From Your Education Director…

Before I get to the main thought I wanted to share in this edition, I’d like to remind everyone to keep an eye out for more great student events, coming after the holidays. The Houston AIGA student events this fall were a great success and I’m pleased that so many of you took the initiative to come out and get involved.

As a professor wrapping up my first full semester in Texas, I was reminded of my own experience as a senior in college. If there is one thing I have learned, it’s that to really be successful as a designer you need to take some responsibility for your own learning, by stepping out of your comfort zone and explore possibilities. As members of the AIGA we are lucky that we have such an active chapter right here in Houston. AIGA Houston offers a door to the larger world of design and your active involvement with the Houston chapter is a direct link to our design community that can be a great advantage in making Houston the start of your career in design. Which, in a way, brings me to what has been on my mind.

Recently I was talking with my class about the experience of finding my first job out of school. While I was talking with them I had a revelation about my initial job search and how that journey shaped my career. Coming out of college like many of you, I had no idea how to go about finding my first job. As graduation grew closer, I felt very stressed because I had no idea of where or how to begin. Coming from the Midwest, I listened to my classmates at Indiana University and how they were sending their resumes to design firms in Indianapolis; they seemed to be in such command of the process. I, on the other hand, had no idea where to start, where to go, or how to get there; especially in the days before smart phones and Internet job boards. Can you imagine?!? Should I stay and compete with everyone for jobs in Indianapolis or take the plunge and branch out to a larger unknown city, like Chicago. I chose the latter and the choice to start that adventure has made me the designer and thinker that I am today. At the time, I lived in Kentucky and began my search by mailing stacks of resumes one week, calling the next, and with luck scheduling an interview or two in the following weeks. I would try and make appointments in the mid-afternoon, drive the five hours to Chicago, have the interview, and then drive home the same day. I did that 10 hour round trip over, and over, and over again for several months. Eventually it paid off with my first job and from there, I went on to a wonderful set of experiences with different firms over the years I lived in the city.

So why should you care during the holidays? Because if you’re anything like my students, and many young designers on the verge of graduation, where you will be next holiday season is steadily churning in the back of your mind. It’s there, quietly interrupting while you study over Thanksgiving break for your next art history test. If I can give you one piece of advice about starting your career as a designer, investigate the city or cities that you see yourself in. With AIGA as a tool and the Houston chapter as a door, you might find that what you are looking for is right here.

As I’m sure you know, being a successful designer is more than knowing all the software, how to use a grid and crop photos. Being a successful designer is also about being a student of the world around you. When I was starting that move to Chicago, 250 miles away from what I knew, it made me tune into the larger world. It made me aware of the environment that I was going to be designing for. But with Houston AIGA as a starting point and being a part of such a large and diverse metro area, you can have what I had to travel to right out your door. I’d like to suggest that in order for you to make a big jump in your success as a creative individual you might need to do some looking at things you maybe took for granted. One of the best ways to help that happen might be to consider positions in a city or area you are not familiar with. So how about it? Have you ever thought about a job in Oregon or North Carolina and how they compare to what we have in Houston? After all, the best time for change in your life is when you can still fit everything you own in your car. Relocating and the challenge of working in a new place with new rules, and relationships will never be more exciting and accessible than now. It can give you the chance to really become your own person. But with a city like Houston right out your door, you may find that everything you need to begin has been here all along. Take a few minutes and surf around at the various AIGA chapters with an open mind and think about what it might be like to live someplace new and compare it to what your life could be right here in Houston, as part of this design community. Even if it seems like a long way away, your graduation day is coming and you need a plan. Taking the time to do a little looking and thinking over the holidays might be the first big step to finding out who you really are by jump-starting your journey to become the great designers I know you all have the potential to be.

I hope you all wrap up your semesters with success, I’ll see you at our events next semester that will include a portfolio day, new studio tours and much, much more. Taking advantage of the programs we offer is and will continue to be a great way to get out and see what the professional design world really is and just how strong a community we have right here with Houston AIGA. Stay curious and best wishes for the holiday season.

By Norma Riehle
Published November 27, 2010
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