Monday, September 27, 2010

The AIGA Dordt College student group meeting with Erik Rodne

09/22/10: Erik Rodne—Visiting Print/Web Designer—Working [at] HenkinSchultz—Member of AIGA South Dakota. The following notes were submitted by Matt Van Rys, assistant adjunct in art (web design)—we thank Matt for an incredible job recording the minutes. Photograph by Andrew Hornor.

Job Search Tips:

  • From Graduation to Hired: Erik traveled to London, Norway and then back home.
  • Faced the cold shoulder when attempting to work in Britain—hiring a non-national can be a hassle.
  • However, Erik recommends shooting for the stars, as you will learn from any experience, even a failed one.
  • Another reminder is that your location doesn’t define you. Great designers create great work anywhere.
Interviewing Tips:
  • Ask questions about the company; practice with a sales job or by joining a debate team.
  • Dress up for the interview and then dress down within company policies after being hired.
  • Visit people and ask if they’ll look at your portfolio; exhibit a willingness to learn.
  • Have a confident character and trust in your skills.
Expectations for Graduates?
  • Try to have a good idea of who you are and what you can do. What will you bring to the table?
  • Consider Production Artist as a first job. Prepress and Production layout work will help you improve your technical skills. With better technical skills, you’ll be able to design high-end work at a pace that will impress your peers and management.
  • Be ready to solve other people’s visual/creative problems with your design solutions.
What about my Personal Style?
  • Sometimes having a personal style can be very helpful, especially if your style fits with a particular company.
  • However, sometimes it is better to show a potential employer that you can emulate many kinds of style, which would make you a good choice for an Advertising Agency or Graphic Design Agency.
Defined by Your Work:
  • Be a Designer as defined by your work, not your title. Many people claim the title of designer in various fields, but only a few can set themselves apart by executing unique and exciting design.
Choosing an Ad Agency:
  • Look for an agency that is design driven, not accounts driven and ask how close the designers are to clients.
  • Be ready to discuss how can you improve the Ad Agency’s business.
  • Not always a good hire for an Ad Agency, as it can be hard to get a read on a contract designer. Risky for the Agency.
  • Impress them with your initial work and hopefully get more work.
In-house Designer:
  • In house graphic designer work can be more cut and dry.
  • It also comes with challenges of working with people who are ignorant of the value of good design and/or have no concept of correctly creating a marketing budget.
Graphic Design HAS Value:
  • Remember that Graphic Design is ART 4 PAY. What you do is valuable, and when possible, don’t do it for free.
  • Consider unpaid internships when the networking or learning benefits are valuable enough to equate your time.
  • Art isn’t free, but it is often categorized as a tool of business by many business people; the management meat grinder—undervalues the abilities of truly original people—there is a price tag on everything.
Real World Design Challenges:
  • Real World design is filled with a different set of challenges then what you experience in the classroom.
  • Clients, coworkers, billings, mismanagement, project deadlines, faulty equipment, liability, useless meetings etc.
Difficult Clients:
  • Trouble clients are often not worth the trouble. Trouble clients cost a company lot of money and they may tell their friends, breeding other trouble clients.
  • The “Bosses Son Syndrome”—sometimes, the clients will ruin their own work. Fight back; for example: Ask the client how their logo speaks about the company, product and/or service. Make them think critically about their work.
What is Work Like?
  • Work is a lot like Office Space.
  • In the case of web projects, it’s often a process of maintaining sites that never finish. A website project can last forever in-between full redesigns.
  • A large portion of most design jobs is maintaining old work, but the new work is the diamond in the rough, making it all worth it. Sometimes projects die too though, even good ones.
  • Working with a small client can be very rewarding. Especially creating a motif and applying it to a variety of media.
Favorite Projects?
  • Try to make your current project your favorite project.
  • New ideas and technologies: Ambigrams, Flash versus HTML5, intuitive content management etc.
Web Growth:
  • Huge growth industry, but most believe we will never see the end of print.
  • Digital content is necessary to be competitive and it is fast, however, everyone likes the tactile nature of print design and it will always be part of a good, comprehensive marketing strategy.
Avoid Burnout:
  • Find something(s) or someone(s) outside of work that helps take the edge off of the bustle.
  • Sometimes fine art can be a good extension; hobbies or traveling are other options.
Training: Practical, Perpetual and Self-Driven:
  • Better to be a “jack of all trades” versus a master of one, these days.
  • There used to be a time when a designer would do just one thing: illustrator, type designer, layout designer, artwork designer, photographer, videographer etc. Now, we often do it all, or at least a lot of it. So it doesn’t hurt to be a great print designer with some skills in photography and web design.
  • The cost of code: should I learn how to code as a graphic/web designer? The cost of a developer can be very expensive for a web project, so even a basic understanding of coding can help you avoid the cost and make more money on a simple web project.
  • Be tech savvy and understand that you are doing 5 people’s jobs. Have the confidence to charge a real rate.
  • Perpetual learning is important to improve yourself and stem off burnout, a sort of constant self-awareness. So spend time researching new techniques, trends in design, new typefaces, new technology, new software etc.

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