Mentorship: How to know what you know

Posted on Categories Design

As the old adage says, you don’t know what you don’t know. But the truth is that sometimes you don’t know what you do know – at least until someone asks you a question about it. That’s never been clearer to me than when I began mentoring a fellow designer.

I‰’m participating in AIGA Houston‰’s mentorship program “Design Loop,” serving as a mentor to a recent design school graduate. The experience has awakened a renewed desire to ‰”pay it forward,‰” adding fuel to the spark of new designers, just as one of my coworkers once did for me. And the more I share, the more I discover about what it means to be a designer. Here are the top three things I want to pass on to mentees:

We are not decorators; we are problem-solvers and storytellers.

Problem solving and storytelling are at the heart of the creative process ‰- they‰’re the two chambers that ‰”oxygenate‰” design, so to speak. Design is so critical to how people interact with the world: take the task seriously and make sure everything you do has a strategic purpose and intent. It‰’s not about making something prettier. It‰’s about communicating the essence of something in the clearest, most effective way, helping people find exactly what they need and making that connection at an emotional level.

Real-life work isn‰’t like what you learn in design school.

Design school teaches you how to think, but it‰’s up to you to master the tools of the trade. And those go beyond Photoshop and InDesign ‰- you‰’ll have to master the art of how to interact with clients, manage and handle the printing process, set up accurate files for production and collaborate with developers. Find a mentor who‰’s been in the business for a while and can help you navigate the waters of designing professionally; most designers will be glad to do it because someone did it for them when they first started.

If you want to grow‰… teach.

As you learn more and more about the art and the industry, be watching for opportunities to offer your knowledge to others. You may just learn something in return!

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