So many young artists and designers have asked me what they should do to be successful? and what I have started to understand is that it's not my answer that is important, it's that you are asking this question. and that sounds very Mr. Miyagi but what I mean is, if your asking that question I believe you will find the answer much more effectively than I could ever answer. Or that you are the type of person who will be just fine.
through my career, at every place I worked they said this is where designers come to die. it's simply not true if you keep asking this question.
When I was in my early twenties, my "career anxiety" was through the roof. a few things happened that crashed my confidence, and I was scraping anywhere I could for help that just never really came. This wasn't a good place to be in a small midwestern town because back then there was no local community for designers or creatives that I knew of. No adfed, no AIGA, no mentorship program, no meetups.... just me in my basement trying to figure out how to get my work out into the world and an immensely encouraging girlfriend/wife.
In 2011 I had taken a serious step back in my career. I went from a nice illustration job at a screen printing shop to spending two years as a server at a Ruby Tuesdays, it was not where I thought I would be at that age. I worked freelance as much as I could but it was hard to find. around this time I also struggled a little with money as I was a terrible server.
looking back it was a case of "Who ya know" but I had spent two years as a server with no design job leads and becoming increasingly terrified I would never work in the industry again. How dramatic.... but this was actual thoughts in my head at the time. Finally I gave up on the bigger city and moved back home to be hired by the local paper. Not glorious but it was something. a year after that a print shop, again not ideal but it was a step in the right direction. and two years after that an ad agency where I finally thought I made it and was done progressing. I could have easily stayed where I was finally happy, but when I asked "How do i succeed" I realized I was still missing something. all these things were great and I appreciated them very much, but I still looked around and felt alone, lucky for me, there were others feeling the same way and we ended up creating Makewell. a community for makers and doers. finally I had a tribe of people I could lean on. again I was asking the question.
cool side note:
In 2017 I was given two boys life magazines printed in the 1950's, I have never felt so in love with a magazine. there was something beautiful about the design that just wasn't seen anymore. maybe it was the limited color palette, the campy nature, or the breath taking ink and brush work with the illustrations, but one pass through the books and I discovered my niche. I know this seems like a small and silly detail but I want you to know, finding success comes in the most unlikely places. Most of it from a lot of hard work, but sometimes you get lucky and it comes from pure joy.
I left my comfortable, reliable day job, trusting the world to love what I love, and for the most part it has been working ever since. I have been perfectly happy for the last two years besides one thing, what to do next?
This leads me to writing these little stories, in hopes it helps some young artist in some small midwestern town. It sounds ridiculous but be persistent and keep asking "how will I succeed?" I believe that is the answer.