To my students and any other young designers: Every job you get offered, do it. Do all the work you can. For now.
As explained in the previous blog, I was asked by a young, aspiring designer in New Zealand if I had any tips for him starting out. My first tip was very simple.
Do all the work you can to start out.
It’ll help you learn the software and techniques as well as the business and relationship part of it. While you’re in school, and even as a junior designer entering the field after graduation, all work is good work.
This will change over time, but for now, do all the work.
One of the first pieces of design advice I got was actually from my client Matt Austin’s older brother, my Pastor and friend Chase Austin. He used to be a graphic designer before life circumstances thrust him into his current role as lead pastor.
Don’t ever tell a client you can’t do something. If they want you to make them a website, and you don’t know how, just say yes, and either figure out how or find somebody else to help you and give them a cut.
This is the single best piece of advice I think I ever got. As you grow, this rule may lose relevancy, but it’s great to start off with.
I’ll never forget that day. In fact, it flashes in my mind just about daily even 5 years later.
It was 2011, and I had just started my design education at Lone Star College CyFair. I was in my first ever Photoshop class. I quickly found out that even with zero prior experience, I just had a knack for this design stuff. My projects, albeit beginner work, were somehow a little better than most of my peers, in exception to a few (with whom I still have contact and work with from time to time).
Somehow my pastor, Chase, got wind that I’d started going to school for design, and having an interest in that he approached me one day to show him what I’d been working on. The following Sunday I brought my laptop, pulled up my file, and eagerly waited for the moment I could rush him in the hallway between services. If I remember correctly, it was our second major project. I was super proud of what I was about to show him.
I see him in the hall coming my way. I rush into this little side room where my laptop was stashed, file already open and ready to present. I pop back out the door, just as he’s in front of the doorway, and I ambush him with the laptop.
“Hey Pastor Chase! You said you wanted to see my work, here’s a project I’m working on in my Photoshop class.”
As he’s checking out the work and I’m explaining the project to him, I’ll never forget his face. It was sort of a mixture of puzzled, almost in pain, and somewhat surprised by the ambush. His reply was one of those drawn out ones like, “Yeahhh… That’s… Cool? Uh, good work…”
I was crushed.
Then he hit me with that advice “Don’t ever tell a client you can’t do something.” To this day, I’ve stuck to it almost 100%. In most cases, I’ve somehow managed to figure out how to do what I was asked, and not only did I score a job and a client, but I learned something new. In the other cases, I relied on someone else who had a different specialty than me, and we still got the project done.
I’m proud and honored to say that my work constantly got better after that, and now I’m the guy that does just about all the work for him and the people of Champions Church. The underdog story prevails.
You can see some of the coolest work I got to do for Champions here.
A bit of background on that project: We were given the photo of the tree and mushrooms and told to use what we’d learn to create a scene that told a story. This was meant to be a bunch of people who were down (hence the rain) and being guided by God (hence the giant glowing arms). I’m shuttering at the thought that I’m sharing this. (Mannn, would you look at those selections! Shew…)
In the next blog, I’ll explain a bit about how design is about people and not pixels.