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A Different Letter to a Junior Designer

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Editor’s note: Last week, Cennydd Bowles published his “Letter to a Junior Designer.” Today, Andrew Clarke offers a different perspective.

To be honest, I envy you. I envy your energy and your enthusiasm and the fact that for you, design is still new, still exciting. I envy your self-confidence. You know you’ll be a better designer than me. Maybe you already are.

With age comes experience, and there’s no doubt that I have more of it than you—especially experience in balancing the needs of people who use what I design with those who pay for it. That experience gives me an advantage today, but you’ll gain it too, in time.

In the meantime, I’d like to offer three suggestions.

Don’t slow down

You must never forget that it’s ideas that matter most, and that without your idea there would be nothing. You can’t turn a poor idea into a brilliant one by iterating, so don’t make fewer ideas. Make more. Don’t slow down. Speed up.

Your mind is a muscle, just like any other: you need to use it to keep it in top condition. To keep making ideas happen, make more of them, more often. Feed your mind with inspiration wherever you can find it. Exercise it with play. Make idea after idea until making them becomes a reflex.

You don’t always need to think things through

You won’t ever predict the path your ideas will take. You can’t know the restrictions they’ll face nor the limitations that will be put on them. My advice to you is not to try. Too often I see brilliant ideas extinguished because people think about practicalities too early. How will this be built? How will someone use it? These are important questions, but at the right time.

Naturally, some ideas will fade, but others will dazzle. So before you pinch out the flickering flame of a new idea, let it burn brightly for a while longer, unhindered by practicalities.

Sell with passion

Selling is frowned upon by a lot of people. It’s true: no one likes to be sold to badly, nor enjoys being interrupted unnecessarily. But being sold to well, by a good salesperson, is an experience that benefits both seller and buyer.

Learning how to sell was one of the best things I did early in my working life. Granted, I sold photographic equipment and not websites, but what I learned has served me immeasurably well. It’s helped me deal with people in a whole host of situations, not least in presenting (read: selling) my design ideas to clients.

Selling ideas should become one of your best skills. It’s a fact of life that it’s not always the best idea or the best execution that wins a pitch or presentation, but the one that’s been sold the best. So learn to sell. Learn to talk about your work so that the person you’re selling to understands your ideas and why they should buy them. Learn to inspire people with your words as well as your work. Make them feel like they’re so much a part of your ideas that they simply must buy from you.

Finally, I hope most of all that you never allow your energy and enthusiasm for design to wane. You’re young, you’re talented: revel in that. This industry has been good to me for many years, and I’m glad that you’re here too, to show an old dog new tricks.


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