Out of the blue yesterday and old friend of mine from school reached out to me. I couldn’t help but initially make an assumption that she might just be talking to me to ask for a favour or answer some school-related questions. Though we did end up talking briefly about school, it was nice to hear how she was doing and felt genuinely acknowledged back.
It made me feel a little guilty for assuming the worst and begin to think of how rare having a natural conversation with someone for just plain discussion versus having the expectation of having to provide something in return. I think back to the days of MSN messenger after a long day at school and chatting with my friends online for hours on end just for fun.
It’s interesting to see how much communication has evolved with age too, where grade school and high school days, MySpace and Facebook usage was pretty common and eventually took over MSN. Looking at my younger sister just two years out of high school, MySpace was pretty much non-existent by then and Facebook became something more popular with our mom and aunties.
Communication and general online usage has become more frequent on Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter, where messaging isn’t even really the most common use for these platforms but rather posting a photo or quick general thought. Messages becoming unread and people getting upset seeing ‘Read message’ notifications or ‘Last online’ statuses.
I feel we almost know too much these days, which comes somewhat at an advantage if we’re expecting an important message for work perhaps, but then turning tables and getting overly paranoid that your significant other is active on X platform and hasn’t replied to your message in hours. Active statuses and usage history really leaves us with no surprises, but it’s really how we intend to use these bits of information, if necessary at all at the end of the day.
Went on a bit of a random tangent there, but getting back to the conversation I had with a friend. We chatted about internships, portfolios and focusing on a specific design identity or focus. The conversation led me think about how much growth I’ve felt over the past four years of not even really understanding what interaction design really was enrolling into the program.
It’s inspired me to come up with a list of things I’ve thought of to tell first year college me and hopefully become helpful to anyone early out in their design career (or anyone in their early stages of deciding on what to focus on) reading this.
Dear early years college Sam:
Tinder and Bumble will end up being a waste of your time, sure use it for a couple weeks and you might find the love of your life but don’t get too fixated on dating apps to have to meet people. Eventbrite, Meetup and Facebook design events are a lot better use of your time and design will end up being your true love.
Apply for that part time graphic design position or internship even though you feel you’re not a strong visual designer, keep building on feedback and practicing if you end up getting rejected the first time around.
Internship. Internship. Internship. As early as possible despite there being a mandatory one positioned for your third year, it doesn’t hurt to try.
Design your portfolio with your interviewer in mind, story telling and not just posting everything on there at once without any thought.
Apply even though your portfolio isn’t perfect right at that second. You can always continue to build and develop it after the fact and a portfolio is a never ending process.
Your resume actually really does matter, focus on your design related skills and results from the experiences you’ve had.
Don’t be too fixated on company names or politics in the news, focus genuinely on interesting problems these companies are solving for.
Don’t be afraid of critique! In fact, ask for more of it. A lot more. Do so earlier and often.
Get to know your classmates more instead of isolating yourself in coffee shops to focus in, or at least find a better balance of heads down time and group work sessions. You can learn a lot from collaboration and might even end up working with a classmate in the future.
Stay away from negative vibes, over-complainers, people that put you down and make you feel bad about yourself or your work.
All nighters are not something to brag about. Better time management is more impressive.
Also stop comparing yourself to others and looking at every single person’s design blog to see how it matches up to your own. It might mess up your creative process having seen so many previous examples.
Design systems! Guidelines! You won’t learn much of this at school and it’s something you’ll stumble upon eventually and learn the most terminology from. (Read Material Design and Human Interface guidelines, they’re going to be another bible to you)
Sketchappsources.com is a great starting point. Get into Sketch.
When you get an internship, learn as much as you can from your co-workers as you can, ask questions and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Don’t pay attention to any age or work experience gaps to feel intimidated over, always so important to get to know your co-workers personally as well.
Try doing freelance work a lot earlier.
Don’t be too hard on yourself, live and learn xo.
(Will continue adding to this)