My path to design was atypical. I originally graduated school with a degree in business admin/marketing, only to find out through my first job as an ad agency account account manager that my passion was really on the creative side of things. So I took a chance and went back to design school with a strong focus on what I wanted to get out of it. My plan was to graduate and move back home to Tennessee to get a suitable job, hopefully with another ad agency. I was mostly interested in print and branding at the time. The truth is, I didn’t get that many offers when I moved back to Nashville. Whether it was timing or experience, I just didn’t fit. Luckily, I had maintained a great relationship with a small design studio in NYC that I had interned with through design school and they kept me on retainer, with me hopping back and forth to NYC (not bad) 1 or 2 times a month. There wasn’t a lot of print or branding work, mostly digital and mostly designing all things for Flash, but it was with some great people. It gave me the opportunity to grow and the financial comfort to take some smaller branding projects that didn’t exactly pay the bills, but were creatively fulfilling. After a couple years, I was able to open up Perky Bros full-time.
Naming Perky Bros wasn’t hard or deep. Perky Bros was our family moving and storage business that started in 1883. I chose it because: 1. I always had a great amount of respect for my grandfather who ran the business in Kansas City; he was very supportive of me through college and getting started in life, and: 2. I wanted something a little more scalable than Jeff Perky Design. I always saw myself working as part of a team and thought Brothers was a romantic way of speaking to future collaborators, though it was admittedly a little premature at the time.
Internships are invaluable. They help you put into practice what you are learning in school. They also make you a better student because you can ask the right questions and take the right courses to get what you want, not just what the curriculum lays out for you.
But that probably isn’t what this question is about. In terms of compensation… I say, take a paid internship if you can. Take an unpaid one if you can afford it. Just start meeting people and making cheerleaders/advocates for you. My first paying gig I got as a designer was from an unpaid internship. I don’t regret it at all. It was certainly valuable.
Growing up, I loved to compete, and sports was a way for me to do that. After a game of football as a freshman in high school, I was sitting in the locker room putting my gear away and a coach walked up that I greatly admired. I assumed he was going to pat me on the back and tell me how proud of me he was or something like 'great game', etc… But he didn’t, he simply said: “Get off the ground.” He went on to tell me that I was embarrassing my team, my family and myself when I was there. Specifically, he was speaking to when I would physically fail by either missing a tackle or being tackled. And by not getting up quickly, I was letting my team and myself down. I didn’t even know I was doing it. I was so embarrassed. After that, I didn’t lie on the ground so much anymore; it was like it was hot lava.
As creatives, we’re pretty sensitive, which is a good thing. But sometimes, we let criticism drag us down and keep us there for too long, which ends up affecting work and personal life. Relentless effort, not talent, will better help you achieve in any job, including design.
Our team is small but mighty. We all sit arm's length apart and it's awesome all the time, sometimes. :) Rex Runyeon has been with us the longest, he works as Sr. Designer and also art directs. I love that Rex keeps me from getting old too fast. He’s authentic, sharp, and positive. He just has a knack for making work people gravitate too. Alden Earl is our Project Manager. The first thing to know about Alden is she’s as talented as anyone in the office. She can design, sing, dance, play music, stomp your ass in a foot race. As a small business everyone has to wear a lot of hats and I can’t tell how lucky I feel to have her working alongside me. Dana Kingery is our youngest designer of our group. The thing I most admire and love about her is her determination. She has total grit. When she says she’s going to do something, she gets to work and does it. She’s soft-spoken, but when she does speak. Listen. She’s about to teach you something.
Be creative about finding ways to get your foot in the door with places you want to work. Bring coffee, meet for lunch, ask if you could shadow for a week, ask your referral sources to shoot over an email on your behalf. It not only puts a face with the work but demonstrates your passion for this as a career.