I'm Joseph. For the past 4 years, I've been designing graphic systems, websites, printed materials, apps (digital products for the fancy ones), and other things for brands, institutions, and individuals under the name extendedplay.
I studied at The Design School at Arizona State University. I grew up in a middle class family in Phoenix, Arizona and was beginning university in the shadows of the financial collapse of 2008. There was no way my family could afford any of the private art colleges, and I was a music kid in high school and thus didn't have a portfolio of work — I was limited to the in-state public universities. Little did I know, this initial perceived inconvenience would end up being one of the best surprises of my career, as Arizona State has one of the best nationally ranked design programs for public universities in the United States. The rigorous focus on excellence in typography and composition, along with the tight-knit relationship of the relatively small (under 1000 undergrads) community in The Design School made for a tremendous experience.
During my time in university, I worked part-time for a commercial printing shop during my second year, and then part-time for one of ASU's departments for junior and senior year, with an internship in New York City at Piscatello Design Centre mixed in the summer between junior year. The diversity in opportunities were really useful — understanding what goes on in the production processes before I was really making work that merited production was a huge help. Working for a university department that had to follow a strict brand standards document encouraged me to pursue more intriguing ideas and compositions as opposed to resorting to the gimmicks that young designers fall into. And finally, interning for a summer at a studio that gave me the opportunity to work on projects from websites to identities to eight foot tall glass etched museum donor walls was something mindblowing in and of itself — all of these were done in tandem with my education and helped guide me and my interests through my initial years post-graduation, and eventually lead me to starting my studio.
Internships can be invaluable, or they can be completely awful — it all depends on the environment of the studio and the attitude of the managers. Some studios view interns as a cheap (or free) means of getting grunt work done, and I find that superbly embarrassing. Students and new graduates are coming to the greater design community with curiosity and a desire to grow in craft and practice, and to see that passion so quickly extinguished by managers with a penchant for emails at 4:20pm asking for a 69 page keynote by tomorrow morning — it's heartbreaking, especially since many in those scenarios are not receiving compensation. Managers need to understand that taking on an intern will take time away from their normal tasks, and that's not a bad thing. Whether I'm working with my students at Cooper Union, or with an intern at my studio, taking the time to consider the "why" in design processes and communicating those to someone else furthers not just their understanding, but yours as well.
We've been really lucky to have worked with two tremendous interns (Charlie and Stephanie) the past two summers and will definitely be having another summer intern position next year, with the possibility of adding spring and fall internships as well. We treat our interns as if they were a junior designer. Interns work directly with staff on client projects and are involved in client communications and meetings. We want them to walk away from the internship with a command of the tools, an understanding of the processes, and a few noteworthy portfolio pieces. And obviously, we pay them for their efforts and make sure everyone's keeping sane hours, having fun, and eating more than coffee.
As a person who lives with mental illness, mental health is something that's really important to me and it's a part of life where the design world can really improve. Burnout is such a common problem amongst working designers, when really it's a managerial failure that can be corrected — we have to make that change. For the past few months, I've been talking to people in the creative industries who live with mental illness about their working environment and what makes it good versus not-so-good, and what they think could be changed to make it better. At some point, all of these insights are going to be packaged up into a project — just not quite sure where it's going to lead yet!
It's okay to not have all the answers. It's okay to not know exactly what you want to do or where you want to do it. It's okay if you hate the project after you finish it — it means you've grown. It's okay to have doubts. It's okay that you're the only one who didn't pull an all-nighter — sleep is generally more valuable than hustle at those hours anyways. It's okay to not be as "good" as the other person in your class, don't let that diminish your passion, instead let it fuel you to learn more. It's okay to feel like you didn't learn everything you could've in school — you can still buy all the books, read them, apply those understandings to your work, and make an effort to grow everyday. You'll be fine.