Last night I dug deep into the design catacombs — I actually dug so deep that the work I was looking for wasn’t even archived on a hard drive. Going back in time a full decade meant that I was sitting on my office floor, digging through a pile of hand-labeled CDs. Finally, one spool in, I got lucky.
There are many posts I’m working on that flow easier, that look much prettier and that focus on my life in the present. Honestly, I’d rather be working on those. But I do see the value in looking back sometimes. When we look back, we have those moments where those murky times in our lives finally make sense and by sharing these experiences, we can help others in similar situations.
Today, we’re taking a trip down memory lane to my first ever design project. Trust me, I’d much rather keep my overzealous use of Photoshop brushes during 2003 locked in the vault but we all have to start somewhere! This is where my path into design first began (though I didn’t know it at the time).
Ten years ago, I was in school for business. My courses were dry and I struggled (hard) through subjects like pre-calculus and biology. A few days a week, I worked in a shoe store at the mall. And sometimes on the weekends, I took accelerated marketing courses. As you can imagine, I wasn’t having a whole lot of fun!
I’d always wanted to be an artist but my style was more collage-based and I didn’t see a clear path to making a living so I went the so-called practical route. Though looking back, I’m so thankful I did business courses before design, it wasn’t where I wanted to be. It didn’t feel like the right fit but at that point, there was nobody around to convince me to follow a more creative route — I didn’t know any designers in real life (and just a handful online) and I’d never set foot in an ad agency. My only exposure had been an old George Lois book in my high school library and witnessing some crudely made business cards and CD artwork (with one too many Photoshop effects) in high school.
In my free time, I worked on a self-initiated project on my laptop. I admittedly knew nothing about design. I had a dream to design an autobiographical magazine (the powerful blogging software and beautiful, editorial-inspired themes I completely take for granted now were a ways off) and I had so much fun putting these pages together. Even though I had no clue what I was doing, I just went for it. Using a 2 megapixel digital camera and a bootleg version of Photoshop, I stayed up late piecing together images and stories. Looking back, a lot of it is cringe-worthy but what I realize now is that doing these layouts along with other projects outside of professional confines helped me find my style and explore ideas freely.
I finally had the chance to go back to school and major in design in 2006 and never looked back. Now as a full-time designer my focus now is 95% on client work but I still think back fondly on those days in 2003 where I tested out new sets of Photoshop brushes because I was curious. There was nobody to tell me otherwise and I just did what I wanted when I wanted, for better or worse!
I’m sharing this today in an effort to encourage you to just go for what you want. There are always going to be roadblocks in your life. Even if you’re in school for something else, even if you have very little time, even if you have very little money, never let that hold you back. Explore the path you’re interested right now, even if it’s 10 minutes a day. Dream up self-initiated projects and learn all you can — relish your freedom and soak up the inspiration around you. You’ll be that much more prepared when it’s finally time to make your move.
I wasn’t able to make my move until three years after I started this project but it was worth the wait. And this time, I’d already done enough exploration to know that it was the right fit.