Story of a non-traditional graphic designer

The two questions I start off any interview for a creative here at The Creative Folks is I start with, “How did you start doing what you’re doing” and “What made you love what you do now?”

For me fortunately, if I were to be asked the same two questions, I can knock it out with one answer: my college school newspaper. It was the beginning of my freshman year in college, I was registered as a Psychology Major and I was just excited to start joining clubs. Inside my orientation backpack was a magazine by the school newspaper who just recently started a summer magazine, the back ad was a recruitment ad.

I was hella stoked. I did some graphic design before I joined college by working in yearbook, designing some hoodies and t-shirts but to put into perspective of HOW BAD I really was… I did all my design work through Photoshop. Designers would understand this madness. Not knowing how bad I really was, I took a shot and joined the newspaper.

When I received the call from the Editor in Chief, I was going crazy. I was more than excited, I was whatever this feeling is: asdfghjkl.

I answered, landed the interview, and next thing you know I dedicated three years of my collegiate career into this newspaper. I mean everything about it, I cherished it like it was my baby. I won awards, I was titled so many things, and I just learned how to lead a team better and better each year. Sounds cocky, I know, but look – I wouldn’t even sit here to write this today if it were not for this paper.

In the mist of all this winning, I was still a Sociology (switched from Psych around midway through) major. I picked up Educational Psychology towards the end of junior year but I still do not regret being a non-traditional graphic designer.

Why not be a traditional graphic design student?

Sure, being traditional definitely has its perks. There were so many days I saw what my team (who were traditional graphic designers) could do for in design that I just didn’t know how to do and wished I took the classes for it.

Though what kept lingering in my head was the fact I could never get myself to attend art classes ever again after high school. To back track, I thought I was badass and good enough to be part of AP Studio Art (a course that requires an AP exam at the end to see if it qualifies as a college credit) – I sucked ass and I realized every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday sucked even more ass because of this class. I was just sucked into sitting at my dining table, drawing concepts, drawing SHIT that I did like but had no motivation or energy to draw.

Ever since then, I said nope. Why put myself into that stress mode, it just made me hate picking up a pencil. That was probably the last time I ever sat to draw anything, because I’m really traumatized on how stressful that course was.

Jumping to today. I work a near full time job being a Graphic Designer. I still look to bring home awards for my work to prove that the educational background is a stable foundation, but not everyone will always have that opportunity.

I think artist are artist, regardless of their background of a formal or informal education. At the end of the day, what really got me to where I am now, is my connections with people, how I see customer service should be done,  and my attitude toward critique.

Because I’m not a traditional graphic design student, I’ve been critiqued. HARD. I’ve literally had pieces I’ve worked on for HOURS and the person I give it to can throw it in the trash and tell me, “make a new one, I don’t think you’re in the right direction,” and literally end it there.

When I work with clients, I’m totally desensitized to them critiquing. I even say up front “there’s going to be pieces in here you won’t like and I don’t need you to play it off as if you like it.”

We should not degrade. We should not look at backgrounds of formal or informal education on a subject, we should guide and teach. The old saying “a magician never reveals his magic trick” is still true in this sense that you should never just teach everyone, everything you know, but it’s important to see in the perspective, that you too were once not the greatest. It took time and practice to be where you are now. Additionally admitting that you STILL have room to improve, regardless of how many awards are in your name, is a part of living honestly and humbly.



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