At the beginning of November, I had the opportunity to speak with Kermit Bailey's Professional Practice class, virtually, for N.C. State's soon-to-be-graduating Graphic Design students. It was a two-hour long reflection on the what I've learned since graduating from the same program...10 years ago.
It took a while to figure out just how to envelop 10 years of experiences & lessons in a digestible, not-overwhelming session. The final title of the presentation was: Preparing for Professional Practice, Some Stories & Lessons Learnt.
This week, I'm celebrating completion of 33 years on Planet Earth. So, in the classic birthday listicle, I wanted to share the 25 Lessons I shared with the students, adding a few more to make it to the appropriate number.
- Try lots of new things; design is diverse.
- Ask for help; people will donate space, time, and food.
- Work is much more fun with other people; as a team.
- If nothing exists, start something!
- Find your people; establish friendships.
- Design lives in the complexity & context of people’s lives.
- Sometimes, success is repeatable; other-times, not.
- Plan for things to go wrong & break; own it, learn from it.
- Defaults are designed; change respectfully.
- What’s obvious to you may not be for others; share your ideas & thoughts.
- Design actively excludes & includes; despite intent.
- We design with & for others; “nothing about us without us.” Listen.
- The world is filled with so many differences; with far more similarities.
- Need common purpose & goals to do good work.
- Learn to communicate, in-spite and de-spite conscious self; an invaluable necessity.
- Reflect on yourself. Do the work; try and do better tomorrow.
- Focus on your unique strengths.
- No one knows what they’re doing, everyone’s figuring it out.
- Ask forgiveness rather than permission.
- It’s okay to not know. Ask questions curiously, authentically, and tenaciously.
- Health, family, and friends come first. Then work.
- Say no more than you say yes; “Guard your yes.”
- Create boundaries. More will always be asked of you; good enough is good enough.
- Rest, Relax, Recharge. Rest up so you can show up.
- Be open for the journey, see where it takes you. It can be quite the adventure.
- Put things to paper; the documentation process creates clarity, and can be shared.
- Ask for feedback & critique, but understand you don't always have to act on it.
- Emotions & feelings are valid data; reflect on what they're telling you.
- "Soft skills" are some of the hardest & most important skills; far too often disregarded or ignored.
- It's okay to let go of things or quit, that allows you to pick up others that can bring more value.
- Life is an occasion; rise to it.
- Change is constant; each day is different, layered with lessons & impact of the past.
- Be kind.
#12 comes from the Disability Activists & Movement from the 1990's; extremely applicable to Design, User Research, Product Development, and most things when trying to create for rather than with.
#22 is a mantra from René Brooks—a Mental Health Advocate, Blogger, Speaker, behind Black Girl Lost Keys. It's a lesson I learned from her, read on, and taken to heart. You can buy stickers, t-shirts, and her book about this exact thing!
#31 is a quote from one of my favorite movies; one that I've revisited throughout the years: Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium. I resonate with the titular character, his view on life, and seeing the magic in everyone & every day.
#33 can be read more about, and is one of those lessons I've tattooed to myself, on my post titled, "A Goodbye; A Look Back; A Thanks; & A Request."