Jon Contino @ Hangtime Boston

This lecture taught me a lot about what character traits and ways of thinking allow an artist to be successful. The majority of the lecture is based around the necessity of being your own person. I learned that a big part of starting out as a designer is taking initiative and putting yourself out there. The best way to operate as a creative artist is to work unrestrained by rules or higher-ups, but breaking through the barrier of finding respect and acknowledgment in the art world is a challenge that weeds out those undevoted to their work. It takes a degree of uniqueness and personality that societal norms and pressures often discourage, which is why this barrier to a successful career can be so difficult to overcome. It also requires a degree of independent thought and originality that is often intimidating, even to those who are gifted in that respect. The caveat to all of this, however, is you have to start somewhere, and you can’t expect to be your own boss right out of college. It takes time, and you need to be able to support yourself during that period of trying to create stuff and make a name for yourself. It is okay to have a boss, work under restrictions for a company, as long as you spend those extra nights and weekends working on your own designs, building a portfolio to set you free from the limitations of the corporate ladder. A portfolio full of real, tangible examples of your work that you can use to show off your skills and style to other people is essential to building your own business. It has to evoke a strong reaction from people, but it doesn’t matter whether it is positive or negative. All that matters is that your work is unique enough to stand out in some way, to get people paying attention to it and talking about it. Not only is negative attention still good attention, but it creates an environment for constructive criticism to grow and teach you how to improve upon your work. Criticism that you can take but only with a grain of salt; because the client is not always right. People do not always know better than the designer about what they want, and they do not always think of all of the possibilities. It is completely acceptable and encouraged to debate with a client over the best way to do things, to argue for your vision and show them what it is that you are able to do with freedom and imagination. Take charge in your work, be a thinker instead of following directions, make opportunities for yourself instead of waiting for the perfect one to present itself. It’s important to drop your expectations of what a designer should be, look like, think like, ignore the norms so you are able to embrace reality and work with what you have. Striving for perfection can be one’s downfall, because it can trick a designer into putting excessive amounts of time and energy into something that will result in an austere and uninspired product. Imperfection is good, it is different, and it allows each designer to define themselves in a different fashion. Overall, I learned that in order to be a successful designer, you have to think very differently from the rest of the world, take risks, take initiative, take charge when you are confident and embrace failure.