As designers our work is about the future: we’re called on by our clients to create futures that aren’t yet realized. For the most part, those futures include our clients’ success in their endeavors (depending on their business that may be rising stock prices, increased political power, or that a boatload of people show up to the wedding). But for the most part, students are short-sighted imagining their own futures and working to make them happen.
At the institution where I’m teaching and also where I received my design education taking any time at all to think past the next due date can be a daunting task, based on how much and what quality of work is expected, but from my experience if you don’t think three months, one year and five years ahead, you’ll have little chance of getting to that future. Now that doesn’t mean that you won’t experience roadblocks along the way, but if you keep your wits and look for opportunities you can find ways of doing the kind of work that will make your future happen.
Greg Christensen posted a story today on his blog Makin’ Ads titled “How to Double Your Salary” which touches on this concept through the lens of money. In stressing his point how Creatives should put themselves in positions to do great work (and to make their futures happen) he shares his own experience of working at a place where he was able to do the work that would get him to his “future”:
I was very lucky to be the writer on that campaign. I was lucky to be at an agency that championed great work, even when the clients didn’t. I was lucky to have a partner who wanted to make the work better, and a creative director who knew how to make it better.
Greg made decisions to put himself in a position to do the kind of advertising work that would help him (a-la Laverne and Shirley) “make all his dreams come true”. But it doesn’t come without planning.
So, think ahead to your future. What kind of designer do you want to be? What kind of quality do you want to produce? Where are you headed? How hard will you need to work? Now look for opportunities that will get your work and your skills in a position to get you there. When you know what you need to learn you’ll be far more likely to find the opportunities that will help you get there.