place.

I don't necessarily know where you fall right now. I'm not sure if I'm in that position of respect where saying "You suck!" would be taken receptively (not that I'd say that) or if you have the fortitude to keep pushing yourself. I'll just say that I know your chances of success (and not necessarily just with graphic design) is entirely contingent on your ability to forge relationships with other people and take criticism constructively. The design is the easy part, if you know how to listen.

I'll refrain from any particular comments on your work, but if you're interested, let me know.
( Last edited by Synotic; Mar 11, 2009 at 04:21 AM. )
     
   
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