an article or random bits on the subject(s) of career, education, teaching, thoughts.

There is No Off Switch

I love overhearing student conversations when I’m in the classroom. Those moments when they discover and connect with a designer, a technique, or a process is always exhilarating.

That moment when learning, understanding, and processing come together for a split second for these young designers is one of the perks of teaching. Tonight it was listening to four students “discover” Paula Scher. Their absolute excitement on learning about Paula and the amazing contributions she has made to this field was absolutely real. It made me smile, and makes me yearn for those connective moments and discoveries that come from my own process.

Education should be is a life long process—especially in the field of design. Many times students attempt to confine the education process to their school years, but in this career (graphic design, web design, web development, etc.) it’s just not a reality. We have to continue learning, slugging it out, and moving forward. Change is just too rapid in this field to not be constantly sharpening and elongating our skill base. When we do slow down we risk irrelevance. Ask me sometime about how full time teaching can be a career killer if done wrong.

Change is just too rapid in this field to not be constantly sharpening and elongating our skill base. When we do slow down we risk irrelevance.

When I was just starting my career I did some freelance work for an old school advertising exec (he’d worked on and art directed car commercials for 20 years). It was right at the point after design had transitioned to the computer as a primary production tool. I was knee deep in learning everything my small, unfocused mind could take in. I was consumed.

We became kind of close during this time as we worked on a variety of small projects together. He would often express his concern that he was not sure if he could continue to make a living in this field because of the technological changes it was going through. He would make these statements, and you could tell it was clearly a real concern to him. The problem is, though, that no matter how much I would talk to him about learning how to use the computer, his standard response of, “Yeah, I really should do that.” was never enough to actually motivate him to take on the challenge (he might have said burden) of learning how to use computers as a way to compete in the then new, tech-enabled field of design. Eventually and sadly, I out grew him and had to move on to other projects. It haunted me a little, though. I still think of him to this day. How did he fare? Was he able to rally? As a result, I made up my mind early on that no one would take away my ability to do the one thing I loved to do. The industry and it’s never ending fickleness can suck it.

What I learned from that experience was clear and to the point. I could not stop learning. Ever. Plunging head long into new technology, techniques, theories, written thought and opinion became essential. The art of play and a never ending curiosity remain at the center of most everything I do still to this day. I’ve never given up that need to learn because there is no other way to create a long term career in this field.