Six months in graphic

Six Months In

Tyler Kapustka, January 27, 2016

A recent grad’s perspective on entering the design biz

Just six short months ago, I was a senior at Marquette University studying advertising and design. My biggest concern was evening plans – do I write that communications paper due the following day or meet up with friends? The choice was pretty obvious for a last-semester student.

That part of my life quickly came to an end as I launched into adulthood. Even though I had a solid plan lined up after graduation – a full-time gig at McDill (woohoo!), an apartment on the lower east side and a great support system – entering the workforce was daunting. There have been many transitions, and with them, a lot of reflection.

Thinking back on college…

It’s easy to look back at my college experience and find things I wish I had done differently, like not studying abroad. But one thing I wouldn’t change is the all of the hands-on design experience I was able to get. A typical semester for me included 15-18 course credits and 20-25 hours of work between internships, my campus design job and freelancing. It wasn’t always easy, but by the end of my schooling I had six advertising and design internships under my belt, and a diverse portfolio to show for it.

Some surprises in the workplace…

After interning at McDill during my final semester, I was brought on as an official, full-time designer. I thought I knew the drill, but quickly came to some realizations. First, you’re nowhere near done learning when you graduate. College is important, but it serves mainly as a foundation. I’ve learned more from our senior designers in the past six months than in a full year of courses dedicated to design theory and practice. It also hit me what real stress is like. I thought school was tough, preparing for tests and projects while juggling work responsibilities. However, that doesn’t even come close to the stress of working against a tight deadline, and the accountability you share to deliver for your client.

My biggest takeaways…

While I’m still fresh to the scene, I’ve had my share of workplace lessons and I imagine there will be plenty more where these came from. For now, here are my top five:

  • Go with the flow. Nothing in the creative field is set in stone. Your workload, the direction of a project – it can all change in a moment’s notice. Just be flexible.
  • Your client comes first. While you may have strong feelings on a project, it all comes down to the client’s preferences. Take their feedback and make it into something great.
  • Master your pitch. In school, everyone dreaded project presentations. In the real world this happens daily. Being able to talk through your design is an invaluable skill.
  • Always provide rationale. When presenting your work, every design decision you make should have reasoning behind it. Rather than simply doing things because they look better, take time to understand why certain approaches look better. This explanation will help sell your ideas.
  • Don’t take it personally. I’ve applied for jobs and been turned down. Harsh feedback on work? Been there. Designers face a great deal of criticism and there’s plenty of competition. It’s important to channel these experiences and grow from them.

Each day in the design industry presents new challenges. The people I work with make it all look easy, but it takes time to develop skills and expertise, and you’re never done learning. Let’s see what other kinds of lessons another six months brings.