I just completed a big life adventure and graduated university this month.  Not only am I the first in my family to graduate with a college degree, I'm also the first to graduate with two: a B.F.A. in graphic design and a B.S. in integrated communications. Over the past few years, I've learned some top tips to make studying graphic design easier, and to make life easier. And they are...

Always Be Curious
This is a skill that will give you the competitive edge for the rest of your life. Graphic designers who explore and really look at things, a lot of things, build their visual memories. Graphic designers with more visual memories have more ideas. Want to pull ahead of the competition? Be curious. Daily.  When you're in line for your favorite coffee brew, take a moment to study the surroundings--the typefaces on the boards, the colors, the textures on the floorboards. Walk down the street and note the old signage on the side of buildings and duck into an antique store and take a moment to really study whatever catches your eye. And don't be afraid to be a nerd (its actually a good thing) and go to the library and pick up an interesting book or magazine. Ask yourself how the visuals could apply to projects you are working on. The more you learn to see, the more curious you are, the richer your ideas will be and in this industry ideas are every thing.

Never Take "No" for Answer
The saddest thing I ever saw was a professor discouraging students from the art they loved because she didn't think it was marketable in the career force. She almost succeeded in discouraging me--I gave up matte painting, illustration and nearly gave up typography and layout in pursuit of her idea of graphic design, only to discover in my internships that all the art things I loved weren't only applicable, they were a competitive edge. I managed to get back into most of what I loved, but for somethings, like the matte painting, it was too late to get back to the level of work I had achieved before I graduated. I'll keep chugging with the matte painting, but it will be a while before it matches my graphic design and photography again.

If you love something, there is a reason, and it is very likely that you can market it or find use for it in a given graphic design project. The things you love are what make you unique, and it is your uniqueness that is your only real competitive edge in this tough career market. Don't ever let some say "No" to what you love.

Have Bright Eyes
People who smile and laugh without constraint, without worrying whether it is cool or not, are a joy to be around. So go ahead and laugh at the professor's joke if its funny. Be quick to smile. It's okay to have a down day, but if you never embrace life either, the rest of us won't have much fun with you. And don't be afraid to surround yourself with all kinds of people. I always pull in people who aren't afraid to laugh, who are almost always smiling, no matter who they are. They might not always be the cool kids, but you know what? The people with bright eyes are pretty damn fun.


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