Apparently, when I was five, I wanted to be a teacher by day, and an opera singer by night. Around age 12, I truly believed that I was destined to become a fashion designer. For most of my adolescence, I wanted to be a filmmaker. At the same time, I was constantly making little flyers, posters, and magazines. When I was about 6, I memorised almost every national flag. I used to submit my primary school homework with dark grey text (as opposed to black), with Century Gothic for headings and Century Schoolbook for body text. I would read typography blogs in my spare time in highschool. And somehow, it never occurred to me that I should do graphic design. I actually decided to do Communication Design at RMIT on a whim. I applied at the last minute. It wasn’t until my third year that I realised that this is what I should be doing.
The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst has to be my absolute, number-one, most essential design book. It’s endlessly useful, informative, and in addition to that, a pretty decent read, too. A blog that I’m reading at the moment is McMansion Hell; an enjoyably angry and informative architecture blog about bad, supersized houses and the history that (doesn’t) inform them. Design Matters with Debbie Millman is a must-listen podcast. Millman is an amazing interviewer, who asks interesting and difficult questions that draw out fascinating, sometimes poignant answers from her interviewees. It’s both insightful and emotionally resonant.
1. No matter how much time you have, you’ll inevitably use it all, in order to do the best work you can. However, drawing things out can be painful and unproductive. Deadlines sometimes need to be renegotiated, usually due to life’s other obligations. If that’s not the case, always aim for before your deadline - it will make your life a lot easier.
2. Try as many different things as possible. When I first started uni, I had no interest in pursuing publication design. If you look at my folio now, it’s all print work - and that includes client work. (As a result, it’s now my New Year’s Resolution to do more digital work!)
3. Take care of yourself physically. I ended up with a pretty serious shoulder injury from poor posture at the computer, which was causing bad wrist pain. It can be managed with stretches and trips to the physio, but I now have to use a mouse with my left hand!
4. Take care of yourself mentally, too. I’m used to working long hours for long periods of time, but I overestimated myself during my Honours year, and learnt about burnout the hard way. At the peak of my productivity, I could write over 2,000 words per day. At the worst point, I wrote a measly 650 words in one week.
5. Get as many people as possible to proofread the document you’re about to send off to print. Then proofread it a few more times. Alternatively, learn to come to terms with typos.
I think that design is moving towards a dematerialised future. We can see this with the recent rise of service design and user experience design. Designers will be ever-increasingly hired for the way that they think and solve problems, rather than the products they can make. Many areas of design are being incrementally automated; a lot of small business owners would rather pay for Squarespace than a web designer. That being said, in 5 years time, I believe that we will still need posters, menus, cereal boxes, and wayfinding. But, there may come a point in time when the only people who want business cards are designers themselves. I’m trying to focus on expanding my abilities as much as possible, with a particular focus on design research and development skills, incase nobody wants to pay a human for graphics anymore.