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An Open Letter to Our Apprentices (and any other emerging stars)


Dear AUX Designers,

As part of your design education it’s the responsibility of the old guys, like me, to try pass on our experience to you, the fresh crop of designers. There is way more to learn that what we can teach you in 90-days but we’ll do our best. In the time with us you’ll been given a lot of technical and management lessons which will help you master your craft. What is not as easy to teach are the soft skills that separate the leaders from the followers. Here is my advice to you as you plan the next phase of your design careers:

Design is not a Technical Skill

Design is not a technical skill; it’s the synthesis of many different disciplines and experiences. It’s an ever evolving global awareness that brings the arts and sciences together in a single solution. Don’t get distracted by the features of the design tools and the details of the design techniques. Understand the subtilités of the things that you’re designing for. Learn about people and their strange behavior. Learn to become a great communicator and listener. Learn what motivates people and what’s important to them. Observe the world around you with the curiosity of a scientist, the eye of an artist and the awe of a child.

Design is a Team Sport

Don’t put your design heros in ivory towers. Nobody does it alone. No design gets to market without the input and hard work of lots of people. Learn to suppress your ego’s need for recognition and put the needs of the project and the team ahead of your individual pride. Treat your team members with respect. If you’re a manager make sure you never think you’re better than the team you manage. Without them, you’re nothing.

Design is about Working with Great People

Surround yourself with people that are more creative and successful than you are. Never, ever, work for assholes. Don’t work for managers that take credit for your work. Seek out the best clients with the most challenging projects. If you ever get into a position where you have to hire others, hire only the best. Hire people that are smarter and more creative than you are. It might put you out of your comfort zone but you’ll never regret the decision.

Design is a Passion

Design requires a lot of time and effort. It’s difficult to sustain that effort for years on end unless you are fueled by passion and excitement. Become a master of your craft. It will invigorate your passion. If you’re seeking your passion; find it by asking what you like to do with your spare time.

 The Most Successful Designers Also Work the Hardest

Work bloody hard. Your mother was wrong about your special gift – there is no such thing as God-given talent, only focused passion and hours of effort. There is no research to prove that we are born with a special talent or gift. All recent research points to the fact that hard work and practice are the single biggest contributor to success in anything. The beauty about hard work is that not many people are willing to do it and that gives you a massive advantage over everyone else.

All Work and No Play Makes a Dull Designer

Work hard but play just as hard. Balance your life with dedication to your craft and quality time away from the studio. Design requires a lot of mental energy; fuel your brain with new experiences and relaxing moments. Get out of your comfort zone and travel as much as you can. Live in other cities, work in other countries, and whenever possible meet interesting people, including other designers, that will challenge your way of thinking. They will teach you more in an afternoon than your college professors can teach you in three years.

Good luck to you all.

Author Richard Banfield

As CEO, Richard leads Fresh Tilled Soil’s strategic vision. He’s a mentor at TechStars and BluePrintHealth, an advisor and lecturer at the Boston Startup School, and serves on the executive committees of TEDxBoston, the AdClub’s Edge Conference, and Boston Regional Entrepreneurship Week.

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