What I Didn't Learn In Design School: II

In continuation of my first post, "What I Didn't Learn In Design School," I am here today to name off several other valuable design/life lessons that I have never formally learned in an educational setting but have merely come to find out through my personal experiences  both in school for my Interior Design degree and out in the real world looking for jobs, working on projects, and continually expanding my creative repertoire (as well as my observation of the experiences of my classmates, friends, and industry connections). I am a firm believer in openness, honesty, and transparency and wish to pass along my insights into this industry to all who are brave enough to load up their paint brushes and face this giant.

8. There Is a Clear Discrepancy Between By-The-Book-Designers vs. Wildly Impassioned Designers. I am a firm, firm, firm believer that good design can be taught but innovative design that pushes boundaries, expands horizons, takes down ill guided "rules," and stakes its claim in the pages of glossy publications (not to mention stylistic history) is a primal instinct to those who have been blessed/cursed with the indescribably need to create. There is certainly nothing wrong with by-the-bookers...many people have made comfortable and successful careers out of such and have pumped out designs that satisfy clients and have even awarded them with much acclaim and public recognition. Will these efforts be remembered and awed at decades down the road...? Probably not. But that doesn't mean that they are at all lacking in the aesthetic ability to produce "good design." My point in this is to simply know which you are and don't mislabel yourself. If you feel that panther-like drive to mold and manipulate forms, that fierce carnivorous reaction to textiles and colors, that sixth sense to lighting level changes and atmospheric attunement to spatial compositions, and a tinge and twitch in your neck when a hue has a microscopic trace of the wrong undertone or the execution of construction is dire craftsmanship at best please, please, please, puuuhhhhh-leaasssseeee do not misinterpret your abilities and instincts as by-the-book. No, no, NO love, you are a prodigy. So whatever you do, DO NOT settle into complacency with "safe" designs, following the design rules you were taught in school to a T. Blaze a trail, mark your path, run full force towards your visions. And, if you don't feel a switch flick in your heart and light bulb go off in your brain when you see the hardware for drawer pulls or the fringe on a pillow...that's okay too. Keep doing your thing (but don't for a second limit the trail blazers on your behalf.)

9. We Are All, In fact, Borderline Certifiably Insane: Learn To Embrace It Because you CAN'T FIGHT IT. It is a well known fact and running joke among my family and friends that I begin to examine and scrutinize the interior of a space 5 seconds before even fully entering the door. For instance, my boyfriend walked into a store the other day to buy new jeans....he found me seconds later crouched down on the floor lifting up the corner of a rug to see where it was from. There are several restaurants I refuse to eat at because the spatial layout of their restrooms was clearly a last minute design consideration. It's a problem. Aaannnd it's annoying. But, I have come to realize that the more you let this sixth sense run free to examine and critique, the more second nature your in-tune-ness to the dimensional world of design around you becomes...and the more you open yourself up to the ability for creativity and inspiration to hit you in unexpected ways at unanticipated or solicited moments. That, is the key. If you block it off...you have just dead ended the possibility of greatness. So go ahead, climb under the table to see who makes it...yea, you will most definitely look like a freak....but all the good ones are.

10. It is IMPERATIVE to HAVE a Sense of Value and Confidence in YOU. This was, perhaps, the biggest critique and essential item I found to be lacking in my design school days. Why? Because self confidence and a foundational value and appreciation of YOUR abilities cannot be taught by any professor, any book, or any project. It is something you have to come to terms with yourself. You have to realize that you have been given these talents, these gifts, this passion, this drive for a very specific reason. You have to develop a profound sense of "I'm the boss" when it comes to the work you produce. Art and design have been and will always be subjective. Be able to defend your work and stand up for your vision. Don't merely agree with people and belittle your original insight because they don't see what you saw, initially. And if they never get it? That's cool...just don't let their lack of perception in that regard discourage what you thought enough of to create. There is a fine line between constructive criticism and criticism; know which is which.

11. The D-word: Designer NOT Diva-Doormat. It is widely known that the design world is dripping in its fair share of divas (whether it be employer or client) and I don't know about you but I'm pretty huge on workplace ethics. I hate this taboo aspect of our industry but it comes with the territory so you have to prepare yourself for the chance of encountering such, determine your ethical standards, and stick to 'em. I'm just being honest. Does that make you a snob? NO! It makes you a great employee/ designer because you are demonstrating your  passion about what you do and the value you place in your contributions and work. I totally get that the economy is rough and that sometimes your circumstances require you to take what you can get and turn the other cheek to some things...but have some respect and dignity for yourself. Don't let diva's stomp on your dreams or successes or attempt to belittle you so that they can remain "on top" while chanting "do you know who I am?!" Don't let people talk to you disrespectfully and unprofessionally. Don't let employers bully you in the workplace so that they can keep you right where they want you- a pawn in their climb to the top. Don't let clients and employers threaten you with ploys and tactics. Don't slum down to coffee and dry cleaning pickup status because someone told you that's your shoe in. Stick to your guns and grow a backbone. Remember, the devil wears Prada...or occasionally horrendously tacky Louis Vuitton. Identify it early...and run. Respect yourself because the second you don't is the second you segue from designer to door mat.

12. YOU have to Equip Yourself for Success. No one else can do this for you. You determine your level of progression in this industry. You can take classes and read design books 'til kingdom come but those will only get you to level one in this game. If you're content with cashing out here that's your decision. If you want to be a high roller know that the stakes are going to stack up against you in a tense and competitive match up and you have to mentally strategize and train and prepare for success. You have to observe others, make efforts to learn and expand on your own outside of the workplace and classroom setting (especially so if you realize your work/classroom setting limits you or impeedes your creative development and inspiration in any way shape or form), you have to be open and aware to the moves being made around you ...the trends, the fads, the architectural developments....count the cards...analyze...mentally catalogue...and then flash 'em with your design hand when they least expect it.

13.The Second You Let Yourself Become Comfortable and Falsely Secure in The Lull of Routine is The Second You Stint Your Creative Energy....the longer that tourniquet siphons off your flow....the harder it is to regain. Stay active. Don't let dormancy steal your passion. For instance, after graduation in May I couldn't find a job...thanks, economy. So did I sit around in my pitty party feeling sorry for myself?! NO! (well maybe once or twice...) I got real. I started this blog. I got a business license and business cards and made a website for freelance gigs. I started exploring other design blogs and publications. Using Pinterest and other networking forms in order to engage myself continuously in creativity. So that I was proactively participating in creative projects, I was seeing inspirational pictures and images and ideas on a daily basis. My aesthetic flow and design desires were not cut-off merely because I was not currently working at a firm or on a big project. Remind yourself daily of your passion for this field...whatever that takes....whether it be a blog, a walk outside, planting a garden, painting a picture....you name it, you do it. Engage your brain and your creative spirit. Don't settle into complacent mediocrity with your 9-5. Expand. Explore.

14.YOU are your own golden ticket. Believe that." A quote from The Help: "You is kind. You is smart. You is important." Finding a job in the industry is hard. It's discouraging at times. Advancing in the industry is trying and difficult. Remind yourself and encourage yourself of yourself daily- whether through encouraging sticky notes on your mirror or internal reminders and continuous prayers to boost your confidence. Don't let people convince you that they are your golden ticket to success and that without them you are a lost and lonely drifter with no hopes of a future. That is the poison apple to a lifetime of manipulation, deceit, underdog-ness and unhappiness. Don't bite it. You are your golden ticket. You are your golden opportunity. You decide to follow the path God put you on for your future. You decide your happiness. NO ONE ELSE HAS THAT PRIVILEGE OR AUTHORITY unless YOU give it to them. Got it?

15. Strange Addictions- Your life WILL depend upon your ability to train your body to tolerate copious amounts of caffeinated products. Your bloodstream WILL consist of coffee. You WILL develop twitches and tremors and go through withdrawal symptoms should said amount of caffeinated intake be reduced. I myself, in my scholastic prime, was a 6 cupper. Yes I said it. Other combinations of diet Coke and snack items such as Mike and Ikes and Peanut M&M's will need to be consumed in record breaking amounts as well in order to maintain any semblance of sanity and/or consciousness. Don't worry- no one in this industry will judge you.

Start Pouring,

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