Find your people. (Bring them together.)
Being a working designer is, in one sense, like being a student. Active and semi-structured learning, especially in a workshop setting, is a major part of our work, whether we are identifying a client’s purpose or launching our own initiatives.
Current events have created one new difference between practicing designers and student designers: we are not new entrants into a field disrupted by economic and social upheaval. Some of us made it through the recession that began in 2008, or the setbacks after September 11, 2001, and we sympathize with the challenges today’s graduates are facing. To that end, we have collected a few resources for young designers, both timely and timeless. Share it with students you know—or anyone looking for a bit of orientation and inspiration.
The Frontier Team
Two Books We Keep At Hand
The first is a classic published two decades ago: Alan Fletcher’s The Art of Looking Sideways. Paul, our design director, has held on to his copy since high school because it breaks down essential design and experience principles without being overly prescriptive. Its seventy-two chapters bring together images and insights from across cultures and eras. Learn more here or read short excerpts here.
Less commonly cited, but no less inspirational, is choreographer Jonathan Burrows’s recent A Choreographer’s Handbook, which is recommended by Jessica, our senior design lead. It, too, is broken down into short components, including this, on improvisation:
“What is the right way to work for the thing that you want to do? What can you do, at this moment, in this process? What will be gained and what will be lost in the way you choose to work? There will be loss. All of these questions can be asked even if you don’t know what you're trying to do. So long, that is, that you know you don’t know what you're trying to do. It’s ok not to know what you’re trying to do.”
Learn more about Burrows’s book here.
Find Connectors Online
Social media has made it far easier to find the kinds of people who are natural connectors. Follow them and you’ll be regularly pointed toward interesting ideas, people, resources, and opportunities.
On Twitter, we admire Carly Ayres, a writer at Google Design, and Mitch Goldstein, an educator, designer, and writer. Ayres has launched communities, helped people get “digital coffees,” shared her former studio’s business model & working files, offered tips on writing cold emails, and much more. Goldstein, through direct and sometimes provocative questions and statements, starts all manner of useful conversations about the field and how its institutions are arranged. As he notes, “graduation doesn’t mean you have to stop being a student.”
On Instagram, The Design Kids brings together and highlights emerging designers from around the globe, and 365typefaces does a remarkable job, especially in its Stories posts, of highlighting a thriving world of independent type design.
The two platforms offer different windows onto the design world, both of which can be fascinating and can help you orient yourself. And, of course, endeavor to become a connector yourself! (It’s part of why we began this newsletter.)
A FEW MORE RESOURCES
But you need not limit yourself to the biggest tech platforms. Sniff around the open web. For several years, The Creative Independent has been publishing searching and honest interviews with creative people in all stages of their lives and careers, then gathering insights from them into guides and focus pages: a creative person's guide to feeling healthy, making time for creative work, a guide to financial planning. Our favorite interview on the site is this 2017 conversation with poet Ocean Vuong.
Elsewhere, Are.na has an unusually high percentage of designers among its users, which means it offers a wealth of both inspiration (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and material to think with (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
If you've made it this far, consider sending us a note and sharing some of your favorite resources and pieces of advice. We’ll recirculate the ones we can.