As my immediate full-time employment with Argon Design comes to an end, it’s given me a chance to reflect on my nearly six and a half years in these hallowed halls.
Here are a few statistics I’ve compiled.
I’ve worked in 5 different office configurations on 4 different computers with 8 different roommates all in the same building. I’ve gone through 5 and a half note/sketch books. I’ve been involved in over 9,000 email streams. I’ve worked for 485 individual clients. I’ve gone through at least a dozen pairs of cheap black rubber-soled shoes. And I’ve managed to grow something that resembles full stubble (my crowning achievement).
And through all of it… this is what I, Joshua West, have discovered.
It’s impossible to be prepared.
Flying out of University, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, with a Bachelor of Design (Visual Communication) under my arm I was ready to take on the design world. I thought I had all the tools at my disposal… I was devastatingly wrong.
There is nothing that will prepare you for the onslaught of working in a Design Studio. I learnt more in my first week of full-time employment than I did in my previous three years of University. Makes you wonder if the HECS debt was worthwhile…
My advice, deep breaths.
Get yourself organised.
I’ll confess, before starting full-time employment, I was totally unorganised. Admittedly, living in a Uni-lifestyle share house only aggravated this condition, but I just couldn’t keep up. I lost track of work emails, meetings, job deadlines, attachments… alright, you get it, I needed help.
It took me far too long to organise my life into a calendar and a regular system, but thank goodness I did. Keeping track of my work (and my life) has become so much easier since those early days. So if you’re not on the ‘structure bandwagon’ yet… jump on board!
Take time to extract a watertight brief.
Albeit a painful exercise at the best of times, extracting a solid brief from clients who seem apprehensive of the creative process is absolutely worthwhile. It may take longer. It may frustrate both parties. But, in the end, it will always result in a better end product that suits designer, client and their particular industry.
Just as you wouldn’t rush through your house plans with your architect, your creative brief lays a structural blueprint for the rest of your branding.
The customer is always right… but they can also be taught.
The old adage ‘the customer is always right’ will have eyes rolling and stomachs churning; it doesn’t matter which industry it’s applied to. It was surely invented by an uptight salesman. However (as much as my fingers hesitantly hover over the keyboard) the saying is true!
A client knows their industry far better than you ever will, but it’s likely they won’t have your skills as a designer. Our job, on top of juggling multiple jobs, project management, time management and masterfully executing the elements and principles of design, is to inform and clearly communicate with our clients. Being able to educate, while absorbing their insight, culminates in the amazing.
Ignore upskilling at your peril.
In this day and age, you can no longer just be a ‘Graphic Designer’. There is too much need for flexibility in the workplace that you will likely be overlooked or deemed expendable. I’ve known designers who have become too comfortable in their jobs and in the end couldn’t ingrain themselves in the business and were consequently made surplus to requirements.
During my time at Argon I’ve developed creative skills in copywriting, blogging, photography, videography and all the associated editing abilities that accompany these talents. It’s kept me eager and knowledgeable… and to think I came to Argon as part Web Developer!
Communication is key.
Working in a small to medium Design Studio, where employees are expected to have their fingers in a range of different pies, can prove to be difficult. Especially when Project Managers are flittering between meetings all over the countryside. So keeping lines of communication open is vital.
Whether it’s drafting a formal email or flicking a quick message to a colleague or client, you must communicate regularly and set expectations of each other.
Never lose your gratitude.
It’s easy to get sucked into the 9-5 drag with office politics creeping into your working life (luckily we don’t have too many). Conditions will never always be in your control and it’s not going to be easy, but you need to be appreciative of the opportunities you’ve been given. This grateful mindset will act as a resilient rudder when times are tough.
To this day I’m still outrageously thankful for getting my first shot in the industry and earning my Argon spurs. This certainly isn’t going to stop once I’m off on my next adventure.
Thank you so much to all the resident Argonauts and the scores of spectacular clients I’ve had the pleasure of working with over the years. I will miss you all.