Whats the worst design job you’ve ever had and how does that make you a better designer?

Pop & Pac David Popov, Creative Director Melbourne

I love this question, I’ve got a few ‘favourites’ however my absolute favourite was one of my first ever projects. At my first design job, I was assigned a task, to photoshop a baby (in a nappy only) into a building work site. That baby had to have arms raised and be holding an industrial-sized steel beam. I remember thinking, oh-shit, is this as good as it gets? Now whenever I get a similar request, I look back on ‘the baby holding the steel beam’ moment and realise for some people this is good design to them, it’s what they know, what they’ve previously been exposed to. It’s given me the impetus to discover how to help educate clients on what is good and what is bad design. I’ve realised that sometimes you just have to tell them straight out and not worry about hurting their feelings, because you do it, knowing that it’s ultimately for their product or business’s benefit.

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Simon Londono Simon Londono, Typographer Bogota

I really enjoy to work on design, everyday, every project, but that inhouse design office I talk up here was really hard. I remember that I finished the jobs 3 or 4 hours before my working day was over but I had to stay there until the end of the working day. I was so hard for me to be in a desk while having nothing to do and waiting to my boss there to tell me what my next tasks where. I love to be independent and to organize my own tasks. It’s a way lot harder to sit in and office and have nothing to do than to have a lot of tasks or stressing work to do.

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Javier Fuentes Javier Fuentes, Art Director Boston

The worst design job I’ve ever had was at an office supplies corporation (I won’t name names). My biggest project was to come up with a boring pattern design for paper cups. Not long after, I started a new gig at a small firm in Boston called Breakaway. One day as I was making coffee in the office kitchen, I saw those paper cups I had designed. Seeing those paper cups in the kitchen was a reminder of how far I’d come.

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Dragon Rouge Dora Newstead, Intern London

I was in New York interning for a new music talent development agency – supposedly in A&R but I ended up working as the main designer for their marketing and social media content. Even as an amateur I could see that their branding was pretty terrible but they were very set on keeping it so I did the best that I could. It made me learn that as a designer starting out you’re not always going to have the same point of view as your clients – but even so you always try your hardest, be patient, and use the resources you have to create in the best way you can within the limits of their brief.

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Martina Paukova Martina Paukova, Illustrator Berlin

I did bunch of dubious illustration assignments in my early career but I’d call none of them the worst. Each of them was just part of learning curve, crucial in defining of what I want to be doing and what is best left alone.

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Wix Alma Neeman, UI Designer Tel Aviv

After graduating from Bezalel Academy of arts and design in Visual Communication in 2015, I immediately entered the Tel-Aviv design industry. First I worked in an influential branding house (Firma ) and later on in “Wix.com”. I truly believe that the knowledge you gain in your first year of working in the industry is as important as your full academic education! In this first year, I realized that artistic ideas are lovely but sometimes, you just have to deliver a strong straight forward visual message — and it might be less glamorous than you imagined. For example, designing toilet paper packages was, how to say, challenging. But yes, I also strongly believe that this experience helps you grow to be a much more effective, sharp and down to earth designer. What we really wish to do in our profession as designers is to generate and propose sharp and meaningful solutions, and even the worst projects have a lot to teach.

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Dingding Hu Dingding Hu, Illustrator NYC

I once worked as a design assistant in a homeware product showroom. It was the worst because I was paid minimum, yelled at frequently and didn’t get to do creative work at all. However I was in charge of keeping a lot of things organized everyday, and it has taught me invaluable lessons about office management that still benefits me until today. I can say it laid the foundation for me to work for myself!

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OFFF TLV Liri Argov, Creative Director Tel Aviv

After graduation, I got an offer from one of the leading branding company in Israel to join their creative team. Working for a big, influential design company looked surreal to me. The dreamy position also had a not so dreamy side- we worked from morning to night, under constant pressure, with huge projects and tight deadlines one after another… looking back, I can say that this job also gave me allot. When working under pressure, sometimes you simply have no time for a structured process, ideating about creative ideas, waiting for the copywriter to come up with a slogan etc. I have become “multi-creative”, filling up for most creative positions, bringing a project from A to Z and taking fast decisions on the go. I gained a lot of confidence and certainty in my skills and abilities.

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Riccardo Riggio Riccardo Riggio, Art Director Madrid

I think the worst design job I’ve ever had was a packaging project I had during an internship at a communications agency. The brief was a mess and the client continued to change his ideas every hour, he sent to me the changes via Whatsapp, writing with the pencil tool directly on the image, always on Whatsapp. This experience made me a better designer because I learned to keep calm in a difficult situation.

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Avant:Post Team AP, Art Director Paris

We once worked with a Parisian architect to create his visual identity. We’d been asked to design a logo and we came up with 6 strong and different leads to make sure that one of them would seduce him. After each meeting, our client drew us a little sketch of a logo, asking us, “Why don’t you try something like that?”. We came back to him with new versions (including his sketch) and the situation repeated again and again, until we had designed at least 40 logos, and he still wasn’t happy with any of them. Finally, we ended our collaboration and he choose to design his logo on his own. This situation taught us that when a project goes wrong, it is better to take the time to talk with the client, start over from the beginning, listen to them and establish new rules together.

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Alberto Miranda Alberto Miranda, Illustrator Madrid

Before I started working as an illustrator I did freelance graphic designer jobs mostly and was during this period when I had one of the worst jobs I ever had. I was making this brand redesign for one company based in San Francisco, which look quite promising at the beginning, but it turned out to be a nightmare.

I think the extension of the job was like two and a half years when the initial timing was like 3 months… I don’t know, I have blurred memories of that time. Constant changes, endless versions, chaotic emails and of course, a lot of missed payments. After this, I changed my working methods completely. I developed an entirely new way of communication with the client, budgets, preferences, etc. My philosophy is that as a human being, you are obligated to make mistakes but if you repeat those same mistakes, is entirely your fault.

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Microsoft Claudio Guglieri, Creative Director San Francisco

The worst design job I ever had was a website I designed for an electrical panel company 13 years ago. I had to go over what felt like hundreds of pages of the least inspiring products you can imagine and had to understand and document everything on a flash site that I coded myself (yeah I know). Having done projects like these has helped me stay grounded and helped me find the bright side of any project. I can’t stand listening to people complaining about clients and projects that aren’t “portfolio pieces.” Everything can be a portfolio piece.

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Hype Type Studio Paul Hutchison, Creative Director Los Angeles

My design was heavily influenced by my interests which had a more organic and DIY aesthetic found in skateboarding, graffiti, and music. But for a short time, I had a job at a design studio working with big corporate clients such as British Steel and clients in the petrochemical and manufacturing industries. The work was the complete opposite of the work I had hoped I would be doing and I struggled with how limiting and boring I perceived it at the time. Looking back, I learned a lot about a brand, how to deliver functional solutions relevant to the brief, client and intended audience as well as how to work within – and push – the strict brand guidelines to create effective, relevant work.

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Tabasco Stepan Solodkov, Art Director Tallinn

Probably the worst design job was my very first workplace when I started working as a designer. It was a cool downtown office, and my first iMac. I worked there for only three months. During this time, our boss disappeared for a month and we ourselves were looking for jobs for the studio on freelance sites. Once he forced us to forge documents for the bank so that he could take out a loan and give us a salary. The last straw was when I caught the boss reading my personal email. After that, I immediately quit. What did this teach me? A cool office and a computer does not equal cool work. Search for clients yourself and make decisions. And always put a password on your computer.

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Nina Bachmann Nina Bachmann, Illustrator Munich

Together with a friend, I had the order to make an identity for a nutritionist. We worked out concept after concept, we met often, came up with new suggestions again and again, but in the end we gave up because the client himself didn’t know what he wanted. This taught me how to clarify and define the scope in advance. Trust is important. If the client doesn’t trust the designer, it quickly becomes a never-ending story.

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Studio Last Matthias Last, Creative Director Belin

Recently we worked with a client who wanted us to design a new CI for an event location in Berlin. After several meetings and completed work on our part, it turned out that their payment attitude wasn’t the best. Through this experience we learnt a lot about invoicing our work in different steps, especially when it comes to new customers, we have not worked with before.

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Brand Nu Radim Malinic, Creative Director London

I didn’t find my calling until I was in my early twenties. You can imagine the amount of crazy and bad part-time jobs that I had during my teenage years. My first official design job was quite mad, to be honest. I worked in a small print shop and my boss had a quite toxic attitude to design – he would warrant the quality of the design work based on the size of the client pay. It was a terrible way to see how badly the clients were treated and how little damn the guy was giving. I didn’t stay for long but one thing that I took away with me, it was the passion for making every single creative project matter regardless of the budget or client profile. Every creative opportunity is a chance to make a difference and aim for the best possible results. Now when I give people a chance at the beginning of their career, I make it my utmost priority to instate this mindset right from the start. Being indifferent or uninterested isn’t going to be helpful to anyone. We should aim for the stars, every day!

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