thoughts & ramblings of an in-house designer
"It's been said that a picture is worth a thousand words. In the hands of the right designer, a word is worth a thousand pictures."
- Tony Di Spigna, Typographer and Distinguished Professor
I've often been told that one of the most important skills a designer should work on to become a better professional is writing. So this is a place to practice those skills.
I have been incredibly lucky to have been taught and mentored by some incredible professionals: creatives and non-creatives. I can’t say everyone is so lucky, and there are some who may not realize just how important and impactful having a mentor really is. I thought I would share how having mentors has shaped me and why I think it’s so crucial for young creatives who are just starting their career.
While I have worked with and/or learned from a number of individuals who have shaped how I work, two in particular stand out:
The first is my first full-time boss. I learned so much from her leadership. She really taught me what kind of leader I’d like to be when I am able to have a team of my own. She handled herself with grace and composure, but never came across as closed off. I was never scared or apprehensive of her- felt like I could be myself at work and that I was appreciated. She was my fierce advocate, in tune to what I needed as a professional and did everything in her power to ensure I was able to do my best work. She gave me room to be creative, played to my strengths, while challenging me to work on my weaknesses. Together, we were a team and I am incredibly proud of the work we were able to do and the brand we built together. I hope someday I can be to some young designer what she was to me as I was starting my career.
The other mentor who stands out for me is the person who introduced me to design in the first place. My former high-school teacher, DT, was a graphic designer turned teacher, and the perspective this experience provided him with was so impactful for me as a young, developing creative. He never let me off easy, always pushed me to do my best work, and continues to be a supporter long after I graduated. He has been a sounding board, a seasoned set of design-eyes to take a look at something I’m working on and is full of level-headed advice. Just because someone is a good designer does not mean they are a good teacher, but in this case, he is both.
I honestly cannot think of where I would be had I not had these mentors (and many others) teaching me and inspiring me to be my best. It is so meaningful to have someone to turn to who understands what you do and that you can be honest with. I truly believe that it is something that can really help young designers grow.
If you’re a young designer who doesn’t yet have someone they can lean on as a mentor, I urge you to check out some of the mentorship programs offered by many different organizations.
Two that I know of are:
I suppose somewhere out there in the world there’s a person who absolutely loves change- just lives for it. I wish I were that person, but unfortunately that is just not me. And yet, despite my discomfort, the feeling of stagnancy, of not achieving my goals, well that’s it’s own sort of torture as well. It’s a bit of a catch-22.
Currently, I find myself stuck between two sorts of discomfort. The COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown in Ontario has made the world feel like it's come to a bit of a halt. At the same time, the company I began my career with was acquired, not once, but twice in the last two years. With this has come a lot of change- in responsibilities, goals, colleagues and even the brand. It is in times like these I wish I was someone who relished in change.
All this has had me thinking of a conversation that suddenly feels more relevant. A few years ago, for my birthday, my partner got me a little African Violet houseplant. They can be a bit picky, and I’d never had a houseplant before, so I was unsure how to care for it. Somehow, it is still alive today, and in April, it exploded with the most beautiful blooms I’ve ever seen. The rich, purple petals had a sparkle to them. I didn’t even know that was possible.
A few weeks before the bloom, I had tried to repot the flower. After I had taken it out of its pot I realized it wasn’t ready to be repotted and had to put it back in its home. When I told my partner, who is a landscaper, arborist and a botany-enthusiast, about this, he explained to me that lots of plants actually bloom under stress – it’s a survival mechanism for the plant since flowers are their reproductive organs. My repotting attempt had likely caused my little violet a great amount of stress, but from that came the most beautiful flowers.
As I ride the waves of change right now, I have been reflecting on this:
Maybe the discomfort of change is what it takes to really bloom.