Dear design students

It’s hardly a secret, but there are thousands of design students in the world.  Advice and opportunities are everywhere. Education and learning are very very important to me. I used to think this was because I was a student myself, perhaps a little too close to it all – too tangled up in the education system to understand the bigger picture but now I realise it’s much more than that. It’s something that I care about very much and believe I can add value to.

In the past little while I have spent alot of time with students. I have had incredible conversations and been inspired. I have decided it’s time for me to draw some conclusions.

I am getting to explore many of my ideas at Snook through the creation of Matchable; a service that connects design students to the health and well being sector. I do work under the umbrella of The Studio Unbound; an initiative aiming to introduce students, graduates and educators to the creative power of social media. Last but not least, Making Service Sense; a service that makes sense of Service Design for students and educators, has been evolving over the last year.

I want to wrap all this knowledge and these connections up in something – I’m not quite sure what that something is but right now I am toying with the idea of creating an E-Course. This is mainly because many of the students who get in touch with me are dotted all over the world! It’s also because I don’t have the time or space to connect with all the young people who get in touch with me. I want to fix this.

I am envisioning a ‘work at your own pace’ e-course. There would be no due dates or expiration times. So I’m putting my idea out there and I would like your feedback. Would you sign up for this course? Would you pay for it? What would you want to learn?  Tell me.

Oh, and here is words of wisdom from Frank Chimero that moved me and I think they will move you too.

Good advice from Hello Jenuine

Good advice from Hello Jenuine

“Anonymous asked Frank Chimero: What advice would you give to a design student?

Design does not equal client work.

It’s hard to make purple work in a design. The things your teachers tell you in class are not gospel. You will get conflicting information. It means that both are wrong. Or both are true. This never stops. Most decisions are gray, and everything lives on a spectrum of correctness and suitability.

Look people in the eyes when you are talking or listening to them. The best teachers are the ones who treat their classrooms like a workplace, and the worst ones are the ones who treat their classroom like a classroom as we’ve come to expect it. Eat breakfast. Realize that you are learning a trade, so craft matters more than most say. Realize that design is also a liberal art. Quiet is always an option, even if everyone is yelling. Libraries are a good place. The books are free there, and it smells great.

If you can’t draw as well as someone, or use the software as well, or if you do not have as much money to buy supplies, or if you do not have access to the tools they have, beat them by being more thoughtful. Thoughtfulness is free and burns on time and empathy.

The best communicators are gift-givers.

Don’t become dependent on having other people pull it out of you while you’re in school. If you do, you’re hosed once you graduate. Keep two books on your nightstand at all times: one fiction, one non-fiction.

Buy lightly used. Patina is a pretty word, and a beautiful concept.

Develop a point of view. Think about what experiences you have that many others do not. Then, think of what experiences you have that almost everyone else has. Then, mix those two things and try to make someone cry or laugh or feel understood.

Design doesn’t have to sell. Although, that’s usually its job.

Think of every project as an opportunity to learn, but also an opportunity to teach. Univers is a great typeface and white usually works and grids are nice and usually necessary, but they’re not a style. Helvetica is nice too, but it won’t turn water to wine.

Take things away until you cry. Accept most things, and reject most of your initial ideas. Print it out, chop it up, put it back together. When you’re aimlessly pushing things around on a computer screen, print it out and push it around in real space. Change contexts when you’re stuck. Draw wrong-handed and upside down and backwards. Find a good seat outside.

Design is just a language, it’s not a message. If you say “retro” too much you will get hives and maybe die. Learn your design history. Know that design changes when technology changes, and its been that way since the 1400s. Adobe software never stops being frustrating. Learn to write, and not school-style writing. A text editor is a perfectly viable design tool. Graphic design has just as much to do with words as it does with pictures, and a lot of my favorite designers come to design from the world of words instead of the world of pictures.

If you meet a person who cares about the same obscure things you do, hold on to them for dear life. Sympathy is medicine.

Scissors are good, music is better, and mixed drinks with friends are best. Start brave and brash: you can always make things more conservative, but it’s hard to make things more radical. Edit yourself, but let someone else censor you. When you ride the bus, imagine that you are looking at everything from the point of view of someone else on the ride. If you walk, look up on the way there and down on the way back. Aesthetics are fleeting, the only things with longevity are ideas. Read Bringhurst and one of those novels they made you read in high school cover to cover every few years. (Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Great Gatsby.)

Stop trying to be cool: it is stifling.

Most important things happen at a table. Food, friends, discussion, ideas, work, peace talks, and war plans. It is okay to romanticize things a little bit every now and then: it gives you hope.

Everything is interesting to someone. That thing that you think is bad is probably just not for you. Be wary of minimalism as an aesthetic decision without cause. Simple is almost a dirty word now. Almost. Tools don’t matter very much, all you need is a sharp knife, but everyone has their own mise en place. If you need an analogy, use an animal. If you see a ladder in a piece of design or illustration, it means the deadline was short. Red, white, black, and gray always go together. Negative space. Size contrast. Directional contrast. Compositional foundations.

Success is generating an emotion. Failure is a million different things. Second-person writing is usually heavy-handed. All of this is too.

Seeking advice is addicting and can become a proxy for action. Giving it can also be addicting in a potentially pretentious, soul-rotting sort of way, and can replace experimenting because you think you know how things work. Be suspicious of lists, advice, and lists of advice.

Everyone is just making it up as they go along.

This about sums up everything I know.”

Should we do this? Together? Tell me what you think…