Dec. 1, 2017
Dec. 1, 2017
The design industry is
A space for some of the world’s most colorful, interesting, and inexplicably weird people in which to live and create, it serves as a pillar of societal expression. Perhaps in part because of this characterization, however, there is no one clear path to becoming a “designer.” People find themselves in the industry through a series of both predictable and surprising events. While each designer is unique in their entrance into the industry, all face immense hurdles – many of which have conceivable solutions.
Design is becoming increasingly recognized as pivotal in today’s society, as efficiency and aesthetics become paramount to survival in the business world. This being the case, it is surprising the degree to which many are still unaware of design as an industry and feasible career path. Many creative individuals, young and old, face discouragement, discrimination, uninformed education systems, and unaware peers, often uttering the question, “I can do what with creativity?
Knowing this, how can we educate and help young designers reach new levels of success and career fulfillment?
Addressing this question begins with identifying the structural problems facing design education and career discovery and collecting the stories of those who have overcome them. In a semester-long project entitled “Admit One,” the stories of a diverse group of designers were collected to draw insights from their experiences. For people looking to find a ticket into the perplexing world of design, how did others get into the field, and what challenges did they face along the way?
Those interviewed include Jesse Reed, graphic designer and co-founder of .order; Todd Goldstein, graphic designer at the world’s largest independently-owned design studio, Pentagram; Liz Malenfant, art director at Wieden+Kennedy; and William Greider, high school art educator at the Cab Calloway School for the Arts in Delaware – just to name a few.
"Being scrappy and resourceful is essential"
Interviewees came from a myriad of backgrounds and design disciplines, each citing their own unique journey into the industry. From humble beginnings as a rock musician and early childhood dreams of dentistry, to complete resentment of the advertising world and international relocation, each encountered unique struggles to reach their here and now.
Despite these variations, one thing rang true for all: gaining entrance to the design industry isn’t easy. There are challenges to be overcome. People will try to guide designers to more traditional and societally approved paths to success. Individuals may even have a hard time discovering the industry, as schools are not always equipped with the necessary resources and peers are not always aware of the opportunities that exist. Relationships will matter. Drive will matter. Being scrappy and resourceful is essential.
This difficulty to get a career started can be caused by many things. For these designers, these difficulties were fueled by a combination of an uninformed secondary education, a lack of art programs, unsupportive parents and peers, difficulty in discovering the industry, a lack of connections, poor timing, a competitive and elitist job market, discrimination, a disillusionment with corporate America and the industry itself, and their own self-doubt. These themes appeared in different combinations in each person’s story, and every individual had a different solution for overcoming these challenges. While it’s wonderful to discover these similarities, how can this revelation help future designers?
In order to make this information accessible and user-friendly, the interviews were placed in an online database. As aspiring designers of all disciplines seek to gain entrance into the elusive world of design, the hope is that they glean insight and advice from these stories, approaching their own path with new inspiration and determination.
As bystanders, we can accept and promote the fact that design is key in so many aspects of our world. Industry professionals are meant to be encouraged, appreciated, and, at times, lauded. As our younger generations begin to discover their own passions, we can provide them with the opportunity to discover design and with the stories of those who practice it.