A fellow reader named Sidney recently contacted me with ten questions for a class project and I thought I’d share. Thanks Sidney for asking some really thoughtful questions, many of which haven’t been asked before!
1. (sidney): How exactly did you go from a Business Administration major to a freelance graphic designer? What were the steps you took?
When I graduated from high school in 2000, I knew that I wanted to be an artist but I didn’t really know that graphic design was an option. I toured a local art school but it was outrageously expensive. My mom offered to pay for school if I went for a business degree instead and I jumped at the offer. At that time, I spent my summer breaks working in an accounting department and I started realizing that the real world didn’t always revolve around art and glamour (and that expanding my skill-set outside of my comfort zone wasn’t a bad thing).
In 2005, I finished my business degree right as my brother started a graphic design program. Secretly, I was a bit jealous! In all my spare time, I was making art and designing things and I felt like a design degree was the next step; it was the missing piece holding me back from feeling complete.
Though I was already doing freelance, I was clueless about formatting my files and working with Illustrator / InDesign, which I knew were necessary to learn. I wanted my work to be solid not only visually, but fundamentally. I chose a community college because I wasn’t looking for fancy credentials. I wanted a fast-paced program rooted in the real world that worked with my schedule. It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made.
2. (sidney): What are your plans for your future career in Graphic Design / Art?
Being a designer is always a work in progress, but I would like to do more freelance with clients I admire and also do more solo art shows. A show in NYC is a big dream of mine. My brother (who runs Blacktooth) and I are also planning to launch a clothing collaboration later this year.
3. (sidney): What program did you use to build your website? Was it Dreamweaver or something else?
4. (sidney): How would you go on about establishing networks & promoting yourself? Especially for someone who is fresh out of college myself, and don’t know many people in the business but wants to make connections.
There are tons of portfolio sites out there, but I’ve had the best luck with Behance.net. Also, putting everything live on Flickr (and adding it to communities) helps, too. My biggest jobs have surfaced from people spotting my work in my Flickr portfolio. A website that’s constantly updated with your new work doesn’t hurt, either! If you can search for local internships, either through your college advisors or online, you can meet like-minded people and perhaps land an eventual job.
5. (sidney): What is the best part about your daily job/internship? What is the worst?
best: The people, variety of work, and the bathroom (really!). Sometimes I’ll get to color illustrations for print ads and work on patterns for snowboard goggles. But last week, I helped design the company soccer team’s shirts and did blogging research. It’s always a surprise when I show up! The bathroom is like a forest; the outer walls are covered in wallpaper of trees and the stalls are faux woodgrain. It’s quite relaxing!
worst: I’m super lucky to have landed an internship I love on my first try, but the only thing I can think of is getting put on the spot! I’m still learning and there’s definitely times where I’m way better at some tasks than others. Even then, feel like I’m gaining valuable experience.
6. (sidney): What would you say your style is in graphic design?
Super mod, precise and refined. Whereas I feel complete freedom in my personal art, to me graphic design is more about communicating a vision as clearly as possible with the least amount of clutter.
7. (sidney): How do you usually go about creating your work? (What method of research, the programs you use, the techniques, or who do you talk to for help?)
First of all, I have an inspiration folder both on my desktop and Flickr of over 1,000 digital images ranging from package design to logos. I also keep notebooks of typography ideas and a fashion notebook for when I need something tangible.
Also, a bulletin board keeps current inspirations organized. Once I have a visual basis to draw from, I jump right into Illustrator or Photoshop, depending on the job. Techniques depend on what I’m doing. For a collage-based piece, I often build out parts by hand first and then scan and add in more pieces digitally. All of my typography is formulated in Illustrator, while filters and brushes are layered in Photoshop.
For help, My brother knows tons of Illustrator tricks (he’s a whiz at apparel and snowboard designs), while Lee is really good with technical stuff and helps me figure out color separations and other silkscreening-related tasks.
8. (sidney): Besides your brother and lee Z, who else is a favorite designer of yours?
9. (sidney): How do you find the time to do it all? Any special time management tricks?
It’s very challenging and I barely ever have a day off. But the tradeoff is that I’m doing everything that I love to do. The only thing that keeps me on track is my Moleskine daily planner. I make daily lists of everything that needs to get done and check it all off, one by one. It forces me to take accountability and move forward, one tiny task at a time.
Besides that, I’ve always been naturally motivated. I hate leaving things unfinished!
10. (sidney): Besides graphic design, fashion, and art, what else are you interested in?
Business and marketing are my first loves. Keeping up on freelance, my internship, blogging and a part-time job take up the rest of my time (but I do manage to squeeze in the occasional Ebay search for vintage dresses and lederhosen!)