All the things I’ve learned

Of all the things we complained about in school, the worst was designing for someone else. And now. That is all I do. Really? You thought your best friend was hard to work with? Have you considered designing alongside a boss who doesn’t know you and certainly needn’t spare your feelings? While everything I learned in school was useful, there are a good many things I would have cared about more if I had realized their importance.

So here’s my list…

1. Research and know your brands. I had my standby brands and a few other ideas. But I just spent the past 3 days looking at over 30 books, 10 brands and countless google searches to find 6 chairs, 4 side tables, 2 display cases, a desk and a dining table. My boss says I’m not done.

2. Figure out how furniture is constructed. No really. I spent 4 days working through cross-sections for 2 custom-sized beds. My manager finally agreed they made sense, and then my boss said they weren’t right. We both have some learning to do.

3. You may hate doing a certain type of drawing, and avoid learning how to do it well. That will get you nowhere in a hurry, my friends.

4. Learn to work with the idiots and the jerks. Fact of the matter is that you will be working alongside jerks, and possibly idiots, in every office. Glaring gets you nowhere, asking them what their issue is gets you nowhere, expecting it to be resolved on your time is not a reasonable expectation. Teams come in all shapes and sizes and liking one another is a luxury. That does not mean you can’t create something incredible.

5. Find your style, your best computer program, your strong points, your special presentation format and do it to the best of your ability. Own it and set yourself apart.

6. Now. Go learn every other computer program you might possibly ever use. Design using a style or concept you detest. Render using a different medium. Engage your audience with a different technique. The best thing I did for my first job was agree to tutor someone in a program I barely knew myself, even though I think the one I prefer is better. I haven’t hand-rendered since graduation, but my photoshop skills are taking off. Two weeks ago, I was handed 17 slides from a Powerpoint my coworker had created.and told I needed to present them in half an hour.

7. Learn to get used to asking lots of questions, even if it shows your ignorance. We often complained about our professors not giving us a clear enough picture of their expectations. That experience is nothing compared to a very particular client, who is not ashamed to correct you if you do things differently than they expect.

8. CEMT is worth your time. Being able to correctly identify a U-channel on a drawing does actually benefit you, and the contractor reading your drawings. Be nice to Prof. White.

9. All those doodles add up. All those hours spent trying to learn how to sketch will take you far. The ability to communicate your ideas accurately can never be diminished, so don’t get mad at your professor for nit understanding your concept. Make the concept clear, make your drawings sensible. If your Prof. cannot read it, neither can your boss or client. Keep working.

9. Love it. Design school is hard, very hard. I’m convinced I spent more hours on schoolwork than any science nerd/pre-med student I knew. It is perfectly reasonable to hate the major a few hours every week. However. If you really think what you are doing is worthless and you aren’t even excited about design after a good night’s sleep…it’s time to leave. You cannot survive school, or your job, without a love for design. This job requires too much passion, innovation and flatout hours in your day for you to be successful without foolish passion.

One of my closest friends from school often wonders if people thinks she’s ridiculous for how giddy she gets over projects, and again how many tears have fallen at 4 am. The answer? Most likely. The reality? She is a phenomenal designer. She will never lack opportunities or the desire to complete them.


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