Paperlux™

One of the moments I love in my JOb. One of the reason I do this job.
First you have to find a concept. You become the project, you feel it; you imagine what could do the maximum impact to the target.
You want the people to remember this project, you want your client to feel the wow effect.
Then you start to work, collecting ideas, briefing, imagining, playing, remembering all the technics of printing, the papers, the inks, according to your idea, within the budget. You submit it, you defend your idea, you partner with the printer.
You come early this special day where everything starts, you pray, you follow all the process of the printing, you pray, you smell the inks, you touch the samples.

Then your baby comes.

It is the most wonderful project you ever done.

… Until next one… ; )

 

Paperlux™.

Assessing creative freelancers, by Terra Dehnert of Aquent

Coroflot – Creative Seeds: Guest Post: Assessing creative freelancers, by Terra Dehnert of Aquent Guest Post: Assessing creative freelancers, by Terra Dehnert of Aquent.

AUGUST 28, 2009 | POSTED BY: CARL ALVIANI

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In addition to the afternoon panel discussion and networking session, the San Francisco installment of the Creative Confab will offer something new: a pair of morning workshopsaimed specifically at skill-development for both creative jobseekers and employers new to the creative talent search. While I will be conducting the first, we’ve secured the services of some of the Bay Area’s most qualified creative staffing pros to cover the second.

Terra Dehnert and Corey O’Brien are Account Managers at Aquent, Inc., where they interview and assess hundreds of creative professionals a year, for placement in an extraordinary range of positions in web and interactive design, copywriting, graphic design, design management and more. As a preview of their workshop “The Subtle Art of the Creative Talent Search,” Terra has put together a set of pointers on interviewing and portfolio review based on her experiences.

When my clients approach me looking for creative freelancers, they tend to come at the last minute for unique and highly skilled individuals — of which 5 exist in the universe. Today one of my top retail clients praised the work of a designer I sent out for a 4-hour project. Another needs a proofreader and a production artist to put the final touches on their annual report, one of the most highly visible projects they produce each year. Obviously, I can’t send creative talent to these clients that would make even an inkling of a mistake. Luckily for me the company I work for has developed hands-on assessments that make sure our talent head out the door, armed with skills to impress… and usually a pretty stylish outfit to boot.

As more and more of our business focuses on temporary creative positions, more and more of our energy is spent assessing the candidates hoping to fill them. Over the years we’ve worked out a formalized process for doing this, which has the freelancer completing a timed project with the software or programming language they will be using on the job, whether they’re a Powerpoint Designer or a Flash Developer. The assessments are structured so that even Aquent employees who are not fluent in these programs can easily grade the results, giving a score and detailed feedback to both client and candidate.

Now, in reality you can’t “test” every skill. I’ve had great success placing Copywriters, Creative Directors, Art Directors and Project Managers — all specialties where we don’t have a set assessment. So if you’ve never built out a creative team and don’t have the resources to develop software assessments, don’t fret; there are plenty of other areas that can be covered during the interview process to ensure you’re making a strong hire.


Conducting a solid portfolio review:

Every designer, copywriter, creative director, even some project managers, should arrive at an interview with their “book,” be it paper, website, slideshow or other. Here’s what to look for:

1. First and foremost, what type of work has this person done? Is their book only filled with catalog samples? Only one page collateral pieces? Very simple websites with no animation? Basic sites with tons of animation and no content? Marketing emails? Only online banner ads? Think about what you want to accomplish with your creative team and make sure the people you interview are showing this type of work. In terms of copywriting, the types of industries they have written for is crucial. For project management, the number of projects they can handle at one time (I’d say anything under 12-15 would scare me away based on the clients I work with).

2. Delve into the projects shown in more depth. Two questions I like to ask while discussing a specific piece or project with a talent are:

a) Who was on your team for this project?
b) What piece of this were you responsible for? Did you hand it off to someone else for production (print) or coding (web)? Did you write all of the content? Certain pages? Certain topics?

In the instance of interviewing a copywriter, sometimes they have come up with the concept for a website, but not necessarily been responsible for the heavy long content. Many times the title Art Director or Creative Director can vary: some are solely conceptual or just work on photo shoots, not necessarily responsible for the ultimate layout of a piece within Adobe Creative Suite. Others have worked with smaller clients where they utilized all these skills. Designers’ duties can range from production (laying out a piece under a campaign someone has already thought up and getting it ready for print) to taking an entire seasonal campaign from initial concept to final product. It’s up to you to find out what that title means.


Asking in-depth interview questions:

Unless I have a question about dates or a specific company, I barely glance at the resume during an interview other than to jot down notes. One area I do cover every time is to ask what was the most challenging project an interviewee worked on. Many times there’s more than one, but I ask them to pick out one in their mind and talk me through it, from the beginning all the way through to the deliverable or deadline.

On another obvious note, you can ask about their favorite or least favorite project (and yes, least favorite is different from most challenging). Not only do both these questions get them talking about the work they’ve done and what they love (and hate), it gets them talking about their interactions with peers, managers, and vendors, as well as outside and internal clients. You can gauge a lot about someone’s personality based on whether they take responsibility for a missed deadline or haughtily put it off on an incompetent co-worker or boss. Once people start talking about situations they don’t like, it becomes obvious how they’ll act when asked to do something out of their position’s usual scope, or when they receive negative feedback. On the same token, if someone can’t get totally jazzed over their favorite project there is definitely something wrong.

You can also use the same approach when talking about companies. Which was their favorite and why? Did they like working independently or within a team? Culture and personality are huge when it comes to creative positions, as people tend to take the work much more personally than other types of positions — it’s their art, and their passion.
Asking the right reference questions — with the right people.

There’s no doubt that any person interviewing for a job is going to give names of references that will speak highly of them. But there are questions you can ask to at least get a little more background information, and what to expect if you bring them onto your team. Picking the right person to question is crucial. I ask all of my talent for two direct supervisors and one peer. Supervisors can speak more objectively about where a candidate may be lacking or need some assistance without feeling guilty about it. Peers, on the other hand, see the important day-to-day interactions and work that supervisors are often not aware of.

Here are four great questions to ask references:

1. What makes this candidate unique in comparison to other [insert position here] you’ve worked with?
2. What do you feel are the candidate’s biggest strength is in terms of their [design, copywriting, web development, etc.] abilities? (Yes, we always start with the positive)

3. If we were to offer the candidate training (which Aquent often does for free) what area of training do you think would help him or her most in career growth? (Stop. Pause for commentary.) This is my ultimate favorite reference question — like I mentioned before, no one ever wants to say anything negative in a reference call. But this isn’t negative! It’s so great that we’re talking already about giving this person training that the reference always tends to open up. This will at least give you an idea of the areas in which this candidate is still on the learning curve, or may need/want to grow down the road.

4. Was there ever a time you witnessed this person receive negative feedback on work from anyone? Peer? Manager? Internal or external client? What was his or her reaction?

Developing a strong creative team is one of the most important things you can do for your company and your brand. Almost all of the articles I have read on companies that have lasted through past economic downturns speak about having a strong brand and cutting-edge advertising, thanks to their creative teams. These are the companies that weren’t afraid of rebranding or launching a new campaign during an economic downturn. When you have a strong, efficient creative team that’s inspired to come up with new ideas, they will build a strong brand and great campaigns.

Even when hiring freelancers, it is extremely important to make sure they are the right fit for you, your audience and the growth of your brand. Although assessments are great, in-depth interviews are just as effective at building a creative foundation for your company. Down the road, think about developing specific assessments with your creative team to make sure you see work developed to the highest standard possible.

The voice of Tom Hanks.

I will always remember this scene in my life. Not because of the film, but because of the moment I was living at during I was listening of the magic voice of Tom Hanks, at the end of The Da Vinci Code.
Few years ago, I was in business Class to go to London and everything was fine even if I was scared. Scared of my life at this moment. Everything was going fast. Couldn’t control it. Like if I was spectator of myself. I could see me looking at me looking at the other me. Yes, I know. I wasn’t drunk. Even if I wish.

Nobody can understand what I felt at this moment but the combination between the voice of Tom Hanks, the music, all was “new” to me. I had to listened to it 20 times. I remember.
Promises. A new world, a new position. A new future. In French we could say “des lendemains qui chantent…?”.

Fool of crying even if.

Like a fool I was. My heart was beating, I could listen to it at the same time. Even the pills didn’t make me sleep.

Fool of lying. Even if.

Lier. Like she said “why do you act so stupid?” Donno.

We were 10 people in the business class and I was the most alone on earth at this moment. I think I could have die nobody would have noticed it.

Fool of sadness.

Why do we have always to doubt?

Why can’t I only be just an as*ho*e? Everything will be simpler. Don’t care about you. Don’t care about anything.
Fool of doubt.

And the voice of Tom. And the music is taking me somewhere between Asia and Europe.

Oh shut the f*** up. Sleep.

And forget.

The New Résumé: Dumb and Dumber – WSJ.com

The New Résumé: Dumb and Dumber – WSJ.com.

Kristin Konopka sent out nearly 100 copies of her résumé in January in search of receptionist work, but got only one callback. That’s when Ms. Konopka, a 29-year-old New York actress and yoga teacher, took her master’s degree and academic teaching experience off her résumé.

The calls started coming in. The slimmer version of her résumé landed in 30 in-boxes and earned her three callbacks and two interviews. “It definitely picked up the interest,” says Ms. Konopka, who realized quickly that people don’t “want to hire anyone who is overqualified.”

Securing work in a tight economy means more job seekers might find themselves applying for positions below their qualifications. Many unemployed professionals are willing to take paycuts for the promise of a paycheck. But to get a foot in the door, candidates are gearing down their résumés by hiding advanced degrees, changing too-lofty titles, shortening work experience descriptions, and removing awards and accolades.

In the past eight months, Jamaica Eilbes, an information-technology recruiter for Milwaukee employment agency Manpower, has had to weed out more overqualified résumés than usual from the stacks that cross her desk each day. “I’d never feel comfortable putting a really high-level candidate into a lower level position,” says Ms. Eilbes, who recruits for Manpower and other clients. “We don’t want to take you on if we think you are going to jump ship.”

[Dumb Resume] Matt Collins

But in recent months, Ms. Eilbes has seen more master’s and doctoral degrees at the bottom of résumés instead of at the top. She’s also seen candidates omitting or trimming job descriptions that showed they had substantial years of work experience. Résumés on which job descriptions taper off as they progress down the page raise Ms. Eilbes’s suspicions. “How do I know I can trust them later down the road if there’s something on their résumé they decided to take off so they could have a better chance at getting that job?” she says.

Still, for some professionals who find themselves constantly rejected despite decades of experience, scaling back the truth — or at the least, some of their experiences — can feel like the only chance at an interview.

Lenora Kaplan, 49, has 26 years of marketing experience but doesn’t want her résumé to show it. When she lost her job as vice president of public relations at a small Las Vegas marketing firm in January, Ms. Kaplan searched for work with little success. At an interview for a shopping-mall marketing-director position in February, she was told that the hiring budget had only enough for a junior-level employee and that her résumé showed she was overqualified.

Many of the jobs she comes across ask for far fewer years of experience than she has. “There is nothing to apply for” at my level, Ms. Kaplan says. She quickly realized her job experience was pricing her out of too many positions. Her solution: To try not to look as senior level as she really was. So she eliminated certain jobs and removed details about speaking engagements and board positions.

In some cases, job seekers are being told by hiring agencies to tone down their résumés if they want to get hired. When Bridget Lee, 29, moved to New York from Shanghai eight months ago and put her application in at three temporary agencies, she was told to play down her work experience before they would send her résumé to potential clients. The temp-agency version of her résumé changed titles like “manager” and “freelance trend researcher” to “staff” and “office support” and omitted entirely her title as partner of a small marketing agency. “It’s been a lesson for how I present myself,” Ms. Lee says.

Career counselors advise against making too many drastic changes. But they also say the demand for this kind of restructuring is on the rise. In the past three months, Tammy Kabell, a Kansas City, Mo., job-search coach, says more clients are requesting her help to “dumb down” their résumés, whether by changing job titles, playing down experience, or altogether omitting some impressive achievements. One recent client, a 61-year-old former chief learning officer at a tech company, insisted on omitting her C-level job title from her résumé. She was fearful her application would be weeded out by the Web search-optimization tools companies use to manage résumés.

Some résumé writers advise reworking a résumé into a functional one stressing transferable skills instead of past job titles and accomplishments. “Instead of focusing on the big achievements that might scare an employer away, you can spell out what you can bring to an employer in the next position,” Ms. Kabell says.

Of course, reducing your résumé to a skeleton of what it truly should be isn’t likely to land you the job you really want. While it took Ms. Lee eight months to get a call back for a job that matched her real experience, this month she landed a position as a temporary account manager — with potential for permanent work — at a New York design firm. The interview and job offer weren’t earned using her dumbed-down résumé, but rather with the original.

“You have to make those creative edits when it comes to short-term work, but in terms of long-term work, you have to stay true to your experience,” says Ms. Lee.

What is creativity?

You want a “creative” person for your company; that is a clever point.

But… What for? Exactly? And, do you know what makes the difference between TWO creative?

| First, you (we) need to agree on what is creativity |

What is creativity?

First let’s take a look on the WIKIPEDIA definition.

Creativity (or creativeness) is a mental process involving the generation of new ideas or concepts, or new associations between existing ideas or concepts. From a scientific point of view, the products of creative thought (sometimes referred to as divergent thought) are usually considered to have both originality and appropriateness. An alternative, more everyday conception of creativity is that it is simply the act of making something new. Although intuitively a simple phenomenon, it is in fact quite complex. It has been studied from the perspectives of behavioural psychology, social psychology, psychometrics, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, philosophy, history, economics, design research, business, and management, among others. The studies have covered everyday creativity, exceptional creativity and even artificial creativity. Unlike many phenomena in science, there is no single, authoritative perspective or definition of creativity. Unlike many phenomena in psychology, there is no standardized measurement technique.

Creativity has been attributed variously to divine intervention, cognitive processes, the socialpersonality traits, and chance (”accident,” “serendipity“). It has been associated with genius, mental illness and humour. Some say it is a trait we are born with; others say it can be taught with the application of simple techniques. Although popularly associated with art and literature, it is also an essential part of innovation and invention and is important in professions such as business, economics, architecture, industrial design, science and engineering. environment,

Despite, or perhaps because of, the ambiguity and multi-dimensional nature of creativity, entire industries have been spawned from the pursuit of creative ideas and the development of creativity techniques. This mysterious phenomenon, though undeniably important and constantly visible, seems to lie tantalizingly beyond the grasp of scientific investigation.

“Creativity, it has been said, consists largely of re-arranging what we know in order to find out what we do not know.”

George Kneller

For our concern, we are talking about creativity (and being creative) in Advertising, Communications, Marketing and Design services.

So what is [a creative] in these topics?

As a Creative Director in-house, the purpose is to ensure the highest possible success of projects in supporting the company’s objectives. To ensure the highest possible success of projects by developing and presenting proposals, liaising with Clients, managing project work flow, supporting design team quality and efficiency, and solving problems.

Fiat Lux

The main Responsibilities:

  • Ensures optimal client fulfillment by developing and defining client vision and business needs into project proposals; collaborating with Sales Team to close sales; presenting proposals, progress and final project deliverables; establishing and maintaining effective creative liaison with clients, managing client expectations, cultivating trust, rapport and proactive client care throughout the project cycle
  • Maintains work flow by monitoring project progress and resource usage; assisting in troubleshooting “log jams”; facilitating change orders; collaborating with the Office Manager to schedule facility use; ensuring early meeting of milestones and deadlines
  • Resolves and Prevents Problems by immediately analyzing and soothing any client concerns and implementing remedial solutions; conferring regularly with Sales Department and Design Team to discuss, understand and address any sources of stress; carefully observing and checking in with clients to intuit and discover even the smallest source of dissatisfaction they may feel and taking corrective action
  • Ensures information utilization standards by ensuring accurate and timely input of all ISIS data including activity slips, project status, project specifications, quotes and estimates; and following file management procedures
  • Ensures project quality by working collaboratively with Management Team to assign project resources, support and assist in training of Designers and Artists, monitoring project quality and profitability; communicating and exemplifying organization standards
  • Ensures availability of project resources by adhering to resource rules and procedures; working collaboratively with other managers to optimize utilization of resources; alerting Management Team to any resource problems
  • Ensures team effectiveness by assisting in the training of new Multimedia Artists, monitoring productivity, cultivating team rapport, anticipating needs, proactively assisting, providing constructive feedback and guidance to Multimedia Artists; performing in the capacity of a Multimedia Artist when necessary; creating and implementing ideas that support team members’ ability to maximize client satisfaction
  • Improves company profitability by creatively assisting management team in identifying new potential product or service offerings, working closely with management and Sales Team to understand and meet sales objectives, and identifying and implementing strategies for improving general efficiency and effectiveness of the Media and Technology department
  • Maintains professional and technical knowledge by participating in personal and professional development opportunities; reviewing professional publications; benchmarking best practices; participating in professional society
  • Enhances the work environment by dealing openly and directly with team members; acting with integrity and respect; exhibiting a positive attitude

There is an excellent article from HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW ONPOINT, talking about creativity:

(by Thomas H. Davenport, Laurence Prusak, and H.James Wilson)

[Who’s bringing you hot ideas and HOW are you responding?]

“There’s an UNSUNG HERO in your organization. It’s the person who’s bringing in new ideas about how to manage better. Mind you, we’re not talking about product and service innovations. The people who cook those up-and they are heroes of the orgnization, too-are celebrated loudly and often. We’re talking about the person who. for instance, first uttered the phrase “intellectual capital“in your hallways, believing that better management of knowledge assets could yield a competitive advantage. Or perhaps it was the notion of “real options” as an antidote to overly risk-averse capital investment analysis. Or, depending on how long the person has been around, maybe it was even “total quality management”.

Exactly who are these people in your particular organisation? You probably already know.

  • It’s the middle manager you called when you decided to include something about process redesign or balanced-scorecard management in your letter for the annual report.
  • It’s the smart executive who advised you on which consulting firm to employ for help with e-commerce and who seemed to know all about each one’s strengths and weaknesses.
  • It’s the first person who comes to mind when you need a strategic thinker to do a special project.

Come to think of it, it’s that manager who just sent you a conference binder on a topic you’ve expressed some interest in.”

Here are some extracts (so true…) of the Harvard Business Review (spring 2007): The Creative Company

{ We’ve got one creative person here, and he makes everyone nervous. }

{ Creativity can’t be shoehorned between the hours of nine and five. The Muses don’t always show up on time for appointments. }

{ Again, creating such teams requires managers to have a deep understanding of their people. They must be able to assess them not just for their knowledge but for their attitudes about potential fellow team members and the collaborative process, for their problem-solving styles, and for their motivational hot buttons. Putting together with just the right chemistry – just the right level of diversity and supportiveness – can be difficult, but our research shows how powerful it can be. }

{ Supervisory encouragement. Most managers are extremely busy. They are under pressure for results. It is therefore easy for them to let praise for creative efforts – not just creative successes but unsuccessful efforts, too – fall by the wayside. One very simple step managers can take to foster creativity is to not let that happen. }

{ The connection to intrinsic motivation here is clear. Certainly, people can find their work interesting or exciting without a cheering section – for some period of time. But to sustain such passion, most people need to feel as if their work matters to the organisation or to some important group of people. Otherwise, they might as well do their work at home or for their own personal gain. }

{ By contrast, managers who kill creativity do so by either failing to acknowledge innovative efforts or by greeting them with skepticism. In many companies, for instance, new ideas are made not with open minds but with time consuming layers of evaluation – or even with harsh criticism. When someone suggests a new product or process, senior managers take weeks to respond. Or they put that person through an excruciating critique. }

You should prepare a nice nest for “your creative”.

He/She won’t be like others, only concerned by themselves, no, he/she will take part at 200% in your project and be happy when you will win a budget, sad when you will loose a competition. Sensible or sensitive? Concerned. Without that, no creativity is possible.
You should let “himher” take more leave days than others; “heshe” works with” herhis” brain, don’t forget. Heshe must be happy to create, in a GOOD atmosphere to create.

Generally, creative are not good in money or account, they prefer to dream or to find crazy ideas than talk about reality. Reality is boring, sublimating, rejuvenating is their job.

They see things that you even don’t know it exists. In one word you say, they will see a new campaign, a new product. In full color, they will see a new concept; so, please, prepare a nice nest for them, they will be more fragile than others; don’t forget, they live in an other planet than you, this is why they are… Creative.
When I have to recruit a creative in my team, I’m choosing the one who seems to be more “concerned“, the one who will say “us” instead of “me“, the one will think all the time “what is the best to do for my company? How should I have acted if it was mine?
Concerned. Proactive. Humble, always searching for the latest trends, someone with a “global culture”, could talk about surf, business, luxury trends, architecture, opera, video, cinema, sociology…

Someone definitely open mind.

Dear recruiters, I think there is a (slight) misunderstanding…

Dear recruiter, headhunter, HR,

I’d like you to help me to understand how you work…

  • …as I don’t understand:  why, despite companies and clients say I’m very creative, I can’t manage to have any appointments in your offices and meet any clients?

  • Why when I finally got one that it’s only “one shot”? (means I was enough good for ONE company but not for any others?)
    Why sometimes the recruiter interviewing me doesn’t understand what exactly my job is? (“oh you are a multimedia designer?”)
  • I have some questions to ask you and it will be great if you could answer!

Please download and see the file here: PDF file .

Because, WE, candidates, (just) want to understand…

THANKS A LOT…

Talent isn't everything

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by Chanpory Rith on 2007/04/09 |

Here’s a common myth: To be a successful creative professional, all you need is talent. It’s a nice myth to believe in. “Talent” suggests a divine or evolutionary genetic gift, so if you’re blessed with the talent gene, you’re special and can be a cool creative person. If not, you’re destined to be an accountant.

”… this myth of talent has very little to do with the success of a designer.”

After working three years at MetaDesign and since starting my new position at Dubberly Design Office, I’ve noticed this myth of talent has very little to do with the success of a junior designer. Instead, I have found that those who survive and last more than six months practice these seven habits:

1. Work quickly. Produce a lot.

2. Attend to details.

3. Be versatile.

4. Make an effort to learn.

5. Anticipate problems.

6. Set goals.

7. Display a positive attitude.


1. Work quickly. Produce a lot.

In a design studio with large collaborative projects, time is money. Being fast is critical to your survival. The studio relies on your speed in two areas: Idea generation and production.

Idea generation

Being a junior designer often means your final work won’t be polished. Fortunately, design is not just about quality. It’s also about ideas and concepts. The more ideas you generate quickly, the more value you bring to the studio. Having many unrevised ideas, as opposed to one perfect concept, helps your creative director and design team to:

  • Envision the solution space, the set of possible solutions, for the project.
  • Evaluate what’s conservative, feasible, or ridiculous.
  • Create a pool of alternatives to choose from in case a client rejects the team’s initial recommendations.
  • Invite early client participation, by having more options to show and discuss.

Ideas shouldn’t remain in your head; you need to find ways to express them. Some ways to show ideas include brainstorming via outlines, concept maps, mood boards, and sketches. Also useful is rapid prototyping, the iterative process of creating rough and imperfect proof of concepts. Here are some ways you can present your ideas.

Outlines are lists organized hierarchically, much like the lecture notes you took in school. They’re a quick and familiar way to organize initial ideas without worrying about what the final design looks like.

Concept maps show relationships between concepts in the form of nodes and links. Each node represents an idea; each link represents a relationship. Both should be labeled. Their advantage is the ability to show one-to-many and many-to-many relationships.

Mood boards are collages that combine images, colors, and words to capture the general feeling of what a product or service might evoke. They’re useful for discussing general conceptual approaches without getting bogged down in details such as layout and typography. For examples of mood boards in all shapes and sizes, check out Flickr’s Inspiration Boards Pool

Sketches are drawings that approximations what a design might look like. They can be rough or detailed.

When generating ideas, keep in mind that in the early phases of a project, you should first try to generate a lot of ideas instead of having a few perfectly defined.

Second, you should create distinct ideas rather than variations or permutations of the same idea. (I still have a hard time with this one.)

Finally, don’t be afraid of dumb ideas.

Production

Even if your ideas don’t work out, you can help refine, improve, and implement the ideas of others on your team. Production—the execution stage of a design process—is a vital skill for every designer. This means you need to be well-versed in the most commonly-used software applications and prototyping methods in your studio. You don’t need to know them like the back of your hand; you just need to know enough to meet the possible demands of the studio. To become more proficient:

  • Seek help by asking another designer how to do something.
  • Search online for answers. Google, message boards, blogs, and wikis are your best friends.
  • Keep updated on product announcements, tutorials, and updates.
  • Try-out and adopt new software.
  • Practice your skills by experimenting on side projects, such as personal websites and designing for your friends and family.
  • Read sites like this one for tips and tricks.
  • Take classes on new or unfamiliar technologies. Your employer may even sponsor you.

Most major applications now come with a set of tutorials that demonstrate old and new features. As a daily or weekly exercise, choose and complete one tutorial on an unfamiliar part of the application.

2. Attend to details

Successful junior designers take great care in preparing files for others to use. They pay attention to pixels and picas, check spelling, remove unneeded files, and strive to make it easier for someone else to understand their work. Nothing will annoy your supervisor or creative director more than having to clean up sloppy work. Some tips:

In programs with layers, such as Photoshop and InDesign, name and order your layers with a logical naming convention. Delete any layers and ruler guides that are unnecessary.

Keep files managed with clear naming conventions and a logical hierarchy of folders. This makes it easier for your boss and other coworkers to find a file later.

If you have linked or placed images in a file, make sure they work when you package them for your creative director to review. Linked images should also be named according to a logical naming convention.

Make it easy for your manager to give you feedback by making a list of specific questions you need answered to take the project to the next step.

3. Be versatile

Versatile and flexible designers can weather the economic ups and downs of a design studio because they can be staffed to more types of projects. A sure-fire way to shoot yourself in the foot is saying “I don’t do web” or “I don’t do print.” You’ll be seen as a diva and won’t last long.

Effective designers instead say “I don’t know how yet, but I want to learn how to do it.” Eventually, you’ll learn new skills and—more importantly—ways to adapt these skills to new demands. Being well-rounded also gives you a wider range of experiences and skills to draw from when designing. This means more variety when generating ideas and a better understanding of how different disciplines can work together.

Hugh Dubberly, a design planner and educator, shared this anecdote:

“Herman Zapf, famous type designer, tells a story of his first job. He interviewed with a printer who asked if he knew how to use a process camera. Zapf said yes. He got the job and went straight to the library to read up on how to do it.”

Unlike what Zapf would say, I still hear many designers proclaim, “I don’t want to design websites. It’s too technical.” These designers close themselves off to the possibility of learning and growth as well as the reality of technology’s prevalence.

With the ubiquity of technology and the Internet, it’s impossible to avoid getting technical. I encourage every designer, whether print-based or software/web-based, to have some understanding of:

  • Basic programming concepts (functions, loops, conditionals, and variables)
  • Web development (XML, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AJAX, PHP/MySQL, Flash)
  • Social networking and collaborative authoring (blogs, wikis, message boards, MySpace)
  • Cybernetics (study of systems, goals, and feedback)
  • Search and search engine optimization (metadata, tags, page rank, contextual advertising, personalized search)
  • Version control and content management

4. Make an effort to learn

To be versatile, you must learn new skills all the time. Effective and successful designers are lifelong learners. They are curious, enthusiastic, and passionate about design and want to learn more. This passion translates to better job satisfaction and productivity. They also:

  • Seek out mentors, perhaps a teacher, manager, or industry expert they admire.
  • Choose jobs based on those that let them learn the most. When you’ve stopped learning, it’s probably time to leave.
  • Have projects outside of work (such as cute productivity blogs).
  • Participate in the design communities by attending lectures and other events.
  • Keep up with technology and become an early adopter.
  • Read books on unfamiliar topics.
  • Write about what they’ve learned and share it with others. It helps organize their thoughts.

5. Anticipate problems

Junior designers can make themselves indispensable by recognizing and anticipating potential problems for their managers. For example, you can:

  • Point out potential production issues that might delay the project.
  • Accurately estimate the amount of time you need to a task. Junior designers are notorious for underestimating the time it takes to do something, so give yourself some padding for anything that might go wrong.
  • If you need more time to do a task, tell your managers at least 24 hours ahead, so they can rearrange the schedule.
  • Alert managers when work falls out of the project scope.

6. Set goals

To be an effective designer, you must set goals for yourself. These goals can be skills you want to learn, responsibilities you want to have, and types of projects you want to work on.

Knowing and articulating these goals is especially important during performance reviews. Reviews should be more than just about discussing your past performance; use them as an opportunity to present your goals. This shows that you want to grow. It also allows both you and your manager to agree on a plan for achieving your goals.

For more about goals, check out Erin Malone’s article on the five-year-plan.

7. Display a positive attitude

Companies change. One day, your company is the leading design studio for non-profit corporate identities. The next day, it decides to specialize in websites for luxury European cars. As company vision shifts, so can the staff, location, and other resources. Amidst change and uncertainty, it’s important to remain positive. Nobody likes a grump.

Here are some ways to show a positive attitude:

  • No matter how junior you are, mentor others by sharing information you’ve learned.
  • Identify problems in the studio and find ways to make them go away.
  • Ask what you can do to help.
  • Avoid gossip and talking ill of fellow coworkers, clients, and competing studios.

Conclusion

Certainly, these habits apply to other fields as well as design. They also may be obvious to some. Nonetheless, it’s important to restate and articulate what we often forget. For junior designers who want to eventually become senior designers and managers, it’s vital to avoid believing that success depends on talent alone.

Success for a designer depends on how much value he or she brings to an employer or client. Quality and talent can be part of this value, but success requires more than that. Designers also bring value through speed, versatility, foresight, and other qualities that have little to do with talent. Talent, if it exists, is only a small part of success.

(Special thanks to Hugh Dubberly for his feedback on an earlier draft of this article.)

Recommended reading:

Learning How to Learn, by Joseph D. Novak and D. Bob Gowin

The Now Habit, by Neil Fiore

The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell

NOTE: This article is based an earlier blog post on LifeClever, published July 12, 2006.