2014: My Year in Review
I’m thankful for calendars that mark the passage of time. Days and weeks blur together in the busyness of life — even months, in retrospect. But you can’t ignore the end of a year. And that’s a good thing. It creates a healthy retrospection, insists you slow down and examine the past year, and helps you recalibrate, refocus and reenergize as you propel yourself into the next chapter of life.
Jan. 1, 2014 was my first official day as a full-time freelance designer. After spending more than 9 years working as a designer, art director and creative director for a handful of agencies here in the midwest, I took the plunge. I really didn’t know what to expect — and sometimes still don’t! But that’s okay. The unknown is part of the challenge.
So in the spirit of reflection, I’d like to share 7 things I learned in my first year of being an independent designer:
1. Treat every client like they’re your most important client. And while you’re working on their stuff, they are.
2. Flexibility is a must. I work for all sorts of organizations, and everyone has their own unique process, workflow, communication methods, styles, etc. My job is to make getting great design easy.
3. There are opportunities to do work for big brands. Whether it’s partnering with creative agencies or working directly with them as a client, here are some major brands I had the privilege of working on this year:
- Warner Chapel Music
- Boston College
- Draper University
- USA Today
4. Embrace variety. I love everything about branding; creating or refreshing an identity is an incredibly satisfying challenge. But I also love manifesting that brand identity into all sorts of materials, both print and digital. This opens the door for all sorts of design-driven opportunities with unique challenges, mediums, constraints and audiences. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
5. Predictability and consistency are elusive. I’ve had work to do every day this year. That’s a blessing I’m thankful for. But workload will always ebb and flow. Being mentally prepared for this is critical to sanity, and being consistent in seeking new work is important.
6. Ultimately, I’m in the service business. And that means being human and helping people. Understanding the real person behind the face of a brand is so important to delivering thoughtful, effective design solutions. And simply communicating like a friend is surprisingly disarming.
7. I still believe in being bold, simple and brave. There are so many opportunities out there. I cannot do this forever. While I can, I want to give it everything I have.
I learned a lot this past year, yet still have many, many things to learn and improve. But I love what I do, and I’m thankful that I can design for a living every day. The chase to be better is in full swing. And therein lies the fun.
Thanks for making it possible.