We chat with recent University of Florida graduate Sidney Howard, who after nearly losing her mind and many tears of applying for jobs – scored a junior role on the design team at WeWork! Bam! Read on for what a a typical work day (p.s. its not so typical) is like for her now. Sidney explains how she is trying to navigate between the two worlds of design and illustration and not to treat things too preciously.
What has been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way?
Stop making excuses! If you don’t like how something is, push yourself to make it better, to learn from it, to make great work despite of what you are up against. At school I was always frustrated that I wouldn’t be good enough because I didn’t go to an art school, or I couldn’t be an illustrator because there was no illustration major. When it really comes down to it, no matter what your background is, it’s up to you to push yourself and determination goes much further than any title. You could have the best teachers in the world but if you don’t put in the hours yourself it won’t matter.
How did you develop your style as an illustrator and what tips would you have for others?
It’s really important to pay attention to what you’re drawn to in all aspects of your life. For me it’s small things like overhearing bizarre comments out of context in people’s conversations, or writing down certain lines in songs I love. I also enjoy observing people and drawing structures from life with time constraints. It forces me to see what’s important for me to include and also forces the illustration to not be precious. It’s also about looking at other people’s work and seeing what you admire or dislike, conceptually and technically. Recently I’ve learned that I really don’t like precious polished looking things. I like intentionally roughening or making things more scribbled.
I still don’t feel I have a completely concrete style even though I’m told I do. I feel like I’m still in a space between design and illustration. In design I was taught to not have a specific style and to cater each style to the project whereas in illustration there is a huge emphasis on finding a style. So I’m definitely still figuring it out and navigating between those two worlds.
What does a typical working day include for you right now?
It changes from week to week. One week I could be traveling to Los Angeles to paint a mural or do some other type of art installation. The next I could be back at headquarters designing wallpaper, neon signs, and wall coverings for multiple new openings. This includes meeting with interior designers and managing emails with vendors and logistics to make sure we get everything made on time for each opening at the first of the month. We also have lots of fun events at work like surprise guests coming in, drink and draw, or karaoke. I love the variety in the work and getting to interact with so many creative people.
What advice would you give students starting out?
Even though I was just a student about four months ago, I would say get involved with as many things as possible. Do things that might scare you, things that motivate and hold you accountable, and things that are just for you that don’t need to be put up online or shown in critique. For me, treating things too preciously has never been a good thing. If you are too scared to mess up, you won’t move forward. Being okay with failure is such an important lesson that I will learn over and over again in different ways for the rest of my life. Also, do fun things that have nothing to do with design as you only get the privilege to be a student for so long so you should have some damn fun too!
What was your plan for graduating and what actually happened?
I think my plan was basically to apply to as many jobs and paid internships as possible in major cities and get out of Florida (where I’ve lived my entire life). The daydreaming going on in my head was a bit different; spend a couple months relaxing at home yet magically have full-time job waiting for me after summer somewhere cool like Austin. Lots of students have the dream of moving to NYC, and I wasn’t so sure I wanted to be somewhere so stuffed with people.
Despite my doubts, I was offered my dream job in Manhattan, graduated, moved to Brooklyn five days later, started work five days after that and I love it. New York wasn’t as “scary” as I thought it would be, but I’m really glad I ended up here because I needed to get more out of my comfort zone. Three close friends from college moved here within a month of me so sometimes things just fall into place.
Even though it all worked out, I spent a couple months losing my mind. I applied to tons of jobs, never getting responses or getting one-line auto replies. There were lots of tears and moments of doubt but I kept going because I didn’t want to have to move back home for too long and feel even worse about the whole situation.