Category Archives: Advice

Advice #44: I Am Not the Best. Should I Refer Work Elsewhere?

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Hello, I was wondering about referring work and clients. I am a very good graphic designer but I know that I am not the “best”. I occasionally get work from clients that I think friends of mine could do a better job on. Should I refer the job to them or not? I’m afraid that it will look really bad to the client when I can’t deliver the best possible outcome. Help!

This is a fantastic question and brings up a much larger issue. As creatives and humans, we’ve all had those moments of self-doubt and feeling like we’re not the best. Well, I’ll let you in on something that will hopefully shift your perceptions: in almost any field you go into, there’s always going to be someone that’s better than you in some way.

So, take a moment to free yourself from those self-deprecating feelings and move on. Let go. Instead of wallowing in self-doubt and contemplating whether you’re good enough, focus on the big picture of your career. What have you accomplished and where would you like to go? Are the clients you’ve done work for happy with your output? Think about it: if your clients are happy, you’re definitely doing something right.

Self doubt is normal but be realistic.

Design is an extremely competitive field and I remember the self-doubt I felt during my first agency job fresh out of school. All of the designers on my team were much more skilled (and in my mind, that equated to way more awesome) than me but you know what I quickly realized? I was comparing myself to designers that had 5, 10 and even 15 years more experience! I was a fresh graduate trying to be as good as them! Obviously, I was setting myself up for failure with the “I’m not good enough” mentality. Once I realized that I’d been comparing apples to oranges, I was able to relax, put my guard down and go with the flow. I was aware enough to realize that everyone on the team was friendly and willing to help me when I asked — I was the one with the issue.


“We don’t see things as they are. We see them as we are.” — Anaïs Nin


Back to your question — clients are coming to YOU. I’ve always felt that if someone is choosing you out of the hundreds, even thousands of options they have out there, it’s because they admire your work. They want to work with you. Go above and beyond and most of the time, you’ll have a return client.

Know when to say no.

At the same time, if you feel very strongly that you’re not the best fit for the job, refer that client to the best person you know. After all, it’s better to be really amazing at something versus a jack of all trades and master of none. For instance, I’ve done my fair share of print and web design and feel confident in these areas but I’m aware of my limitations when it comes to retail environments. I can concept and whip up production files for banners and second-surface graphics for store windows but developing the entire look and feel of a full retail location or trade show booth is beyond my scope. If you feel like a project is way over your head and far outside your comfort zone, don’t commit. In the end, nobody will be happy!

One of the hardest things to admit is that as individuals, some projects are bigger than us. Some of the work I’m most proud of was created with teams, often including an art director, a copywriter, a producer and multiple designers. The client had a big vision and a team was needed to pull it all together. So don’t beat yourself up if you’re not seemingly awesome at everything! Remember that a lot of the big campaigns and projects you admire often weren’t the work of a single individual; they were the work of a team.

Surround yourself with the best.

Finally, consider this: if you feel that others around you are “better,” this can actually be a good thing. Strive to surround yourself with successful people. They give you goals to work towards and a reason to push yourself further. If you truly felt that you were already “the best,” would you work so hard? Probably not. Remember though that the people around you should be as supportive of your efforts and goals just as much as you are with theirs. It’s a two-way street.

The bottom line.

Put in that extra bit of effort to always deliver work that you’re proud of. Knowing that you’ve done your personal best (even when a project has dramatically shifted from the initial brief) is important. You may not want to put every single project in your portfolio (trust me, there’s campaigns I’ve spent two months of my life on that nobody’s ever seen) but knowing that you gave it your all is what’s important. If you’re good at what you do, your clients will notice. And remember that confidence is built over time, as we gain experience. We’re all a work in progress. As creatives, we all want to be better and do better. Take comfort in that.


“There are no short cuts to any place worth going.” — Beverly Sils


Advice #43: How Can I Manage the College / Life Balance?

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I’ve been stuck in a real rut lately. Being a college freshman taking six classes, I feel like I’m running myself dry creatively, or perhaps more so, motivationally. I keep dreaming up all these grand ideas, but by the time I get back to my dorm I just want to go back to bed. I know schoolwork should come first, but I’m having a hard time focusing on that when I’m dreaming up creative design projects. I feel like I am putting all this time into useless projects for class and I’m losing valuable time for my personal projects and potential business. How can I avoid getting swept up into to the crowd of becoming just another college student?


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Do All Things With Love.


When you’re in school, the work / life balance can seem almost impossible to achieve. I know all too well how this feels (see below). But do remember that you have the rest of your life and career ahead of you — plenty of time to make your dreams a reality. I had the same issue as you — my mind was constantly racing with ideas for personal projects during classes but time was scarce. What I have since realized is that just because you can’t act on your ideas right this second doesn’t mean that they’re going to suddenly evaporate or become less-thank-awesome. My solution was to carry a notebook everywhere with me to jot down those ideas. And, I did come back to many of them later on.

Though it’s hard to see now, while the projects you’re working on for class might not seem directly valuable to you at the time, the takeaway is usually more abstract. It could be that you’re learning a particular skill or gaining experience that you’ll be able to draw upon years down the road.

When I was 26, I began my second and final year of design classes. My schedule looked like this for a full year:

Monday: School // 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tuesday: Agency Internship // 9:30 – 6 p.m.
Wednesday: School // 9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday: Agency Internship // 9:30 – 6 p.m.
Friday: School // 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Saturday: Retail Job // 10.a.m. – 6 p.m.
Sunday: Retail Job // 11.a.m. – 5 p.m.

Notice that there were no days off. Looking back, the constant rotation of tasks with a new place to be each day often left me reeling. Balancing so many commitments on top of blogging five days a week (I’d started this blog the year before) was bordering insanity but I pulled through because I had a set of goals at the end of the tunnel: 1. I needed to finish my design degree to get into the agencies & studios I admired. 2. I had to work because there was rent and bills to pay. 3. The internship was at an agency I considered my top choice for post-college employment.


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Hold onto your inspiration. It’s not going anywhere! (source unknown)


If I hadn’t had goals, I probably would have dropped to the floor at some point, given into the exhaustion and cancelled some of my commitments. Even though I pulled through this stressful time, I won’t lie, it was definitely one of the hardest years of my life. But I got through it day by day, week by week and it taught me some key points:

1. Good time management

Even though you’re short on time now to work on your personal projects, this is something most of us will have to cope with for the rest of our lives. As we move from school to careers, to managing households, the time crunch doesn’t usually get much better post-college. School might seem like a drain now but if you have a very strict schedule and a very limited amount of time to complete particular tasks, you’ll find a way to make it happen. That drive to follow through with the seemingly impossible in a short window of time will come in handy later in your job.

2. Rating the level of importance of tasks

With a list of school assignments a mile long, you’ll quickly learn how to delegate and fly through completely different tasks in record time. When you’re at your post-college job and the boss rambles off a list of random items, you’ll be able to smile, respond with “no problem” and then rate, delegate and conquer.

3. Negotiation

There are going to be times where you’re expected to do two things at once. Or, worse yet, to be two places at once. During my final year of school, the agency I was interning at wanted me to come in on Fridays. One little issue: I had school on Fridays. It was in my best interest to work on Fridays because 1. the internship was paid and 2. it was where I hoped to work post-college. I negotiated with my teacher and she agreed that as long as I got my schoolwork done, I could work on Fridays instead. Think outside of the box when it comes to your schoolwork; most teachers are human and are willing to compromise with you if you show a willingness to meet them in the middle.

In Closing

While school can be a bumpy ride at times, remember that nothing lasts forever. You have an awesome opportunity to gain an education — try to embrace the experience now instead of rushing through assignments. Your ideas will still be with you once you’ve graduated and the life skills you learn in college will follow you through the rest of your career.


Advice #42: As A Teen, How Can I Jump-Start My Career?

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Today I’m answering a question from one of my high school-age readers. This question really resonated with me and hopefully they’ll have the opportunity to discover their passion for design much earlier than I did.


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Image Source



Hello,

I am a sixteen year old aspiring graphic designer and blogger and I am avid reader of your blog. I am interested in creating a website showcasing my personal style, graphic design, and my photography. I have grown up around technology and design and would very much like to become a successful designer and blogger but I’m not exactly sure where to start. What would your advice be to someone my age who is still in high school and aspires to become a household name in terms of blogging and design?


First of all, I have a deep admiration for teenagers that are so focused on knowing what they want to achieve career-wise early on in their schooling. As much as I loved art, I definitely didn’t have a clear vision for what I wanted to accomplish post-high school. It took me years of trial and error, working my way through various college courses and jobs before I found my true calling. In hindsight, it all seems so clear but at the time, I definitely felt lost. To get a head start on your chosen path, I’d recommend the following:


1. Start your blog as soon as possible.

Get started with your blog now to showcase your style, design and photography. If you don’t have the means to build a custom site, start up on a free platform like Blogger (there are tons of online tutorials that can show you to customize it). I spent six years blogging on a free platform before I launched my self-titled blog and that time was extremely valuable for developing my focus and making many of the online friends that I still have today. The web is extremely malleable and you can always go back and make as many changes as you’d like to your design and content but the idea is to start building momentum and recognition now.


2. Develop your own lesson plan.

If you’re too young to enroll or unable to afford college courses, seek out design tutorials. Smashing Magazine has some great ones and Lynda.com is fantastic for perfecting specific techniques. Also, subscribe to design and lifestyle blogs that excite you. Gather inspiration at every turn and pin it for future reference. All of this will build your confidence while helping you to develop your own style.


3. Seek out a mentor.

Being both a designer and a blogger is hard work and as you begin your journey, you’re bound to have many questions. If you can find someone that’s already been down that path, they can offer you insight and advice about what to expect along the way. Four years ago, a recent design graduate emailed me and on a whim, we met for dinner. Since then, I’ve critiqued her portfolio and recommended her for freelance gigs. At the same time, she’s been really supportive of what I do. It’s really rewarding to develop relationships with people who share a creative bond. If nobody around you shares your interests, many school counselors are pretty savvy these days and can help you form a career plan.


4. Never let peer criticism get under your skin.

Often, when you’re young, determined and talented, peers will try to get in your way. It’s important to ask yourself if these folks have your best interests in mind or if they’re simply threatened by your talent. While I have many fond memories of high school, I have many negative ones too. Looking back, I wish I’d been even more strong-willed when people put my style and aspirations down. We all have bad days but if you have a strong sense of who you are, you’ll overcome most challenges.


5. In Closing

At sixteen, you have so much power to dream big and with some planning, there’s no doubt that you’ll shape your future life into exactly what you want it to become. I have the utmost faith that with the determination and thirst for knowledge you possess, you’ll have great success with both design and blogging. It’s never too early to get started.


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Advice #41: How Do I Stay Motivated?

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You seem very motivated! But, how do you keep that motivation? Do you ever get hung up on a piece/project? If so, what do you do to get out of that funk?


I would consider myself to be very motivated but that motivation is mostly tied to doing things that I love, most visibly design and blogging. Conveniently enough, these are the two pieces of me that you happen to see online. When it comes to other parts of my life, trust me, I’m definitely not as motivated! Like most people, I strive to share what I’d consider to be my positive attributes online; this is done an effort to motivate others and to nurture their creativity. My blog is a snapshot of my life so it’s not going to show everything.

But, back to your question. Staying motivated can be incredibly difficult but I’ll let you in on something that I face on a daily basis: when you’re getting paid to do what you love and are up against deadlines, it doesn’t matter how bad you may feel. You have to deliver work to clients no matter what! Like everyone else, I have my bad days. Doing eight straight hours of production, having proofs come back with muddy colors and facing all-nighters to make a deadline can all be draining. But even on those days, I’ll complain in one short burst, get it out of my system and move on. Holding in the negativity will do nothing to help you (or your mental health). Find a release to wrap up a long day whether that’s gossiping with a friend or going to the gym and get a good night’s sleep. I bet you’ll wake up feeling fresh, motivated and inspired once again!

When I am lacking motivation, I switch up my routine to force myself to think in a fresh, new way. Sometimes, I’ll do a 10 minute yoga video. Stretching and clearing my mind really do make a world of difference. Also, working in a different medium for a short while can also help. When I’m feeling stressed, I’ll collage into my Fashion Notebook — focusing on piecing together colors and themes reset my brain. And, stepping outside of my normal work area and sitting somewhere with a notebook and pen also can do wonders. Give yourself the freedom to briefly walk away from anything that’s giving you trouble and see what comes out onto that paper, even if it’s nonsense. You never know; a brilliant new idea may be right around the corner.


What can you do to stay motivated?


1. Get Inspired.

Create a folder on your desktop and spend 30 minutes searching for fresh visual inspiration. Three great places to start are FFFFOUND!, Designspiration and We Heart It.


2. Make To-Do Lists.

Whether it’s typed into your iPhone or scribbled into a planner, making a list is a simple way to hold yourself accountable. If you’re just storing everything in your head, it can become jumbled, overwhelming and difficult to prioritize. Facing down exactly what you need to get done puts you on a mission to make progress. And it feels so good as you make your way through, crossing off each item, one by one.


3. Set Deadlines.

If the items on your to-do list are too open-ended, there’s not much motivation to get them finished. Hold yourself accountable by setting firm deadlines. If you can’t get something finished, carry it over to the next day’s to-do list until it gets crossed off. That way, it will haunt you until it’s done!


4. Keep A Schedule.

One of the best ways to stay motivated is to set a very structured schedule. Knowing that you only have a certain timeframe to complete a task keeps you focused and sharp. If you don’t have a defined schedule, everything just keeps flowing into the next day and so on because there’s no pressure to follow through.


5. Learn To Say No.

You’re only one person and there are only 24 hours in a day. If you’re consistently finding yourself to be lacking in motivation, ask yourself why. What are you filling your day with? Do you make time for your passions or are you just existing? Make a list of what you love to do and even if you only have 10 free minutes in your day, give yourself a much deserved break. Don’t let the world pass you by; give yourself the time to dream big, then set benchmarks that lead to accomplishments that make you happy. If you have a goal to strive towards, the motivation will follow.


Readers, what do you do to stay motivated? Any tips or tricks that you swear by?


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Advice #40: How Do I Get My Blog Noticed?

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Source: Jasper James Photography.



I’m currently working as a graphic designer and have completed schooling. The one thing I have however not been able to master is the power of the blog. I enjoy blogging, but I just can’t seem to find the proper balance to get people into reading it. What would you suggest is the most effective way to bring readers into my blog? Am I simply boring, or am I lacking a key factor?


The truth is that getting your blog noticed is a lot harder than it was a few years ago when there was a lot less competition out there. When I relaunched my website in a blog format in 2007, there was so much less saturation! And, there definitely weren’t nearly as many bloggers who were able to sustain a full-time living from their sites. But now that companies have realized the power of having real people pitching their products, bloggers have gained a powerful foothold into a number of industries (along with the advertising dollars). So, what can you do to stand out?


1. Consistency, consistency, consistency.

Of course it’s not necessary to blog every day — we all have varying amounts of time to contribute to our blogs. But, if you’re really serious about blogging and building an audience, keep a regular schedule that works for you. Is your goal to post once a week? Three times a week? Whatever your schedule, once you’ve been posting for awhile, readers begin to anticipate content at semi-regular intervals. If you need to take an extended break, make a note of it so that your readers know what to expect (instead of thinking that you’ve quite suddenly fallen off the face of the earth).

Think about consistency this way: Would you repeatedly frequent a business that was constantly closed without notice or, after a few tries, would you eventually give up? If your blog isn’t your business or livelihood, feel free to ignore this advice. If it is, you’ve got to be fiercely committed and goal driven if you want it to get noticed. Consistency counts because it builds a sense of reader loyalty.


2. Authenticity Rules Supreme.

When you’re first starting out and offers of freebies and other goodies start rolling in, make sure that you’re comfortable with the trade-off. What does the company want in return? If you don’t believe in a product, don’t share it with your readers under any circumstances. People can sense something fishy a million miles a way, even when it’s hidden behind a computer screen. Never, ever compromise your values or the pocket books of your readers. Ethics are a slippery slope, especially in blogging. Once you lose credibility, it’s a tough climb back to the top.

How do you stay authentic? Only share content that you wholeheartedly believe in. Use your unique voice and share experiences, advice and visions that are uniquely your own. Just be you.


3. Always take the high road.

Not everyone is going to understand or believe in what you’re doing. That’s how life is sometimes but it’s important to stay strong and to not give into unnecessary negativity. On the other hand, blogging, like any other profession can become seductive once a level of success sets in. It’s up to you to not lose touch with your readers. We’re all busy but do what you can, when you can. Don’t lose sight of what you’ve set out to do. Hold yourself and the content that you’re producing to the highest possible standards.


4. Share links and build your audience in the process.

No matter how established other bloggers out there are, everyone appreciates it when someone takes the time to link to their content. Producing original content can take some serious time and dedication and it’s a great feeling knowing that other bloggers like it enough to share it with their readers. If you continually share links to content of other bloggers, they will take notice and maybe even return the favor!


5. Use other platforms to your advantage.

When you’re starting out, it’s important to get the word out. To build momentum, pick a handful of platforms that you believe in. Depending on your focus, Twitter, Facebook and Google+ (along with dozens more) can help you reach new readers. If viewers like what they see, they can click through and check out your blog. It’s honest and organic. Don’t spam other blogs with generic comments. Instead, if you choose to leave a comment, be sincere and heartfelt – the chances of someone clicking through are much more likely!

I keep my self-imposed social media plan very simple on a daily basis. It goes like this:

Immediately after posting, I share a link to my article on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ as well as posting the article photos to Flickr. That’s it. If I had more time, I’d definitely use Tumblr as well but I’d want the content to be unique from what I was already posting on my blog. The five minutes I do spend spreading the word each day definitely contributes to my traffic. Bonus tip: services like Twitterfeed can automatically ping Twitter and Facebook with a link to your blog’s updates!


6. Knowledge is power. Share what you know.

How can you gain the adoration and respect of new followers? Open up and share. We all possess a well of knowledge and have something that makes us unique. By allowing others to learn from us, our human connections grow and so does the quality of our blog’s content. For instance, my passion is design and I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned through schooling, internships and client work. There’s so much insight that I’ve gained over the years through rebuilding my portfolio a million times, freelancing at agencies and learning how to get organized in the process. By sharing my personal experiences, hopefully someone else’s path will be smoother than mine was. Life experience is infinitely valuable and if we can help or inspire someone else, why not share it?


7. Produce original content.

This ties into sharing what you know. While some blogs thrive on the republishing of images and content of others, the easiest way to stand apart from the competition is to produce content that is uniquely your own. Shoot as many of your own photos as possible. Customize what you already have with fonts, photo filters and handwriting. Step away from the computer and experience life and then share what you’ve learned with your readers. Give them something that they can’t find anywhere else.


8. Keep your head up. It’s a long, winding road.

I started blogging at full capacity over four years ago when I was getting ready to start a design program, working a full-time retail job and living with many roommates. My life was much different then but blogging gave me a sense of structure through many uneasy transitions. It was a welcome outlet as I learned about design, traveled extensively, graduated and began working full-time as a designer. Along the way, my life completely shifted from being unfulfilling to working every day doing what I love and being settled in my own house with a wonderful husband and dog. Along the way, I never lost sight of my goals. At first, I just wanted 25,000 unique visitors a month. Then, 50,000. Then 75,000 and so on. I didn’t set lofty, unattainable goals but instead built momentum, slowly but surely. With the schedule I kept through school, I usually had to be up by 6:30 in the morning, putting a post together but it didn’t deter me because I really loved blogging.


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Source: Jasper James Photography.


Finally, don’t wait.

I’ve said this so many times before but it bears repeating! Even if you don’t have tons of readers, keep on blogging. Each post is an exercise in your growth as a writer and communicator. Many of the great bloggers that you admire have been chipping away at their craft for years and the quality of their posts has grown with practice. It’s okay to feel discouraged some days (we all do) but don’t give up. Set some realistic goals, ask yourself what purpose you’d like your blog to serve and build it, one reader at a time. Don’t make the process more difficult than it has to be. Just stay true to what you’ve set out to do. Good luck!


Advice #39: How Do I Determine What My Clients Want?

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How do you create something that your client will love? Especially when they don’t know what they want at all? Their answers to my questionnaires are vague and their feedback on my designs are all over the place! What is your process to help clients that don’t have a clear direction?


When designing for clients, it’s important to remember that not everyone has a strong design sensibility. They are expecting you as the designer to be a voice on what’s relevant and appropriate for their brand. Remember that you’re being hired for your skillset and knowledge. Though, of course not everything should fall squarely on your shoulders. After all, you’re not a mind reader! The good news is that when pushed and prodded, most people do have an opinion. Perhaps they just don’t know where to start. Sometimes, formulating what you want into words for the first time isn’t that easy — maybe all a client needs a healthy dose of visual inspiration and an explanation of a few terms to get the ball rolling.

It might take a little work to get the responses that you’re looking for but think of it this way: as an example, most people don’t walk into the hairdresser and say, “Oh, do whatever you want. Any cut is fine!” To determine what exactly a client is looking for, here are a few strategies that you can employ.


1. Keep using the questionnaire.

Firstly, you are doing the right thing by implementing a questionnaire. I recently came up with my own version and it’s meant to serve as the equivalent of a quick coffee date. In basic terms, it’s saying, “Tell me about your business. What do you want to accomplish with your branding? Who do you want to reach? And finally, what inspires you?” A questionnaire is great because often, clients don’t know how much or how little information to supply to you about their brand. These questions get the ball rolling and provide a guide of where they need to open up their dialogue. If your current questionnaire isn’t working, step back and re-read your questions. Are they more of a statement than a question? Are they too wordy? Are they focusing on too many unknown factors?


2. Ask your clients for examples of what they like.

Yes, this is broad, but inspiration comes from everywhere. Perhaps they have a penchant for branding that they’ve seen somewhere else, an editorial layout from their favorite magazine, a movie still, an album cover, etc. Together, a collection of images can provide obvious visual cues for a designer to pull from. If they don’t know where to start, I provide a list of relevant inspiration sites. You’d be surprised at how well this can work — often by the next day, I’ll have an email loaded with twenty great images!


3. Always do your own visual research.

No matter how much information a client provides for me, I always do my own visual research before starting the design process. In the initial presentation, there are two sections. The first features a handful of design concepts and the second contains visual research. This serves two purposes; it shows them ‘what’s out there’ and also, if they aren’t connecting with the options that you’ve provided, they can hopefully pinpoint something in the research that does resonate. That way, you have a starting point for the next round. I should mention that at the agencies I’ve worked at, the research decks are much more extensive. But for a logo especially, I try to keep it simple by presenting my ideas, backing them up not overwhelming the recipient in the process!


4. A little explanation goes a long way.

How do your visual solutions relate to the client’s business? If any of your ideas are more abstract, take the time to include a few sentences. And remember, the more confidence that you have in your outcomes, the more confidence the client will have in you.


5. Don’t Overwhelm.

It’s good to show a variety of options in the first round but if you show too many, clients may feel overwhelmed. Remember that quality is much more important than quantity. Save your energy to really branch out on the options they show an interest in after the first round. Otherwise, you run the risk of showing all your cards and wasting way too much time only to have nothing chosen!


Finally, Don’t Stress.

All clients are different. And let’s face it — we’ve all had times where we thought we knew what we wanted but once it was fleshed out and sitting in front of us, it just didin’t feel right. It’s hard to believe but sometimes you’ll nail a concept in the first round and other times, you’ll hit round three without a final solution in sight. Overall, what I’ve noticed is that the easy and hard jobs tend to balance out. Being a designer isn’t all about designing — often, it’s just as much about the process which includes listening to your client and doing your research. Hopefully, these tips will help you reach a conclusion that makes both sides happy.


Designers, do you have any suggestions about how to handle client uncertainty?


Advice #38: Mix and Match

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So many of you have been writing in with questions lately so I wanted to use this week to answer as many of the shorter ones as possible. Enjoy!


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Givenchy Heels


I’m almost 20, and even though I adore how they look, I don’t know how to walk in high heels. Really. I own a pair and I ‘practice’ walking in them around the house every now and then, but I don’t know if I’m doing it right.

As with anything, get comfortable and then work your way up! Start with a one to two inch chunky heel or wedge and wear them as much as possible until you feel like walking around in them is second nature. Your stride should look as natural as possible though it will take some time to get used to walking at a normal pace. I don’t think that any woman is born walking perfectly in heels!

I’ll let you in on a little secret — if you go through my photos, almost always, you’ll notice that I stick to wearing wedges. They are great because they give you that bit of extra height with a huge dose of stability. Nobody wants to hobble all around town! In truth, I own one pair of actual stilettos. Everything else in my shoe arsenal is mainly a wedge or a super chunky heel. My all-time favorite wedges are my patent gray Dries Van Notens and my most easy to wear heels are also by Dries Van Noten. Both pairs have really great non-slippery rubber soles. When it comes to shoes, aim for quality over quantity — take care of your feet!


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I’m about to graduate high school next month and I’ve applied to a college for a two year diploma in graphic design. When I’m done with the two year diploma, I can upgrade for another year (it’s advanced graphic design). After those three years of studying, I get a one year transfer credit to a university towards a BFA degree. I could’ve applied for a BFA degree at the university now, but I didn’t, because their GD program is more studio art and art history. What would you say are the ups and downs of the choices I made?

Degree titles aside, you really have to focus on the program and route that you feel is the best match for your goals. Have you already taken the time to meet with advisors at both schools?

When you’re finished with college and applying for design jobs in particular, it doesn’t necessarily matter what your diploma says or what your exact path has been to earn that degree if your portfolio isn’t solid. In my personal experience, a great internship along with a solid portfolio and client list have gotten me further than what a piece of paper says I acomplished. I had my own reasons for seeking out a two year degree in design versus a four year degree. The most important reason was that I already had a four year degree in another major and I didn’t see any benefit in wasting the time and money to have two. Plus, my community college program was focused on preparing us for the real world as quickly as possible with the end goal of us having jobs by the time we graduated. I put in the time and effort and that held true.

Which program best fits your focus and budget? The less money you have to pay back when you finish, the better (thanks to the affordability of community college, my loans are almost gone). It sounds like you’ve already given your route some serious thought and who knows, after earn your two year diploma, you might be ready to work professionally and not need to transfer after all. Quite a few students in my two year program were.


Do you ever get tired or bored with what you do?

Tired, yes. We all get tired. Bored? Never. There’s always an opportunity to learn something new, even when you’re working on the most mundane projects. Realistically, this comes down to adopting a positive mindset and choosing to find value in every new experience. They say that practice makes perfect and I agree — you should always strive to find ways to improve your skill set and to become more rounded as a designer. For example, while I don’t find production work to be the most thrilling, I often work on projects with huge amounts of it because I want to sharpen what I already know. I chose my career because I loved it. If I didn’t love it, wouldn’t every day feel like torture? You’re only going to live once so you might as well do what you love. Of course you don’t have to love every little experience or project but you should strive to enjoy your overall path.


ask nubby advice

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I have a question about time/energy. Young female entrepreneurs work insane hours, right? I want to launch myself as a freelance art writer. However, I get tired and sick pretty easily and am dealing with some tough personal stuff, so am having to learn to pace myself with how much work I take on at any one time. Do you have any advice on managing workload? Do you have to work a 60 hour week to be successful?

I am probably the wrong person to ask about this because I genuinely enjoy working; it provides me with both structure and purpose. Everyone is different though and it’s really important that you adopt a plan that’s best for your health and lifestyle, not just your career. Unfortunately, while freelancing provides some huge perks, the lack of structured hours and often intense deadlines can weigh you down. We all require varying amounts of sleep and downtime — if a job, self-imposed or otherwise starts taking a toll on your health, it’s definitely time to reconsider!

I have to stay super organized because I freelance at agencies as well as working with my own clients so there is a constant rotation of projects and deadlines. I keep a fairly simple routine for staying organized — I am a die-hard list maker. Every single day, I open up my Moleskine planner and write down everything that needs to be done. If something doesn’t get done, I carry it over to the next. Crossing items off my list makes me feel accountable for my time and that I’m not letting anything from emails, client work, appointments or household chores slip through the cracks.

Additionally, I try to keep a routine. Since everything around me can be crazy, I try to wake up at around the same time every morning, answer emails, re-write my to-do list and then unwind at night my catching up on my favorite blogs in Google Reader before starting any freelance work.

Success is a bit open-ended. Once you pinpoint what exactly you’d like to achieve with your freelance career and when, you can form a plan that will help you move forward in a way that works with your lifestyle. If your plan starts to not seem worthwhile, ask yourself why and reformulate your goals. Remember, your goals for you career don’t have to be all or nothing. Nobody reaches a level of huge success overnight.