The Learning Path to Success
This brings us to the Myth of the Genius. I think our industry has this obsession with talent, right? And while I think people can have a certain predisposition towards being visual, nobody starts as a great communication designer, you become a good communication designer. You become a good communication designer. And so let me tell you my story. Like many of you I actually wasn't trained as a communication designer. When I went to college, I studied product design. I knew, but I knew that I was interested in how text and images and experience can communicate ideas and this was an industry I wanted to enter. I had a passion and curiosity for it so I enrolled in grad school. And on the first day of school here I was standing in front of 1156 Chapel Street, in front of these intimidating staircases and I walked into my first day of class. And the class was all about typography, and it was a three year program for people with a design background but no specifically communication design. A...
nd we were all sitting around the table with a very, very famous teacher. In fact he was one of my design heroes. And I remember sitting there and they were talking about leading. Remember we learned about leading earlier? It's the space between baselines, it's one of the most basic and foundational like words you'll learn in typography. And everybody was nodding their head but I had no idea what leading was and I raised my hand in class and I asked my professor, what's leading? And there was this silence in the room. Everybody looked up and stared at me and he looked at me in the eyes and said, we have a lot of work to do, and I did. And what I saw in that moment was that was where I was, and this is was where I wanted to be, and there was a big space between where I was and where I wanted to be. And I wasn't even truly, truly a beginner, I had a design background, but I was still so far from where I wanted to be. And I think a lot of us enter communication design because we have good taste, right? We see things and we see that they're beautiful. We see that the resinate emotionally, that they communicate clearly. But if we're really honest with ourselves, when we start making, we just have enough of a good taste to see that what we're making is not as good as the thing that we like. And that is totally normal. And so how do you close the gap? And I thought man if I just work hard enough, I'll be like a B line to where I want to be, but in fact, hard work wasn't enough. So my first project, it was already kind of bad. Remember, I was the girl in the class who didn't know was leading was. You have taken this video, you're already ahead of where I was when I started graduate school. And I started my first project and it was kind of bad, but I knew what was good work and I knew that what I was making wasn't there yet. And I started my second project and it was in fact worse than my first project. And I made my third project which was worse than my first and second project, and what I didn't know at the time is this is a very normal experience. And this is the point where most people give up. That's where I almost gave up. I remember thinking I don't know why I'm here and I need to withdrawal from graduate school. I don't have what it takes and it's because I confused self doubt with project doubt. And I thought I don't have what it takes because I'm not talented enough, but what I didn't see was that it was just one project, in fact it was only the third communication design project I have made in my entire life, so I was being a little dramatic. And I remember talking with my mom, as many of us do, and she said well, you can't be good at something you've never done before. And that just killed me, because she was right. How can you be confident in something you've never done before? How can you be good at it? And this is the thing, it's that it's very normal to experience fear after a little bit of failure. Like my project three wasn't very good but hey, I realized for somebody who's never done this before, it wasn't too terrible. The key is to have the courage to push through. And what I realized is this is really how you close the gap. Maybe in the short run it looks like you're going down and maybe you wanna feel like you're giving up but actually when you step back and look at the arc of your growth over months and years, it looks more like this. There's gonna be short-term failures no doubt, but there's also gonna be long term growth. And as they said, as my faculty always say if it were easy, it would easy but nothing worth achieving is really that easy. And failure is one of the best things you can experience because it means you're trying. And without trying you'll never grow. And without failure there's no learning. And whenever I feel sad and I'm in the ideation phase of a project and it's not getting to where I want it to be, and I'm like struggling with the work, I remind myself, Thomas Edison tried over 3,000 theories before he developed the incandescent light bulb. If he can try 3,000 times I can try five times. Certainly that ability is within me. And so the key is to make a lot of work. There's no shortcut. You're not gonna become a communication designer overnight. But if you make a lot of work, if you stay curious, take the time to see the world with wide eyes, not as it is, but how it can be, and you fight habituation, you can generate some really amazing design ideas. And then you take those ideas and you make a lot of work and then you reflect on that work. As John Dewey said, we don't learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience. It doesn't matter how much work you make if you don't take the time to ask yourself after each project, how could I have made this better? Be curious about your own work or as Michelangelo said, I'm still learning, even at the age of he asked himself how can I see the world with new eyes? How can I continue to make my work better? So in honor of Robert Recorde, remember our favorite Welsh Mathematician and the only Walsh mathematician probably any of us will ever hear about. I have a closing equation for you. So this is all in his honor, our hero of fighting habituation and being curious. It's that curiosity, the desire to see the world with fresh eyes, the courage to ask yourself what if, plus reflection, constantly learning from the past and learning from the present and seeing what good work came before you, what type of feedback you're getting now on your work and asking yourself how can it be better? Curiosity plus reflection equals growth. And that is the secret to becoming a communication designer. Curiosity plus reflection equals growth. This is how you think like a designer. And you have come far, you have come so far. You've learned the vocabulary of design. You've learned more about our field. You learned move about the skills you need to enter and grow in our field. Remember what I said earlier about there being over 5, types of communication design that you experience every single day, and most of it is just background noise because it doesn't resinate with how you understand the world. Well now you have some more tools and my challenge to you is to ask yourself, what if? And the greatest what if question you can ask yourself is what if we lived in a world where some of those 5, types of communication communicated more clearly, more beautifully, in a way that increased understanding so that people can actually hear what you're saying? They can feel it in their hearts, and that they can see the world with new eyes. What type of world would that be? And so my, I just wanna say with my whole heart I believe you have the power to shape culture through communication design and I wish you continued success on your journey and your growth as a designer.