Notes of Wisdom: What Should We Take From It?

securedownloadDo you know what usually happens on the last day of your classes?

Yes – it’s the day, when your professors tend to give you a good [or a bad] advice on your  career pursuing, job search, further studying, pros & cons of the industry and so on. The advices, which can be either encouraging or discouraging, depending on how you interpret these advices, can be priceless. I’ve been definitely both encouraged and discouraged about my choice of work in the past, and having been in the position, when I had to give up my dreams because of one’s professor’s discouraged, I want to warn and prevent the other aspiring designers from making the same mistake. I paid for my mistake with the 13 years of working in some of the professions, which I was not passionate about. And it applies to any professional field you might be trying to pursue and/or studying towards.

I’ve been discouraged before and I’ve been encouraged as well, especially by the professors who not only teach, but who are still professionals in their field and love what they do.

That’s said, the last class is the class I try to never miss.

It’s the best occasion to ask all the questions you might have accumulated over the course of studying with this professor. So, here I will share with you the advices we got on the last day of design classes:

  1.  Advertising does a bad job uniting advertising people. You are, pretty much, on your own.
  2. There’s no shame in leaving your job if a better opportunity presents itself.
  3. In any advertising shop there would be an asshole.
  4. Don’t let them [colleagues, bosses & clients] get into your head.
  5. You must prove you’re good at the job, you can’t just say you are good.
  6. New age students are afraid to be controversial, provoking, shocking. Today’s designers and copywriters are too damn conservative
  7. Never eat shit: if it looks like shit, smells like shit, tastes like shit, then it, probably, is shit. Act on it – leave or confront it.
  8. Just because I was your instructor, does not mean I could stay in touch with all of you. Don’t expect me to answer your emails after we finish this class. Respect my time.
  9. Make friends, not enemies.
  10. Once you become a creative director/art director, your creativity ends. Stay a copywriter/designer as long as you can if you want to continue creating art vs. directing the others to do it.
  1. It’s not enough to have a creative mind, a designer needs to know all the graphic programs, like Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, InDesign and Bridge. Do master them!
  2. It’s not enough to just know the graphic programs. Many designers know the tools very well, but lack the creative mind. If you are both – creative and computer smart – you can find a job easily.
  3. The design jobs are no longer the same as they were back in the 80s and 90s: the turn-around of the graphic design projects are shorter, so it comes at the creativity expense. For example, the editorial design of the The Rolling Stone magazine no longer looks and feels like it was, when Fred Woodward used to be a part of it and experimented with the type and visuals. Now most of the magazines work faster to meet the print and sale demands. Hence, the great editorial works of such design geniuses like Neville Brody, Tibor Kalman, Fred Woodward and David Carson are now way in the past.
  4. When you just start out as a designer [after the schooling] – don’t go to the big companies, start with the small design shops: even if the salary at a big corporate company might be way more attractive than the one at a small design shop, you’ll learn more at the latter. If you choose to be at a big company, you might never go back to the ‘creative’ hands-on professional as you wanted to be in the first place.
  5. Don’t be too passionate about your work, when you argue with the colleagues / bosses over the design work you did for a client. In most cases, it’s the client, who is right, even if he/she has no idea about the design and does not know how to ‘interpret’ your design idea. Let them [clients] to have, what they want, even if it means fully/partially ‘destroying’ your design. Big companies let those designers, who defend their design ideas too passionately, go.
  6. It’s not enough to just study the technical skills of the design, study the works of the greatest designers. If needed, copy their styles – of course, to a degree. All designers at some degree incorporated the styles and designs of the other designers. For example, some of Paula Scher‘s works for The Public Theatre were inspired by Alexander Rodchenko’s work. You are allowed to be inspired by the greatest design works.
  7. It’s important to develop your own design style, especially if you work for yourself as an individual. The individual style is THE way to become famous for. There are many talented designers out there, but only a few become known in the industry and it’s because they discovered an individual style. Check the styles of these great designers to see the style of the design they are known for: David Carson, El Lissitzky, Louise Fili, Neville Brody and A.M. Cassandre – just to name a few. And now we study them at the schools of design.
  8. Don’t get discouraged if you join a design shop and you don’t get to design, but rather being ‘utilized’ as an office administrator. Your big break might be right around the corner, because at a smaller agency you work, the most likely you’ll be asked to design a big thing very soon because more often than ever your colleagues wouldn’t want to bother with it – and here’s how you can prove yourself.
  9. Always be hands-on. Just because you are using computer for your design work on the daily basis, it’s a myth that established designers stopped doing designs the old fashioned way – many of them are still using the paint, ruller and tracing paper.
  10. Read, read, read. Attend, attend, attend. Follow, follow, follow. These applies to the design events – attend, to the designer’s publications – read, and the individual designer’s projects you can access on social media – follow them!

If you have something to add to these advices made by my professors at the School of Visual Arts, please share!


3 thoughts on “Notes of Wisdom: What Should We Take From It?

  1. I only had one shitty teacher in my program. She was tenure and she hadn’t work in the industry in over 20 years and I must say that it was really hard going to that class or even listening to most of her advice. I found that difficult to be passionate in her class.

    I like how you broke down the advice tips too. That was a nice touch.

    9. and 10. where my advice to the juniors (Now seniors). I told them never to give up on the pencil and paper. The computer is the production tool it is not the idea maker. The idea maker is you. That is what makes the magic happen. I also mention that they should really start to work on getting into the culture of design, as in attending local chapter meetings and networking and doing your best to meet and find clients yourself.


    Just wanted to say great post!


    • Completely agree with you! It’s a true shame that some schools are not aware of the instructors/professors like the ones who don’t enjoy what they do and they pass no passion to the students. In your case the teacher was retired, but in my case it’s even worse – he’s a working professional! There wasn’t even one class session when he didn’t complain about his work, colleagues, clients. Once one of the students asked him: what it’s like to be in your position, working as a creative director at an ad agency, and you know what he says: “You come to work around 10, you login into your Facebook, you read your friends’ feeds, do nothing until lunch, then you check on the computer what to eat for lunch, then you go for lunch, then you come back and read a comics book, then go to Facebook again and then maybe around 6pm you realize that you have some work to do and you then stay until 9-10pm working on your work”…I couldn’t believe it! What kind of a profession’s image does he gives us? It’s no good, no good. One other examples I had from my personal/educational life was years back when I was 17 and I enrolled at the Graphic Design major at the university – it was back then when all the designs were made by hand 🙂 And one of my professors who was actually teaching an advanced graphic design course, would in every single class tell us that we are going to be jobless because only one or two people from our school might get a job at an agency or design shop. You can imagine what kind of thoughts would go in your head,when you constantly hear that there’s no work for the graphic designers out there. He was also a very bitter man. Because of him I left the Graphic Design program and transferred to a Business major – the biggest mistake of my life! Not only I hated what I was studying, but I also wasted so many years after the college working in the industries I didn’t like…It’s a true shame! I don’t know if they realize what kind of ‘damage’ they do, but the professors should know that the students take their advices and comments seriously and they should encourage rather than discourage their students.

      • Oh I completely agree with you. Teachers really do make the difference when it comes to education. It doesn’t matter if it’s Harvard or a community college. Good teachers impact everything students do. And i’ve never had a professor site on Facebook during class. That is super rude.

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