One thing I loved about working at a creative agency was collaborating with designers every day.
Before agency life, much of my work experience had been in market research (think surveys, spreadsheets, and statistics). But in pursuit of my passion for storytelling, I eventually made my way to an agency where we created all sorts of visual content (think infographics, branding, and interactive design).
It was pretty thrilling to enter a world where I could come into the office each day and see my coworkers creating something beautiful in Illustrator instead of tinkering with formulas in Excel.
Working alongside designers, I learned a lot about colors, pixels, and typefaces; about difference between kerning, tracking, and leading; and about how to communicate visually.
But away from the computer screen, they taught me a lot of big lessons, too. Here’s what working with graphic designers taught me:
1. Design impacts everything.
As a writer, I tend to rely on words to communicate, but good design makes communication faster, easier, and more beautiful in ways I just didn't recognize or fully appreciate before. I used to think design made things look nice. But good design does so much more than that: it conveys meaning with elegance. My friend and former colleague Shane created a brilliant recommendation for revisions to subway service change signs, making the message cleaner, simpler, and, most importantly, easier to understand. Good design makes a difference in every corner of our lives.
If the MTA used Shane's design, I'd be way less confused on the subway.
2. Artists (you, me, & everyone) need passion projects.
The designers I worked with always had ongoing side projects outside of work, whether they were drafting a zine, writing for an online magazine, or taking beautiful photographs. They made time for their art, and it was inspiring to be around. Their dedication to following their creative impulses and being productive outside of the 9-to-5 work day made me carve out time for creativity in my own life.
3. Inspiration doesn't happen in a vacuum.
It’s easy for me to get stuck in a routine of work-food-sleep each week, adding in a splash of Downton Abby or hanging at a bar with friends. But my designer friends were always talking about the art exhibit they’d seen over the weekend or the inspiring talk or conference they’d attended. It was a good lesson for me to remember to break up my (lazy) routine and go searching for inspiration. The more I remember to do this, the more ideas I have and the more energized I feel.
4. Make things (with your hands).
I love days where I have great meetings with clients, make good connections over email, and cross off a bunch of things on my to-do list. Effective communication makes me feel good, and so does doing all the little things producers do to keep organized and make projects run smoothly. But designers reminded me how important it is to stop and stretch others part of my brain. One day after work we all tried linocut, a printmaking technique where you carve out a shape into linoleum and stamp it onto paper, and it was so much fun. Taking time to make something with my hands totally recharged me creatively, and since then I’ve started accumulating art supplies of my own. Recently, instead of writing my 2015 resolutions, I painted them in watercolor.
Photos from our linocutting session. I made the red whale on the right.
I’m happy to say that in my freelance life I’m continuing to collaborate with amazing artists and storytellers; I see my agency colleagues all the time (they’re some of my best friends); and the things I learned from working with graphic designers have impacted the way I live in and see the world for the better.
Designers, you da best.
Nicole Marie Rincon