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Over the next 5 months, many design students will prepare themselves for finding work. They’ll build their portfolios up in order to land the dream job. If hired, how will they work with others, co-workers who may not be designers and do not speak the language of design? Will our design youth evoke change and tranformation? Will they be bullies or bullied?

Bullies crave attention. Bullies thrive on power positions. They become isolated because nobody enjoys the company of a hostile, arrogant, and ignorant person. Sadly, most young designers I’ve met possess these characteristics. They’re trapped in a world of design, speaking a designer language. Because they are not open to the world outside design, they become design bullies. They punch methods, ideas, and conventions down the throats of clients and coworkers with little consideration for much else.

In AIGA-gain, David Womack asks, “How can we play transformational roles in organizations?” Yet, when designers leave school as bullies, how can we expect them to play transformational roles when they’re not prepared to play with others? Most programs teach them that the designer calls the shots. The designer has control. The designer is a god. As talented pixel-pushers in PhotoShop and Quark, students falsely believe that clients will pay them for making things look pretty cool compared with a secretary’s Microsoft Word document. And don’t even mention the word marketing. Marketing, business, advertising, oh come on…

Clients? Oh, they’re the ones who pay for my PhotoShop upgrade with a fat paycheck. Hold it, are you serious? Budget? Ha! That’s a good one. We can talk about extending your budget while my six-color brochure with gloss and matte varnish heads to the bindery. Did I hear somebody bring up the word revision? Revision, right. Who’s giving me input for a revision? They have opinions on my work? Why did I go to school for 5 years? Why did I learn all those software programs? To have them tell me what to do?

While this sounds extreme, all too often I’ve witnessed such outbursts. Instead of compromising with clients and peers, young designers terminate a project, or leave the agency, or demand a paycheck for preliminary labor. By focusing so much on design in school, young designers don’t understand how to interact. Most are not prepared for environments where clients or colleagues (mostly advertising or marketing specialists) speak a different language and place emphasis on the bottom line. They don’t have the means to create worthwhile relationships with other professionals because they have an allegiance to one tribe — design.

If we want our design youth to evoke change or play transformational roles (or even play at all), let’s begin with David’s second question, “What skills do we need to provide to students in order to prepare them for this role as catalyst?” They’ll be playing with a wide variety of talent, so look outside of design. Whether it’s business, economics, architecture, fund raising, or human behavior, here are some options: how to sell your work; how to speak in public; how to write a proposal; how to identify profitable solutions; how to manage a project; how to admit when you’re wrong; how to get cooperation; how to justify decisions; how to criticize constructively; how to be a leader; how to communicate your specialized skills to uninformed audiences; how to write a contract; how to brainstorm; how to build creative energy; or how to avoid arguments.

Educators, who release talented designers into society, do not emphasize these matters enough. In fact, they don’t emphasize much outside of visual and technological literacy. True, most of the “how to” items above are taught in the business school. I’m not suggesting that students master these things, but let’s at least introduce them to what they’ll deal with: business-minded people; executives with M.B.A. degrees; development agents with an eye on the bottom line; or even communication directors who place a priority on media channels instead of good form. Students must have an appreciation for more than just design because it takes an understanding of your team and a willingness to be a team player if you’re going to play at all.

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ARCHIVE ID 1779 FILED UNDER Design Academics
PUBLISHED ON Jan.21.2004 BY Jason A. Tselentis
WITH COMMENTS
Comments
graham’s comment is:

among the most difficult things to teach, getting on with people and the possibility that you might be doing the work you're doing for forty or fifty more years are two of the hardest, yet most useful things (one to do with experience, the other to do with understanding) to gain from any kind of education, whether within or outside of an institution. the more time spent with other students, and the more work you make, the better.

On Jan.21.2004 at 03:39 PM
brook’s comment is:

Most programs teach them that the designer calls the shots. The designer has control. The designer is a god.

i really don't think that most young designers are arrogant assholes, do you? are most design schools ignorant to the real world? i kind of doubt it. though i'm sure you are right in that there are far too many. most of them learned their lessons pretty quickly, i bet.

aside from the exaggeration (in my opinion) you have a good point.

"What skills do we need to provide to students in order to prepare them for this role as catalyst?"

the extensive list of ideas following that line includes many important skills. they also happen to be the reasons why i chose a fine arts based 4 yr liberal arts design program. not to say that is right for everyone, or what everyone needs to be prepared...but for me it was important. aside from that, just a lot of life experience?

On Jan.21.2004 at 03:47 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Not only am I exaggerating, but I'm pouring loads of exaggerations together that seem so unreasonable. They're a collection of excuses, whimpers, rants, and whines that I've heard over the years.

On Jan.21.2004 at 04:01 PM
RCS’s comment is:

What does a student get from school?

I learned the language, the syntax, and an idea of my �style’, but not much of how a studio works, or client interaction. I was about to embark on that quest. To find a job that would slingshot me into the field. Then I leaned the awful truth… a two year degree wont get you very much more than a job designing pull-tabs. I am now on track to a for year degree hoping, no, pleading that that will give me the edge.

On Jan.21.2004 at 04:06 PM
Jason’s comment is:

RCS, you're hitting on something very important. What does design school give students? Are they prepared to operate in a corporate environment? Will they have what it takes to work in teams? Or will they be the selfish artist?

On Jan.21.2004 at 04:10 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

I'd like to hear from people who worked as designers, established a career, and then went to design school. What did design school give you?

On Jan.21.2004 at 04:42 PM
Lea’s comment is:

Ouch. ;-)

At any rate, I really doubt "most" young designers feel the same way. Most young designers you've encountered may be that way. All I know, as a 21-year-old designer (the only designer at work) at a corporation, I've never been arrogant, always been attentive, appreciate being part of the marketing team, and my designs always have a project's goals and audience in mind. My ego can be stroked elsewhere -- like personal websites and personal projects. In the workplace, I'm a business woman.

All of it anyway is based on personality, personal history and education of course. Not everybody is taught or raised in a similar fashion. Some people had other aspirations before becoming a designer. For example, a lot of illustrators feel that they need to be a designer in order to get more money. And thus, their attitude is more artistic and defensive towards their work. Some are both illustrators and designers and do both well and aren't arrogant about it either.

Meanwhile, I went to academic schools in my youth. So, automatically, I was taught to do all those things listed you believe young designers lack. However, those aren't design skills. Those are life skills, business skills, people skills. Some people get it, some people don't. Some people have better opportunity to develop it, some not.

The problem isn't young designers or necessarily the design schools. The problem is an individual to individual basis. And frankly, by the time you get to design school, you should already be honing your non-design skills (speaking, interpersonal skills, selling, business management, etc.) It's not the design school's fault if an individual acts like an ass once he or she graduates.

Design schools need to, however, have more courses which teach the practical side of design like some financial planning, starting your own business, some marketing courses, some presentation skills, etc. for people who want to hone their skills or have the opportunity to learn them. The rest are all personal skills they need to learn themselves through their own personal research, travel, life, love, and pain.

Ugh, there's nothing I hate more than a poor presenter, even if it's a good design/marketing piece.

RCS: Aw, c'mon... 2 year, 3 year, 4 year, college or university. Whatever. A person gets out of their education what they take out of it. It's not the amount of time, it's the quality of the program you took that gives the edge. I've seen excellent works from people who've had no formal education whatsoever (http://www.yellowlane.com/), as well as only 2 year college diplomas (http://www.woodwarddesign.ca/). I, myself, took "only" 3 years and I've been doing one-sheet posters, direct mail pieces, festival guides, invitations, and soon an annual report.

On Jan.21.2004 at 04:46 PM
Armin’s comment is:

> i really don't think that most young designers are arrogant assholes, do you?

Jason's notion of design grads being snotty and feeling that they deserve a $75K a year job is not far-fetched. Like black turtlenecks, it is a bit of a cliche and a myth. But it is based on truth. When I was at marchFIRST (how tired are you getting of my sentences starting out like that?) and the internet boom coming down to a slow students were still being snatched up faster than you could say .com. They were high in demand and many (not all) were very well paid. Portfolio Center was known for placing students in very high-paying jobs including an $80k+ at a nice firm here in Chicago. Around that time is when students got cocky and expected a silver plate be put in their laps. The fact that this is a bit of a generalization on my part and exaggeration on Jason's doesn't negate that it happened.

Nowadays, well, it's a whole different ballgame. But no need to go into details and depress anybody.

Will they be bullies or bullied?

Bullied!

On Jan.21.2004 at 05:11 PM
amanda’s comment is:

whoo! I'm famous! Funny. I hop online to do my daily Speak up reading and notice that I've been used as an example for something. Thanks Lea.

Anyhow.

RCS, I also agree that your comments are bull. Taking extra years of education does indeed make a designer grow in skills & confidence, but it is not the magic solution to success in the industry. Also, the quality of education is key. I took two years of formal schooling, and jumped into a corporate job immediately after graduation. I was in a team environment, doing very corporate design work for a company of over 4000 people. It was a challenge, but I learned alot, and walked away from the job with glowing recommendations & a job offer to run a design dept. at another very large company. I did not need a fancy degree to accomplish this stuff people. I just worked my ass off, asked my peers for crit's constantly, & checked my ego at the door. I have gotten my skills & confidence through experience.

Sometimes design students need to get off the little dream clouds & realize that in order to succeed, they have to start at the bottom of the ladder. period. this may mean some crap work, but suck. it. up. I had a student email me just today, asking if he could get an internship at my company to do children's book illustration. Cripes, I have spend four years trying to establish myself as an illustrator in the industry, it does not freakin' work that way. You can't just graduate and say "I'd think I'd like to be an art director when i grow up." Why did the student email me then? Probably because he does not have the kind of courses that prepare him for real life experience.

Schools certainly need to give students the real scoop on life in the design industry. I think that in any post secondary education, this is lacking. Colleges, Universities, the whole bit. I think schools also need to encourage students to forever and ever keep learning. Taking non-design related classes should be encouraged. Whether it is religion, politics, environmental, marketing, yoga, or glass blowing.

Plus, we are in a visual industry, practicing the ol' drawing skills would be helpful.

Everything we learn affects how we design.

On Jan.21.2004 at 05:30 PM
dave’s comment is:

Nowadays, well, it's a whole different ballgame. But no need to go into details and depress anybody.

Doesn't depress me. I think it is a good thing for talented, hardworking designers. Reality. As someone already working when the "boom" hit, I was disgusted by stories of grads making 70k+ right out of school, but then I never finished school.

I'd like to hear from people who worked as designers, established a career, and then went to design school. What did design school give you?

I'm also curious.

As someone who dropped out of design school, but has worked in the industry for 8 or so years, I feel like going back to school would be a good thing for me now. I have a feeling I would benefit more by taking classes related to running a design business or selling design rather than visual design. (maybe an english class or two).

I don't remember any classes at the SAIC related to the business of design. Are there more design-business related classes included in the design curriculum of universities?

On Jan.21.2004 at 05:31 PM
amanda’s comment is:

$80K? no wonder why students are cocky, that is completely ridiculous.

On Jan.21.2004 at 05:31 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Amanda, you make great points. Things are missing. You can't show it all, but you can expose them to what's out there. Creating lifetime learners is a noble endeavor, I wouldn't work for an educational institution unless that was someplace in its mission statement.

Like most things, design education is constantly evolving. What is the curricula doing now? Is design getting too much attention? And what are the consequences of educating design students that can't write a creative brief or speak in public to save their lives? How will lacking these skills affect their chances of finding a job?

On Jan.21.2004 at 07:21 PM
ps’s comment is:

$80k fresh out of school can be fine if someone is worth it. plus, i think if one gets it, you're dealing with one good negotiator and its deserved. anyone who does not like it -- tough. its part of playing the game. plus, if the employer can bill the person out with profit -- why the fuck not. the other way around we would be wining how little we make.... however, i don' think the issue should be about how much $$$ one makes.

On Jan.21.2004 at 07:42 PM
Jason’s comment is:

It's an interesting topic. Are today's design youth in it for the money? Here, the issue isn't really money. Keeping on topic, the deeper issue revolves around what causes this behavior and whether students are equipped for fresh situations.

On Jan.21.2004 at 07:50 PM
Bradley’s comment is:

Portfolio Center was known for placing students in very high-paying jobs including an $80k+ at a nice firm here in Chicago. Around that time is when students got cocky and expected a silver plate be put in their laps.

In this instance, it didn't help things that a certain guy at PC was telling students not to accept or expect anything less. He continued that for awhile, by the way, and then once it became clear that the money wasn't going to flow in there were other things he did that poorly influenced the general attitudes people had.

Its really, really, really hard to give any student an idea of what the world of work is going to be like and how to deal with the situations they're likely to face. First off, every place is different in a lot of ways, but they're all the same in one very prominent fashion: they are a business that intends to turn a profit year after year. While billable hours, job numbers, budgets, timelines, client relations, contracts, usage rights, copyrights and vendors are key to working in a design firm or advertising agency, can you really teach any of that stuff in a class?

There are a lot of things you have to know to really function as a designer--in order to make conceptual decisions, select a photographer and a style and get the images created, to complete projects on time and on budget--that's not easy. Especially when you have a small amount of money or an unusually conservative client. That requires a helluva lot more than the ability to make something look really great. And as for your philosophy that you honed in school? Well, the early years are a test--to see if you can keep your mouth shut and to see if you can hold onto your beliefs. Nobody cares about that stuff in your place of work, they care that you can add value to their projects and add more revenue to the firm than what they pay you.

I never had the slightest clue about what to expect in my first job, which was hard going right into a place that generally doesn't hire junior level people. You can however give students an idea of what's in store for them. First off, as a junior, you're not going to be art directing everything; you're not going to be the conceptual master who gets to think up grand ideas and then pass them on to someone else to execute; you probably won't be directing photoshoots or making the paper choices or selling the work to the client. It's not glamorous and dammit, you will use Super77 and cut matte board. In my position now, which gives me almost total creative control over what I'm working on, I STILL do rote production work like that (I find it relieving, honestly). Basically, what you need to do as a junior is figure out what is going to make your boss's life easier and then do it. That could literally be anything.

On Jan.21.2004 at 09:28 PM
davek’s comment is:

the deeper issue revolves around what causes this behavior and whether students are equipped for fresh situations

If the behavior we are talking about is having an unrealistic view of what a working graphic designer does and what is expected of them for that big 80k.

I can speak to my own classroom experience: I do not remember any class that had a variety of players, like a client with needs and expectations and an account executive, a production manager, and a printer. Quite a bit of history and form. I can imagine a class where you would go through the entire process of producing a piece for a client, and then questions could come up about the process itself along the way. A bit of role reversal action along with it.

Can you give an example of a fresh situation? I want one.

On Jan.21.2004 at 09:37 PM
Brian’s comment is:

re: rebecca's question:

I'd like to hear from people who worked as designers, established a career, and then went to design school. What did design school give you?

I fall into that category, so I'll add my experiences to the mix.

I worked in broacast (radio) as an audio engineer, a journalist, and a producer for years before a transition to visual communication and eventually, some actual 'formal' training in design. In the general sense, here's what I found as I explored academic options and took classes: (my sincere apologies if I sound preachy. That's not my intent...)

  • It can be useful to go back and start from the beginning: it can be very inefficient to find your own way through lessons that have been learned by others many times over
  • That said, there's a great deal of knowledge to be found in the enduring, classic texts. I knew more than I thought I did, thanks to independent study - in some cases, more than some of the instructors
  • The applied stuff is easy. It's the theory and conceptualization skills that are hard - and often secondary in the minds of young students, who want to do, not talk about it
  • Life experience makes better art and better communicators

There's one thing that's only been touched on in this conversation which I think warrants greater attention: the larger scope of life. The talk here is all about theoretical and applied design education, or the realities of the design industry. What about education in history? Literature? Physical sciences? Social sciences?

From my perspective, the thing that I found most lacking in design education was context beyond artistic movements. There seemed to be a disinterest in the communication part of visual communication. How can you relate to client needs if you don't understand the world in which they operate?

I thik it's also true that the result of the education has a lot more to do with the student than the program. I'll stop proselytizing now.

On Jan.21.2004 at 09:52 PM
Virginie Lebeau’s comment is:

Many "design" schools stimulate self expression a lot and, sometimes, visual communication loses in the deal. Grafic design is more and more a place were designers design for their peers and not for society.

On Jan.21.2004 at 10:04 PM
marian’s comment is:

My boyfriend and I were having lunch the other day with a former student of his. She was telling about another student who was having some trouble with a client (they are both still students). I said that I thought that it should be illegal for students to practice design as independents.

Jump all over me if you wish, but as I explained to her it's a lose-lose-lose situation: the client is almost always out to get something free or for cheap; the student usually gets taken advantage of (put through many hours of work, and then often not paid), is put under enormous stress (trying to figure out how to run a job while still attending classes), and runs a huge risk of fucking it up--thus giving themselves, and sometimes the entire profession a bad rep. On top of it, that work is taken away from a qualified designer, and the myth that "anyone can do this" is eternally perpetuated, thus harming the design industry.

The student complained that they have student loans and they have to work them off somehow. I said that everyone has student loans and you don't see dentists and lawyers and architects opening their own practice before they're finished school.

The student said they "have to learn somehow..." ... AHEM ... well something's really wrong there.

I am all in favour of apprenticing, or students working on practicums in other offices: no better way to learn. And I also wondered if it would be possible to have some kind of in-school student work program. Say in their 4th year, the students are divided into teams of 4 and the school provides a service to the community: in-training-graphic design: get it here. So the client comes to the school and chooses a team under the full knowledge that the work they get is part of a training exercise. The students have the support of the staff, but otherwise meet with the client and see a project through from beginning to end.

They do this in Veterinary colleges, and they do it in hairdressing. Why not design? Does anyone know of a school that does this?

On Jan.21.2004 at 10:21 PM
ps’s comment is:

They do this in Veterinary colleges, and they do it in hairdressing. Why not design? Does anyone know of a school that does this?

art center college of design does it.

On Jan.21.2004 at 10:40 PM
ps’s comment is:

different than marian, i'm all for students taking on projects before they are done. i don't think they give our profession a bad rap. its about learning and screwing up, charging to little etc. is part of it. i also believe a client that hires someone that is still in school know what they are getting and therefore pays less but gets less in return. so it evens out. any student that takes on a few projects before graduation will be better prepared as they have experienced first hand what their employer cares about.

On Jan.21.2004 at 10:45 PM
pk’s comment is:

jason, i've been designing professionally for a decade now and i have yet to see a freshly-graduated student with any of this attitude showing. exactly where are you getting this?

i hired several designers for my department at the height of the dot com era in an agency which had a reputation as a great place to work and as a highly creative shop. we had a lot of young designers asking to work with us. few of my candidates displayed any of the haughtiness or overt money-hungriness anyone here is talking about. none of those displaying this attitude was a younger designer.*

you're making some harsh generalizations at the expense of several peoples' reputations for the sake of making a op-ed piece read dramatically. and you're doing it in a public forum which purports to know quite a bit about its practitioners. my guess is that with this post you've probably soured someone-in-a-hiring-position's opinion and possibly fucked some people out of a potential job in a nasty economy. i'd suggest you put some facts behind this kind of writing when posting it. highly irresponsible.

*the worst case i ever saw was a creative director who wanted us to hire her from marchfirst at a rate higher than our ceo's salary (she asked for 230K). she is rumoured to currently be dead. i doubt it has much to do with her ridiculous salary request.

On Jan.22.2004 at 12:26 AM
mitch’s comment is:

I came from freelancing, and then co-founding a small digital media design firm to going back to school for my BFA at the ripe old age of 31 (not a particularly uncommon age at school these days, by the way — even for an Undergraduate.) So I guess I can see this from both sides of the fence.

The one class schools do not offer is “The Real World Entry Level Designer Job 101” — sure I can take a printmaking class, a photo class, but I cannot take a class that teaches me how to behave in a client meeting. I cannot take a class that shows me how to design within a real budget constraint. I can’t seem to find the class that lets me experience the joy of working with an offset printer on a Saturday afternoon. What I have learned from being in these situations as a relative �n00b’ is this: you learn quick. DAMN quick.

While I think that being taught these sort of things in school would be great, I think I would rather spend my time learning color theory, or yet another lesson on Type, or any number of more academic pursuits, because when it comes time to go to work in the marketplace, I have little time and less motivation (other than personal) to do the same. Besides, the other more pragmatic stuff is why there are summer internships and “Junior” designers — to gain experience and learn the stuff NOT taught at school.

I attend RISD. There is a professional practice class called “Design Applications” required for all Seniors. From the course announcements:

GRAPH*3230 DESIGN APPLICATIONS 3 credits. The core of this course will focus on the pragmatic aspects of graphic design. The objective is to purposely apply acquired knowledge and skills (e.g., typography, color, visual translation, photography and theory) to a set of “real” problems based on a theme. Necessary vehicles for information (booklet, brochure, printed materials, etc.) will be developed from concept up to production. The course is intended to closely duplicate the actual working context of professional studio situation. As an additional component of this course the students are required to propose a topic for their Degree Project which will be advised by an assigned Degree Project consultant. This requirement will give the student the opportunity to prepare for the Spring semester’s Degree Project course. Prerequisites: GRAPH*3226 Course Level: Senior requirement for majors Graphic Design Majors only (FALL)

Now my understanding of this class (I am only 2nd year — I have not taken this yet) is that it attempts to touch on all the above stuff — the practical application of actually BEING a designer. But it does not touch on things like “the 70 hour week for 40 hours of pay” or the ever present “the client changed his mind at the last moment — we can reprint all of those posters in 2 days, right?”

I won’t lie — I personally feel that I am in a particularly advantageous situation by being older and (theoretically) more mature, having real world work experience with real clients in a real design studio setting, all this along with the degree puts me in a good place to get hired when I graduate. I have learned to get along with co-workers. I have learned to make a good impression in a design meeting. However, the OTHER things I have learned is that talent and persistence have no age. Some of the students I am in class with are just so fucking talented its amazing their heads don’t burst. I see their work and then I start to second-guess my own job security upon graduation. If I were making the call I would hire some of these kids now, immediately — they can learn the day-to-day stuff on the job, as they need it. But what I would really like to see is like what ps said about Art Center — a sort of �immersion’ semester that happens to help the community. That way I think the student gets the best of both worlds.

as far as $80K out of school goes, I think that its like art - if you need to put a $ value on something then its worth what the buyer paid. If I can convince an employer to hire me as an entry level designer for $80K then thats what I am worth to that employer at that time. If I can do it at another employer for $90K, then i am worth more to the second employer. There is no "too much" - only too little (to me at least).

On Jan.22.2004 at 12:53 AM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

Most of what I've seen coming out of school is insecurity and incompetence. While there might be some overcompensation going on, and therefore some arrogance, I agree with pk. People who have been in the game for a while, either teachers or bosses, many times also have much worse skills in working with people. Stress, habit, debt, and perceived superiority get the better of them.

On Jan.22.2004 at 01:08 AM
pk’s comment is:

okay. i'm done ranting and feel the need to be constructive, sorta. i still feel like jason's example was way over the top.

but enough about that.

i think the main problem here is the stereotypical idea (real or not) that more business-positioned folks are aligned against designers. this, i've found is never true on the client side: they simply need design to be aligned with their own business goals, and that's hardly unreasonable. that, of course, has a buttload of variables attached to it and fluctuates in strenuousness depending upon the client in question.

the biggest problem i have (as a designer in a managerial position) is teaching younger designers to think fast. i am continually frustrated by young designers who waste time puttering about a visual solution at an inopportune time which simply will not make an impact on the effectiveness of the piece on any level. i would love for once to see a design school put forth a charrette in which a designer is asked to redesign a communiction piece whose business goals have so thoroughly been thought out that there is simply no time left for implementation and strategic visual thought—the designer must choose their battles wisely to create good work. it happens every single day, and it's precisely the kind of work a young designer cannot do...because they're taught to overthink everything all the time. makes me crazy.

i have this annoying thing i do with younger designers that i really should stop. whenever i see them get their feelings hurt from someone yanking a project out of their endlessly-puttering hands, i chuckle and tell them that "one day, you'll learn to hate as well as us older pups do." nobody under 25 ever gets it. everyone over 30 always does.

On Jan.22.2004 at 01:37 AM
Tan’s comment is:

I've avoided this thread -- but here goes.

First of all, everyone's heard of the myth of $70 - 80K+ salaries out of school. It's just that -- a myth. At the outside realm of possibility, perhaps once or twice. But not even marchFirst can actually sustain something that stupid to the point of it being publicized.

More believable are stories of starting design salaries of $40K+ in a few dotcoms. But most never actually lasted a year before the companies folded, so it doesn't even really count.

Aside from SF, Seattle is the epicenter of the boom and bust. I know enough owners and businesses in town to know that these outlandish stories are just stories.

...

Look, every graduate thinks they can fucking run the world. Start a business. Deal with clients.

With the rare, rare exception of a few prodigies like Graham Wood -- most students have absolutely no idea how much they don't know and how ill-prepared they are to run a legit design business.

But the sad part is that they never will. Once they've headed down the road of running their own thing, it's almost impossible to be competitive again once they've realized the reality of the business and the requirements of a legit firm versus everything else. Most people only get one shot at it.

Sorry to be so grim -- but that's the truth. This business is fucking ruthless, and there are no shortcuts. As pk said, "nobody under 25 ever gets it. everyone over 30 always does."

On Jan.22.2004 at 02:29 AM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

Thanks for trying to be more objective, pk. I like the word buttload too.

One of my friends was asked to come in for a day as a tryout for a job. They asked him to make a postcard. Four hours later, he finished. The lady just said, "wow, that took a long time." And he was thinking, "holy crap, in school we had three weeks to do something like that."

I understand that work life is totally different from school. The theory is that if you do so much experimentation in school, you will be able to work faster when you get to a real job, because you know what works and you've built your visual vocabulary. Which seems reasonable. Swiss school students will beat a slick school student 9 times out of 10 in the aesthetic battle. But as you say, it really doesn't matter.

Whatis the meaning of "puttering about a visual solution at an inopportune time which simply will not make an impact on the effectiveness of the piece on any level"? What it means is that they care about design, at least visually. So that is a plus. I mean, this nitpicking is what some of us claim we're all about. Is business killing aesthetics?

On Jan.22.2004 at 02:31 AM
debbie millman’s comment is:

Tan said: With the rare, rare exception of a few prodigies like Graham Wood -- most students have absolutely no idea how much they don't know and how ill-prepared they are to run a legit design business.

It's not only the students...unless a designer comes out of school with an MBA (ha) "adult" designers rarely have a clue about running a legit design business. There really is no manual on running a design business out there (now there's an idea). It takes years to understand how to do it, and decades to perfect. I have run two businesses in the last 20 years, one small one, and now a medium-ish sized one. It is indeed back-breaking work and I would be lying if I said I wasn't challenged every singe day and didn't learn something new or realize something I don't know nearly every week. It is a constant process of humility and education.

Tan also said: Sorry to be so grim -- but that's the truth. This business is fucking ruthless, and there are no shortcuts.

Not grim at all, dear Tan. Amen. There are indeed no shortcuts. To quote James Joyce: "The longest way round is the shortest way home."

But I also think that sometimes...sometimes...when the light is right and the heart is open...it is a great deal of fun.

On Jan.22.2004 at 08:52 AM
Darrel’s comment is:

Jump all over me if you wish, but as I explained to her it's a lose-lose-lose situation: the client is almost always out to get something free or for cheap; the student usually gets taken advantage of (put through many hours of work, and then often not paid), is put under enormous stress (trying to figure out how to run a job while still attending classes), and runs a huge risk of fucking it up--thus giving themselves, and sometimes the entire profession a bad rep.

That is *exactly* what school is good for. Fuck up there. Get screwed there. Do spec work there. Piss of a client there. Like you said, these are small potato clients -- not really after graphic design -- but the student does have to treat it like a real project. I (and I assume, the students) would rather learn life lessons working with Bob's Local Fish Bait rather than a Fortune 500 client at the ad agency.

The biggest lessons I learned at school were messing up a rather large job during my internship, getting screwed by a local city committee in a logo contest we entered and won, and just dealing with the cheapest clients/printers you could fine. All valuable lessons. ;o)

On Jan.22.2004 at 09:16 AM
Greg’s comment is:

I spent four years in college, two at a school known more for engineering and football, and two at a college in a small metropolis with a great placement program. I think the most valuable education I got about how to act as a designer came from real world experience - and many young designers just out of a design school where they spent 40 hours a week in studio don't have time for that experience, and only know what their overpaid and condescending teachers tell them (or at least imply) about the design world.

On Jan.22.2004 at 10:17 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Tan, I'm so excited by your news. I'll be 30 in March and one step closer to getting it. Or do I have to be over 30, like 31?

Frankly, I've met an equal number of designers above and below 30, who are not ready for playtime. Age isn't a huge factor. It's experience. Where, how, and how quickly you get it is the story.

On Jan.22.2004 at 10:24 AM
Christopher Johnston’s comment is:

Aren't we really just talking about the personal work ethics of "young designers"? Whether or not a kid will be able to walk out of school and start a successful studio isn't the question. Most of them (as Tan has pointed out) wouldn't know a business plan from their elbow, yet some will (as has happened in the past) surprise and amaze us with their mature sense of business, vision and creativity. It always happens and I am always jealous. hehe

The real issue is lies in the personal drive and ambition that causes young designers to choose this career path. Kids will always jack-up jobs, they are learning and it happens. I mean, I jack up jobs every once in a while and I've been doing this for almost 7 years. The question is: What is the motivation for these kids to get into this field? I'll admit; I became a designer because I loved art, wanted to make a living at it and thought it would be a cool career. Yet over the years I have learned to love the subtleties of design. The passion of the discipline gave me the inspiration to open my own studio in the hopes that I can touch others with the visual inspiration that touched me.

Kids will be kids, but it's their character that will influence me to hiring them. I would rather have an employee with a technical education that has vision, drive and a sense of themselves then a kid who has a fancy degree, green hair and an attitude. Popular culture puts out this notion (especially for the younger generation) that respect and notoriety some how comes from being a "bad-ass" and that hard work is a thing of the past. Just watch that show CRIBS... it's 18 year olds with more money then sense, its asinine. I am telling you right now I would rather technically fix jobs created by a well meaning hard worker then have to take lip from a holier-then-thou brat any day.

*c

On Jan.22.2004 at 10:41 AM
Tan’s comment is:

> Tan, I'm so excited by your news. I'll be 30 in March and one step closer to getting it. Or do I have to be over 30, like 31?

Ok, Sarcastro...you know what I mean. Happy 30th, old man.

On Jan.22.2004 at 10:57 AM
marian’s comment is:

didn't learn something new or realize something I don't know nearly every week

Isn't that amazing Debbie? When I had my studio I was continually thinking, "When the hell am I going to stop learning things?" ... never, I guess.

The core of this course will focus on the pragmatic aspects of graphic design. The objective is to purposely apply acquired knowledge and skills (e.g., typography, color, visual translation, photography and theory) to a set of “real” problems based on a theme.

Mitch, I'm pretty astounded that this is only one course. I would have thought everything would be taught on that premise. So what's the deal, students learn art using layout & typography etc, and theory and some history, then if there's time they learn how to apply those things to "real" problems?

I haven't had a lot of interaction with students, but my limited experience has been that they are very wrapped up in the theoretical, determined to prove that they know what e.g. Bauhaus is, and remarkably poor communicators. There seems to be a lot of emulating and referencing going on without rationale.

On the other hand they are refreshingly enthusiastic and bursting with ideas. I think it's up to the studio to channel that energy and teach them how to interact with clients on a level that is meaningful to the client. But the communication skills should start in school--e.g. writing a coherent design defense.

On Jan.22.2004 at 11:02 AM
pk’s comment is:

What is the meaning of "puttering about a visual solution at an inopportune time which simply will not make an impact on the effectiveness of the piece on any level"? What it means is that they care about design, at least visually. So that is a plus. I mean, this nitpicking is what some of us claim we're all about. Is business killing aesthetics?

don't be a drama queen. that's not what i meant at all. best illustrated by example. herewith:

had to stop a young designer last week from rendering a logo in 3D when we had never talked with client about doing that, and in fact the client had decided which logo they actually like. younger designer was kind of aware of this, but apparently doesn't quite get that the point is to satisfy a goal then move on to the next. younger designer was going to the presentation and i was not. if i hadn't stepped in, client would have thought:

1) where is this fuckwit pulling this from? i chose my logo!

2) why is the fuckwit in charge of this fuckwit letting my money be wasted? augh!

On Jan.22.2004 at 12:02 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

Thanks, Brian, for answering my question (way way long ago; scroll up. Keep scrolling). And I second your call for young designers to consider non-design, non-business-related courses to be a central part of their education. This discussion is tending more and more towards calling for a design education to be a vocational rather than a liberal one. This seems like a surefire way to relegate design to a support role in any serious business or academic undertakings. We struggle against that enough as it is; no thanks.

I second your call for young designers to

There's one thing that's only been touched on in this conversation which I think warrants greater attention: the larger scope of life. The talk here is all about theoretical and applied design education, or the realities of the design industry. What about education in history? Literature? Physical sciences? Social sciences?

From my perspective, the thing that I found most lacking in design education was context beyond artistic movements. There seemed to be a disinterest in the communication part of visual communication. How can you relate to client needs if you don't understand the world in which they operate?

On Jan.22.2004 at 12:14 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

oh i get it, pk, you're talking about actual stupidity. Why do people hire these morons?

On Jan.22.2004 at 12:28 PM
rebecca’s comment is:

Oops. I had to copy and paste. Because it was so far up to scroll. My wrist, ow!

On Jan.22.2004 at 12:34 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Tan, when it comes to this thread, I'm done being sarcastic. I promise.

On Jan.22.2004 at 01:20 PM
jayna’s comment is:

Speaking as someone who's more recently "out" of school -- all the people in my design classes -- ALL of them -- were a bunch of cocky arrogant bastards. Some had talent, most just had their parents' bank accounts, and none of them really had any ambitions past college. I can remember one girl was graduating and she said she thought she'd just keep on working as the manager at McDonald's. It pays pretty well, and she wasn't that interested in design anyway.

And on the topic of how much schooling you've got = how good you are, I was in college for all of five years. I was so desparate to get out of there, being that I felt like school was holding me back....and in light of getting a job I never did graduate. You do only get out of school what you put into it, but there obviously are some places that are oriented towards teaching, and others that are more geared towards National Football Championships. Anyway, I'm an advocate for getting the essentials (how to draw, how to choose a color palette) in school. As for working with clients, that's something you can only learn if you've actually dealt with clients. At least in my opinion.

My first real agency job (just three years ago) -- I was a scrub, plain and simple, getting paid less than most interns. I got to save and re-save TIFs into JPGs over and over (600 times a day). It seemed so funny to me when a friend of mine, who had just graduated from CCAD was on the warpath looking for a job. Somehow she thought all she had to do was flash around her expensive diploma and employers would be falling at her feet.

My point is that the money-grubbing recent graduates is not a myth. I've seen quite a few. I went to school with them. I don't think they're quite as prevalent as they were a few years ago, since there are so many seasoned designers out there competing for the same jobs, but they're still there.

On Jan.22.2004 at 01:47 PM
nancy mazzei’s comment is:

“Around that time is when students got cocky and expected a silver plate be put in their laps.”

I love interviewing these guys/girls because they never get the job.

Stick to the basics, you treat people with a bully attitude that's what they'll be in 6 years.

It’s easy to teach attitude, but in my experience not much comes of it. Someone out of

school is like a gift not a punching bag. Do I want to sour someone? no. Do I want to make them be

a little version of me? no. Do I want them to bring something to the table so when they have my job they’ll look back and remember me as a productive stop on the way? yes.

On Jan.22.2004 at 02:13 PM
Michael’s comment is:

I am a recent college graduate looking for a job so I can speak from a bit of experience. During my last semester I took a class in which we worked with actual clients, from writing up the proposal outlining the project, to holding meetings and giving them a finished product. It was an eye-opening experience and had I not been through it, I'd be less prepared. Obviously this only gave me a hint of to things to come, but at least it was something. I would still never try to work on my own right now, that is crazy. There is so much out there to learn and I am aware of this; school is only the tip of the iceberg.

Also, $80k starting? Wow. I'm gunning for half that.

On Jan.22.2004 at 02:38 PM
joy olivia’s comment is:

In my first design class my first year of school the professor giving the introductory lecture said, flat out:

"If you want to be an artist and make things that you like, go find yourself a little cottage and paint yourself some fucking paintings. If you want to be a graphic designer, the first thing you need to know is that, in the end, you're best served when you make the client happy and give them what they want."

At the time, it was the biggest ego crusher. I took it that he was discouraging us. He was really just setting the record straight. He followed with a brief statement about how you can do the latter and satisfy your creative leanings while earning a decent living. That "advice" really resonated most with me througout school. And, for that matter, it still does... even on days at work when I'm having a rough go of it.

On Jan.22.2004 at 03:18 PM
graham’s comment is:

from joy 'In my first design class my first year of school the professor giving the introductory lecture said, flat out:

"If you want to be an artist and make things that you like, go find yourself a little cottage and paint yourself some fucking paintings. If you want to be a graphic designer, the first thing you need to know is that, in the end, you're best served when you make the client happy and give them what they want."'

fortunately, in the same situation, our tutors said almost the exact opposite.

On Jan.22.2004 at 03:26 PM
Lea’s comment is:

Ah, what is with the extremist views of people these days? It's all about attitude, people. A good attitude.

On Jan.22.2004 at 03:33 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

It's not easy to have a good attitude when the world considers you (and, for that matter, you consider yourself) nothing more than an art whore.

On Jan.22.2004 at 03:45 PM
marian’s comment is:

As for working with clients, that's something you can only learn if you've actually dealt with clients. At least in my opinion.

Actually, as Michael noted in the post following this, I think there's a LOT that could be learned in school. It wouldn't exactly be the most popular class, and in fact I can just imagine the complaints to the Dean ... but it would help people

- prepare presentations

- anticipate questions

- listen and take notes

- treat people respectfully

- learn how to turn criticism into direction

- defend their motivations

- recognize warning signs of Trouble Clients

- use their body language

- how to dress for different clients

- deal with unexpected reactions like laughter or abuse

- open and close the meetings

- remain in control

- say yes

- say no

Most client meetings are civilized and productive, but there are clients who simply don't respond, or take everything apart (sometimes literally, with pen and scissors). I have heard of a client who responded to everything by making the motion and sound of loading a pump-action shotgun, and I've heard of one who went around the room and took the boards off one by one and chucked them on the ground.

the first thing you need to know is that, in the end, you're best served when you make the client happy and give them what they want.

That is patently untrue. That may be what many, many clients think you're there for, but we're not there to give anyone what they WANT. They can buy what they WANT on logos.com. Our role is much more complicated than that, and much more rewarding. That teacher did you all a disservice.

On Jan.22.2004 at 03:56 PM
graham’s comment is:

i'm not sure if this was aimed at me;

lea; 'Ah, what is with the extremist views of people these days? It's all about attitude, people. A good attitude.'

but if it was, my comment isn't a view-it's what happened. there are (were?) strong, open and honest design schools that don't rely on the cliches of design education ('real world', it's not art, modules, 'real' projects, business classes/language etc.) to encourage and help students question, experience and find a voice-and they demand writing and reading too! it just that it seems that most of them aren't in the u.s-from what i read here and what that leads me to understand of u.s. design education.

if it wasn't aimed at me-then i must be getting paranoid:)

On Jan.22.2004 at 04:06 PM
Jason’s comment is:

Paranoia is okay, it keeps you sharp.

graham makes a good point --- giving students the means to have a voice is okay too.

Rather than producing robots, educators must encourage students to have a point of view, an identity. When students go to extremes, and project that point of view with so much vigor that they alienate themselves, it isn't so much the educators' fault as the individuals'. Still, there must be a balance. Finding it isn't easy.

On Jan.22.2004 at 04:21 PM
Lea’s comment is:

Graham: it's more a general statement than anything. People are saying that either you're selling you're soul to "The Man" in graphic design or that graphic design is all about art and expression.

The truth is in the middle.

Tom: that's too bad. When I call myself an "art whore" or "design whore" -- it's more affectionate and tongue-in-cheek anyway. I don't consider it an insult. If you feel like you're "whoring" yourself out, then that is your perrogative.

Why is there shame in earning money? Because it compromises your artistic integrity? Then start personal projects. Make stuff for yourself and friends. Do projects for better organizations. Do work for charity for less and more creative control, etc.

Like I said, it's attitude. Even when life brings you down, it's up to you to stand up. Also, there are a gamut of people who respect our profession and others who merely don't understand it. I've seen both. That's life.

Keep positive and people respond to that.

On Jan.22.2004 at 04:26 PM
nancy mazzei’s comment is:

fortunately, in the same situation, our tutors said almost the exact opposite.

mine too, and I thank them eveyday in my mind for it.

On Jan.22.2004 at 04:34 PM
Tan’s comment is:

> Also, $80k starting? Wow. I'm gunning for half that.

> My point is that the money-grubbing recent graduates is not a myth. I've seen quite a few.

Ok guys, once again about the $80K myth.

Most firms have a billings formula with income relative to employee overhead. A goal of most successful firms is to maintain a minimum of $100K-120K of billing per employee average. Now keep in mind that this average takes into account the salaries from the top ($150-250K for owners and principals) to the bottom ($25-40K for production and entry level). It's absolutely impossible for a company to hire entry level jobs at $80K -- and sustain business. There would be no room for mobility or growth at that scale.

Everyone says that they know someone who knows someone who's gotten $80K out of school. It's just a stupid myth for naive, scared, dejected graduates. Check the most recent Aquent/AIGA salary survey -- their numbers are dead-on. Starting salaries are anywhere between $25-35K across the country. And be glad it's that high.

Now, it's entirely possible that some graduates were errantly hired for senior positions that require more experience, and therefore would pay more (though still probably not $80K). That could happen, but my guess is that the employer would soon regret the choice, and the graduate would drown in an environment where they are set up to fail from day one.

So students can grub all they want -- but they ain't gettin any.

...

And Jason, sarcasm is such a fun and wonderful friend.

Don't deny yourself of its effervescent joys on my account, please.

On Jan.22.2004 at 04:34 PM
amanda’s comment is:

I called myself the art whore when i worked at the evil corporations. Now my friends call me the art goblin, and i quite like it.

On Jan.22.2004 at 06:04 PM
Ginny ’s comment is:

Looking to get 40K right out of school? Is that the going rate these days? You know you're getting old when your first design job out of school paid mid twenties. Oh...how times have changed!

Now where did I put my bi-focals? ;)

I've never met an ungrateful young designer! I've met eager young designers who are willing to learn and help out all they can. Curious.

To tell you the truth, more power to the designer who can command a high salary. My theory is, ask for more and the worst that can happen is they say NO. If they really want you, they'll negotiate.

However, I really don't understand where all these firms (jobs) are that can sustain such high salarys?

On Jan.22.2004 at 06:19 PM
Jason’s comment is:

I don't know how designers can come offer demanding such gross salaries. Whether 80k or 100k, it's not like they're saving lives, performing heart surgery, or curing cancer.

Why is there this attitude, even in young designers? Maybe it's insecurity.

On Jan.22.2004 at 06:48 PM
ps’s comment is:

I don't know how designers can come offer demanding such gross salaries. Whether 80k or 100k, it's not like they're saving lives, performing heart surgery, or curing cancer.

compared to nba, mba, nfl, and other entertainment, these rates sound reasonable to me. why the hell not.

On Jan.22.2004 at 09:13 PM
Ragnar’s comment is:

I am a graphic design student and I do not consider myself arrogant despite the fact that I run a legite business from my own bedroom and do not like to dress up for clients.

I am sorry that you've mostly only met young designers who have the characteristics of a bullie Jason but I assure you that not every young designer is like that. Some of us understand the essentiality of social communication talent and co-working with numbers of non-design people towards a greater goal.

I agree that these and other matters are not emphasized enough in design schools.

What I really feel lacking in my school is people being able to really talk about design. By that I mean verbal interaction between students about design, design history and other perspectives of visual culture. I'd like the school to emphasize more on teaching how to put visual thoughts into words and historical context.

I've mentioned this to my professor but the only thing I get in return is just another "pretty picture" project.

Are the students to blame for the ignorance or the design schools?

On Jan.22.2004 at 09:18 PM
Jason’s comment is:

No, Ragnar. Students are not to blame. You have a point about young designers, they're not all jerks. I've met some rather nice ones, fit as a fiddle and ready to take on the world, who are kind to boot.

Context is a problem. You could argue that putting our skills into the context of the 'real world' is not stressed enough. Some programs do a good job of introducing this. Others do a good job of putting visual thoughts into words and delivering historical context ( to paraphrase you ).

We can't have it all. Or can we?

On Jan.22.2004 at 09:42 PM
Anthony Edwards’s comment is:

>> I'd like to hear from people who worked as designers, established a career, and thenwent to design school. What did design school give you?

WOW. I've been happily perusing this discussion board for months and now Rebecca has given me a chance to speak up.

Brief background: I felt like the "design outsider" for years. Blissfully ignorant and working full time in NYC as a Flash designer. Self taught the programs necessary to cloak myself as a designer, but I was a copier of ideas and styles. I knew nothing of design itself. Neither principles or elements or figureheads. Now I wasn't making annoying or god ugly sites and presentations, but I was finding something I liked as a guideline and not straying very far. I couldn't draw to save my life. I thought of myself as a programmer. I was making very good money, but I was unhappy.

So at the age of 33, I ventured to Florida (long story, we'll chat sometime) for design. This is a state school with a "limited access" program for graphic design, so not a traditional design school. I decided to attack this like it was a design school and challenge myself outside of class as well as with the other students. Well, I learned to draw pretty darn well (that was a cool revelation, that it's not an inherited trait) and spent an obscene amount of time in the library looking and reading up on design. I have learned a great deal (I'm leaving after this semester to hit the job market once again), but I was very disappointed with the other students. It might be my age, but I know there isn't another student there that shares my desires for design. Constant complaints (we only have a week to put together 20 thumbnails?). My distain also stretched to the faculty. I had an illustration teacher who didn't know who Alvin Lustig was.

School gave me an opportunity to do projects both in and out of school. That was the big thing. I've gotten better recommendations on readings from this board then from teachers. My typography teacher never heard of Bringhurst's book, which is now my bible.

I want to get into layout design. I think that's Armin's MO. I'm putting together a growing magazine of self written (my first degree is English) and designed materials and I'm anxiously awaiting the AIGA portfolio review in April. I hope to be happy at work now, money be damned!

On Jan.22.2004 at 11:01 PM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

My typography teacher never heard of Bringhurst's book, which is now my bible.

I remember trying to talk to one of my type teachers about something in this book, because he didn't understand why I was concerned with experimenting with the proper use of small caps and other micro-aesthetic concerns like that... He told me that he never read it. I am pretty sure it was the suggested book for the course.

I also screwed up a test in that class because I was studying too many different books. I didn't use Willi Kunz's terms on my short answer... so like it was wrong to use the word slanted instead of oblique, things like that...I can't remember exactly. All I know is that my answers could be referenced, they could have been considered correct, but he had never heard of different words being used. This is one of many times that curiosity killed my grades. Thinking isn't encouraged in design school, but I'm proud to say I went from being an A student all my life to a being a C student by senior year. At the final assembly I got to speak and told everyone "if you try to too hard to fit into the program, you'll become programmed, which is exactly what an artist ISN'T."

Maybe i'm arrogant because of that. I was told I have an attitude problem during my first review, and I said, "yeah, I do...because you told me this was a good program and it isn't." Maybe I'm one of these bastards that Jason is talking about. I just have the sense to know nobody is going to give me any money for it.

On Jan.22.2004 at 11:42 PM
jom’s comment is:

Lea, you're totally right. It's best to find the middle-ground where you can be happy.

Of course, since this discussion was about young designers and misperceptions, I brought up the comment I heard from my professor long ago because it does contain a kernal of truth -- just as the inspiring lesson that Graham heard from his instructor.

The whole notion of younger designers have more ego, if it's true, isn't a bad thing. In fact, the best designers tend to be a blend risktaking ego-maniacs and business-savvy communicators.

When starting out, it's the younger designers with gumption that get the breaks. A little hustling and a lot of hardwork are things that impress me in a young designer. You gotta toot your horn to be heard, no? Bring on the excitement.

This is good for all of us because it can reinvigorate bored graphic folks who have been around a while to be more risk takers.

After a bit of time, most people who label themselves as graphic designers are not going to create every layout or Web site with the intention of getting potential fodder for the next big design competition or annual -- most likely because workplaces demand that you work to find that middle ground.

Knowing when you can push the client to make it work and when to back off and churn out whatever needs to be done is something, in turn, that more seasoned graphic designers can teach to newbies. It's a great circle really as Jason points out throughout his post with the questions he raises and with the comment Rebecca left regarding how being a one-dimensional designer.

Even all the new Steven Hellers and Paula Schers of the world need to get their footing. Let's wait til these "kids" get to a jog before we discourage them for their bully tactics that may -- most likely -- only be signs of their graphic design insecurities.

On Jan.23.2004 at 08:46 AM
Justin’s comment is:

Educators, who release talented designers into society, do not emphasize these matters enough. In fact, they don't emphasize much outside of visual and technological literacy. True, most of the "how to" items above are taught in the business school.

As a design student who's almost done, I want to learn as much as I can about visual communication. That's what I came to school for, as did most of my peers. We came here because we love design, not client meetings or talking about projects we have little personal interest in. Sure, those are all aspects of design in the real world, but school is not the real world, and that's a great thing. There are internships and freelance to take care of these things.

Aside from that, in an industry where there are more people graduating every year than there are positions for, having my peers be not so versed in the real world aspects only works better for those of us that are. Lord of the Flies, sure, but it has to happen.

how to sell your work; how to speak in public; how to write a proposal; how to identify profitable solutions; how to manage a project; how to admit when you're wrong; how to get cooperation; how to justify decisions; how to criticize constructively; how to be a leader; how to communicate your specialized skills to uninformed audiences; how to write a contract; how to brainstorm; how to build creative energy; or how to avoid arguments

I'm not sure where people go to school that don't cover these in their classes all the time, but this stuff is definitely part of the cirriculum at my school, it's just a daily item worked into every class rather than one specific catch all.

On Jan.23.2004 at 11:03 AM
Tom Gleason’s comment is:

Aside from that, in an industry where there are more people graduating every year than there are positions for, having my peers be not so versed in the real world aspects only works better for those of us that are. Lord of the Flies, sure, but it has to happen.

I think since there are so many design students and fewer jobs, it is even more important that design can become considered useful for people so that these students, if they can't find a design job, will still have some value.

On Jan.23.2004 at 04:58 PM
Anom’s comment is:

On expanding your horizons.

Real life story......

I'm hanging out with Elliott Earls in his studio (the first time we met) and the focus is primarily on music. After an hour or so of listening and talking about music I inquire about his program (he was totally cool about everything) and he said that they look for interesting people at Cranbrook. He said a person like me has a huge advantage over most of the prospects because I write, DJ, play music, have a Business, Liberal Arts, and Interactive Degree, that I've been in broadcast radio, bastard up a few langueages, and that I've worked in an international ad co. (sorry no names) for almost two and a half years. He said that you can't believe the duds that come in there thinking that their newest logo or brochure is the ticket in.

On attitude..........

I don't think that it's necessarily a young designer that exclusively has attitude. It's totally on how you perceive yourself and how you interact with the world. Your philosophy forms long before you graduate from design school.

On Jan.24.2004 at 01:21 AM
Gunnar Swanson’s comment is:

Rebecca:

I'd like to hear from people who worked as designers, established a career, and then went to design school. What did design school give you?

I taught myself design and the design business. I went for an MFA after having practiced for well over ten years. I believed people would point out the aesthetic and conceptual problems in my work, leading me to the shining path of Great Design. It didn't happen. (Not that it couldn't. They were just starting a new MFA program at ArtCenter when I was getting ready to return to school and I got Lou Danziger to go over my work say semi-insulting things. I decided that being in the first class of a new program was a bit too much like the years of teaching myself so I opted for other alternatives but that couple of hours of time with Lou taught me as much about doing design as all of grad school did. I learned other stuff in grad school but not what I expected.)

Marian:

And I also wondered if it would be possible to have some kind of in-school student work program. [snip] The students have the support of the staff, but otherwise meet with the client and see a project through from beginning to end. [snip] Does anyone know of a school that does this?

Many schools do the big project thing. Some also have smaller student "real" projects. When I taught at University of Minnesota Duluth I was in charge of a class where students acted as a sort of design firm for the campus. I'd always had bad feelings about such classes. They seemed like an invitation for exploitation and disrespect and a great way to undermine the local design business. This may have been the best part of the program. People called me and said "I need a poster." At the start of every class I'd say "Who needs a project?" They all knew that if they took on too much they'd suffer and if they didn't do enough they'd suffer in other ways.

Their job was to call the client, arrange a meeting, bring up the subject of a fee that I didn't tell the clients about, come back to us and present their thinking, share stories about weird things that clients say and engage in discussions about how best to respond. . . People came out of school with projects done for clients in their portfolios, job management and client contact experience, an appreciation for client needs and for following up on things, and at least a start in figuring out how to make discussions move toward the best end for all involved.

I also always encourage students to talk to me about any work they're doing, how to deal with clients, etc. Some of them have had the sense to take me up on it.

On Jan.24.2004 at 02:58 PM
RCS’s comment is:

What does a student get from school?

I learned the language, the syntax, and an idea of my �style’, but not much of how a studio works, or client interaction. I was about to embark on that quest. To find a job that would slingshot me into the field. Then I leaned the awful truth… a two year degree wont get you very much more than a job designing pull-tabs. I am now on track to a for year degree hoping, no, pleading that that will give me the edge.

I want to reply to my previous statement. I am in a to year program that is good but not great. I have learned a lot in the last few years and have had some good opportunities. I don’t consider myself to be arrogant or think my design is 'IT', but i do feel it is good. I want to learn…I just don’t feel that very many institutions even consider someone with a 2 year tech degree. I know this a huge generalization, but from my experience it’s true.

On Jan.26.2004 at 12:29 PM
B A’s comment is:

Unfortunately I haven't the time to read all 60+ messages in this topic, but I would like to respond to Jason's original posting, in brief. Any redundancies will then just exist for impact and support.

The classification of 'young' designers by age alone perpetuates stereotypes that are harmful to the industry. Obviously, many 21 designers have greater experience (and possibly talent) than some 30 year olds. This is not true in majority, but still should not, as a group, yield to the repercussions of poorly equipped and mal-tempered youngsters. While some designers may exist with the qualities that you listed, they are not the only sort that young designers today possess. Writings and suggestions such as yours, Jason, put your audience of directors, designers, and people in positions to hire creative youths on the defensive - and make them hyper-aware of hints of arrogance. This creates working environments where young creatives are being marked poorly for assertiveness, confidence, and innovation - all qualities that can be huge assets to any firm.

Aside from your poor luck in interviewing arrogant persons, this impression of young designers seems to really stem from those that make a name for themselves at a young age. They are often forced to push harder to break through demands that the young play apprentice roles until an 'acceptable age' despite their skill. This may create an impression that they are striking against tenure and tradition... striking back perhaps.

A bad attitude probably can't be helped, but don't let maturity be mistaken for it. Our field has the benefit of the portfolio. That skill and worth can be measured upon talent and experience, not age and grades. Too often have I seen a young designer be called in and eventually offered a position, beating out competition from older, more tenured applicants - only to be offered an 'entry-level' position due to their age, not their maturity.

On Jan.26.2004 at 06:14 PM
Jason’s comment is:

( 1 )

It's unfair and narrow minded to attribute one of the following to this "immature" or "unqualified" problem: age, institution, personality, practice, mentor, culture, ethnicity, gender, etc. Obviously, we're dealing with many layers of a complex issue. And yes, B A, you're correct. These arrogant designers aren't the only ones out there.

( 2 )

Let's look at the problem and find a solution. Let's look for ways to improve how we practice design. Let's not dwell on the issue and remain in stasis, preventing our practice as a whole from moving forward.

( 3 )

Lastly, how do you resond to young designers being hired because a firm or studio can pay them less? They're hungry, they're ambitious, and they'll take a lower salary than somebody who knows their value and has a long record.

Experience, talent, attitude, intellect, dedication . . .

tell me what really comprises the ideal designer?

On Jan.26.2004 at 09:25 PM
BA’s comment is:

Perhaps I should have cited more directly from your originial letter. I'll start with the recent posting:

(1) 'It's unfair and narrow minded to attribute one of the following to this "immature" or "unqualified" problem: age...'

This was your initial argument, that 'young designer [you've] met possess...' arrogant characteristics.'young designers terminate a project, or leave the agency, or demand a paycheck for preliminary labor.'

(2) So I took your argument to be directly about Age. If you're truly looking for a solution to this problem that you have seen, I think the education system may not be the place to look. Attitudes and maturity are much more difficult to change then hiring practices and salary stigmas. Look to how people are being hired... and as I stated, I believe your writing is actually hindering any (even slow-brought) solution through this route...

(3) I respond to 'young designers' - as in age-wise - taking less money simply because they are young as detrimental to pricing scales... as a form of price fixing and a lessening of the true value of both talent and experience. Just as you said, 'they'll take a lower salary than somebody who knows their value' - that is being taken advantage of! If they accept those low salaries they are either ignorant of bowing down to unfair pricing. If a company doesn't have enough money to hire a quality person, then they can hire someone with lesser quality, but why less age? Perhaps what should be taught to 'young' designers is the true value of their services and to stick to that value. Of your five suggestive adjectives to describe a designer, age was not one of them - attitude, and accordingly - maturity was. I think your argument should have clearly placed the blame on that quality and made no mention of 'youth' or age.

On Jan.27.2004 at 10:45 AM
Jason’s comment is:

Once, I was a young designer too -- young in age. Today I consider myself young because I am still learning and still growing. Youth constitutes development or growth. It's natural to imagine youth relating to age, especially since the essay dealt with school and education. We "see" a certain demographic in college: 18-27 year olds. But a young designer can be anyone who enters the practice as a fresh fish. (Or anyone moving towards advancement and maturity.) Who can say what it means to be an advanced designer? A "grown up"?

__

I believe your writing is actually hindering any (even slow-brought) solution through this route...

It is my hope that questions, challenges, and comments from the top to bottom of this page will somehow move towards answers. The educational system is one place to investigate. What else can we do? Are the design "youth" experienced enough to find a solution, or even identify the problem?

On Jan.27.2004 at 12:48 PM
BA’s comment is:

Youth is a culturally defined age range representing a given level of maturity (physically and emotionally) below the norm of an 'adult.' You cannot just change what 'youth' means to your desires. We all, as designers - and people, are ALWAYS learning and growing. Again, the terms you were searching for may have been 'maturity' or 'experience.'

Is a designer that is young in age and freshly graduated school, but with a good amount of working experience and skill (not the norm, but not abnormal) the same 'fresh fish' as the unskilled, unmotivated designer who graduated in the same class? What about the graduate that is 35 years old that has worked design jobs before their education and still graduates with horrible design sense?

What else can we do? My suggestions and thoughts posted above, mostly ignored, included stopping promoting any idea that Age plays into equations involving experience, attitude, talent, and salary. Even if you are claiming to not have meant anything about age, that is how it came across (perceptions are what matters in the end, not intent!). That your first writing is the most prominent of all these postings, what is seen and spread the most is what makes it most detrimental. Others also (consciously or not) factor in age as a number greatly into hiring and salary decitions. Your article seemed to support and promote that notion. That is what brought me to respond.

On Jan.27.2004 at 01:38 PM
Lea’s comment is:

Thank you, BA. You took the words right out of my mouth. *raises fist in a power sign.* ;-)

Now, everyone. GROUP HUG!

On Jan.27.2004 at 02:05 PM
Jason’s comment is:

: -)

On Jan.27.2004 at 05:32 PM