Letter to a Junior Designer

by Cennydd Bowles

53 Reader Comments

Back to the Column
  1. Fruitful !!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  2. Beautiful, very well spoken and I definitely fall for some of the mistakes you refer to; A lot of young people starting their careers in, well many subjects should read this, a lot of the points can be extrapolated despite it being most true of designers!
    Thank you for a wonderful read!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  3. Thanks. It was helpful without feeling patronizing. Keep up the good work - there is enough for all of us.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  4. Fantastic. And the spirit of this message can be applied to many roles, from designer to developer.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  5. “Temper Your Passion”
    YES. I’m seeing quite a lot of different entries from other designers advocating running yourself into the ground to get a leg up on your career. You know, “work all-nighters & catch up on sleep later”, “when you’re not working your job, you’re working your side project”, “learn to code! (no, HTML & CSS isn’t code. Lots of JavaScript, PHP, Ruby, that kind of thing, otherwise you’re USELESS)”. That kind of stuff. Quite prevalent, completely oblivious to how unhealthy & unsustainable it is. Don’t focus on career at the expense of the beauty of life. Great read.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  6. Well said - thank you for this Cennydd!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  7. “You’ll come to appreciate that it can be better to help others reach the right outcomes themselves than do it yourself. That, of course, is what we call leadership.”
    —Very well put.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  8. I truly wish I would have taken these perspectives to heart earlier in my career. I doubt this article would have changed my stubborn mind at the time—but it might have clued me in a bit earlier. This is the wisdom that while difficult to teach (being learned over time in a real work environment) is sorely missing from design education.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  9. Cennydd, the timing of your post could not be more perfect. Thank you for talking the time to write it.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  10. This is great. I’ve read so many “advice for young designer” posts and this is the first one that doesn’t sound patronizing.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  11. Great article, I’m really appreciated about this!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  12. Beautifully put
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  13. Literally tapping this to my desk… This spoke to me for sure as I am coming from a 5 year role as a freelance and this week took on a position at a Studio which is a completely different world. Really well put, thanks man.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  14. Nice! Great advice to self and the newly arrived. My biggest pitfall remains the ability to comfortably put words to value of my design. The ability to give voice to the thoughts and intent behind your work is an important skill. Make sure that you can engage the listener first. Listen to your audience. You will learn how to engage them. It is not so much a “sales pitch.” It is give and take. Then give again.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  15. This is so wonderfully written. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  16. This is a really great piece of writing. Thank you for your insightfullly kind take on what it’s like to be junior as well as what it’s like to be, sometimes heart-breakingly, senior.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  17. Many of us have been there as most commenters agree. But how many of us were fortunate enough - as I was to finally work for a person who knew this would come and did everything they could to educate, and show that young fired up mouthy pup how to better express and articulate what they know to be right? Not as many I’m sure. Those are the real people we’re missing, it’s not so much advising young people to ‘not be that guy’ but advising older people to be ‘that guy’ who is going to walk beside you through the gates of hell. Or your first job, whichever one comes first.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  18. Stunning and very insightful. Thanks
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  19. Boy, does this resonate. I’ve been doing design for some time and this is a measured reality check. I’m going to enjoy sharing this with my peers, or with students and educators. One suggestion. If anyone ever starts to feel fatigued or jaded; try doing some work for a small, grass-roots community group. Volunteer to help them with a problem, or use design to bring some vitality and joy into their work or world. There is a very different experience to be had when working with people who are truly humble.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  20. This is so wonderfully poetic and concise. Thank you.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  21. This should either be featured on <a >Passive Aggressive Notes</a> if it’s inspired by an actual employee or makes a great Dickens-ian narrative reflecting on growing out of the innocence and naivety of youth.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  22. Beautifully written, beautifully touching my heart. :’)
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  23. Good article, Cennydd. Well written and to the point. In my career I had the pleasure to work side by side with a lot of ‘young guns’ and most of them have become very successful in their own career paths. If I would have to choose working together with an established designer -or- a junior designer, I probably would go with the junior. I just love the easiness and lightness in which they approach new design tasks. I know too well, that one of our main jobs as designers is to think about the ‘tomorrow’. To think of something that didn’t exist a week ago. We are not like lawyers, who most of the time, need to look at the past; what has been already ‘defined’ and ‘discussed’ by others.  It is true, that senior designers are able to produce results quickly, because of their knowledge and previous experiences they can draw from. I call the outcome of this process ‘design with history’ –or– ‘design with tradition’. But this is also the biggest trap: Senior designers often try to solve new design problems with old methods and add ‘bias’ where it’s not necessary or required. Senior designers often analyze their work too early and too often. Design has two phases in my opinion: The first one is all about freedom & play. The second one is all about judging and analyzing. I wish I met more designers who are good with phase one.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  24. Very well done, indeed. The only thing I might add is a reminder to never stop learning. When we’re young and magnificent we can think we know it all but we never really do.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  25. Nicely put sir!
    I struggle sometimes to explain to the young ones, how their way of seeing our profession will change with time, but now you’ve given me an easy way to put it. Thank you
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  26. A beautifully honest assessment. Bravo!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  27. I wish I could have read this a decade ago. Well done. The wisdom here applies to more than just design; it’s universal. Great piece!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  28. so, the author tells those younger than us to not take the path he and many of us took despite the fact that such a path is invaluable. funny.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  29. Brilliant, thoughtful article. Thank you!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  30. Thanks for this huge piece of wisdom : I wish I heard that younger but… I’m not sure I would have got it right… That’s the problem with generation gap :)
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  31. This mindset, this ideal, doesn’t only apply to design.  It applies to code, it applies to architecture, it applies to process, it applies to life.  Don’t try to change everything at once or you’ll get lost.  Find something you can change, change it, and move on to something bigger.  Baby steps turn into big things.  Great read, thanks!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  32. Nailed it!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  33. bravo!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  34. Beautiful sentiments and as close to a perfect blog post as I’ve read in some time. Inspiring.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  35. Ready, Shoot, Aim!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  36. A lot of hard-earned wisdom here; I’m taking notes myself as well as passing on to some younger colleagues! Thanks for the encouragement and perspective.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  37. Great article and lesson. Passing on to all my coworkers..
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  38. Perfect perfect…..Amazing article and lesson for designers
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  39. Such a great read; a fantastic boot to start my week! There’re always lessons to be learned in design and tempering one’s passion for it is always a good starting point. This might be the saddest thing I’ve read in ages: “After all, all our futures shrink with time, until finally the past becomes all we have.”
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  40. Can relate as developer. Absolutely. Great stuff!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  41. Thank you.  Very insightful.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  42. Here! Here! Brilliantly said sir.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  43. Thank you very much for writing this letter to yourself and sharing it with us, Cennydd.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  44. Reminded me of something I was reading around the inverted U shape of creativity over a life span. Adolhe Quetelet did research into creative output and found there was a peak of creativity in a person career. Both productivity and quality seemed to follow the same curve.
    http://books.google.com.au/books?id=P9hoAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA285…
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  45. Now read this
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  46. Just great!!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  47. You’ll never get anywhere with an attitude like that! And your article…where’s the brashness, the hyperbole? Just kidding, of course. It’s a refreshing read from an obviously mature professional (no offense).
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  48. This is good, but I like Andrew’s perspective so much better.  Thx John for pointing to that as well.  We have been in the spot of the young fiery designer or developer; keeping the fire I think is what challenges all of us from time to time. Our creativity and love for this crazy industry is what ultimately keep us here - reading a list apart, still after so many years. Keep rocking everyone! There are more solutions to design out there!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  49. Well said sir… thank you for the thoughtful words.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  50. “...demonstrate the evidence behind your beliefs, rather than the strength of those beliefs.” Very nice.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  51. Wow Cennydd, fabulous letter to your younger self. There is a world waiting at one age, that in an instant becomes one behind us, and for my part, I’d change lots of decisions I made and had to live with. There is no pain-free way forward, but there is a fearless staring backward that is worth noting and re-noting. I hope many young designers read and heed. Well done!
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  52. Thank you for this wonderful bit of writing.  As a young developer (former costumer for film and theatre) I feel very keenly that desperation to know how to do everything and prove yourself right now.  But it’s very important not to burn yourself out, and not to burn out everyone else out around you.  This is the first time I’ve seen someone put that sentiment so eloquently.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.
  53. Well put Cennydd, very insightful.
    Copy & paste the code below to embed this comment.