The Design Loop

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I stumbled upon this list of bad habits for designers  (from – 2007), and thought I would share.  Are you guilty of any of these?

25 Bad Habits of Graphic Designers

1. Taking Constructive Criticism Personally

2. Not Knowing Paula Scher, Milton Glaser, Paul Rand and Friends

3. Not Staying up on Current Events and Design News
What Design blogs/magazines do you look at at regularly?

4. Not Owning the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines
We have in our library!

5. Charging too Little for Design Projects

6. Not Using Contracts to Cover Your Butt

7. Not Setting Deadlines for Projects

8. Doing Spec Based Work (If you like it you can pay)

9. Not Asking for a Down Payment before Starting a Project

10. Using Poorly Designed Fonts from Free Font Sites

11. Using Display Fonts as Text Fonts

12. Using the Comic Sans Font

13. Using too Many Different Fonts in One Design

14. Forgetting White Space is your Friend

15. Not Sketching Before Designing

16. Not Using Rulers on Screen

17. Relying Totally on the Computer, Especially for Kerning

18. Using Photoshop Filters After Your First 6 Months

19. Using Low Resolution Web Images for Print

20. Not Designing Logos in Vector Format

21. Making Logos Unable to Reproduce Well Small

22. Forgetting to Learn Keyboard Shortcuts

23. Not Saving Frequently

24. Not Backing up Files on an External Hard Drive

25. Not Getting Enough Sleep! Stop Drinking so much Red Bull!

I hope there are others you can add to this list!  The more you know what NOT to do as a designer, the better the chance you will practice “good” design.


Have you ever looked at those “About Us” pages for design/ad agencies?  Or maybe you’ve attended a couple conferences on design… If you are observant, you may have noticed that there aren’t too many minorities in those pictures or at those conferences.   One of the most embarrasing truths of the industry is that graphic design firms and ad agencies have some of the worst rates of diversity in their workforce.

Why is this?  Its hard to say really, as there are probably many factors at play.  This article on diversity in design tries to investigate this question by bringing up some really good points.   But a more pressing question is what to do about this issue?   How can a minority student trying to make it in the design world succeed when most people like to hire folks that talk like, live like and look like themselves?

The only thing I’ve got so far is that the minority trying to get a job in design has to work even harder than everyone else.  And I mean really hard.  Its not enough to be a little bit better than the competition.  The idea is to be so much better than everyone else that there is no hesitation to hire this person.  Not because the agency needs more diversity but because this person is the best fit for the job.   The design world is already competitive as it is, but for minorities (including women and homosexuals) it is more so.

These issues were brought to light on a national level recently during AMC’s new reality show, The Pitch.  The ad agency Muse created a short PSA that quickly and succinctly explained the problem and hopefully made some of those at the top more aware of whats going on in their organizations.


If you are planning to be a designer in the near future (say in the next 3 years or so), AIGA and Adobe has come together to define the qualifications and expectations of the Designer of 2015.  Read their Designer of 2015 Competencies and Trends and more.

During the 2×4 field trip, David Stevenson recommended this cool employee handbook from one of the largest Ad Agencies in the nation: Crispin Porter and Bogusky or CP+B.

Basically if you get a job there, they hand you this little book to get you used to their company culture.  It has lots of tips and secrets to working in the industry.  Including a section titled “THE SECRET TO GOOD WORK
Click Here To View The Handbook

On Wednesday some of our design students took a short trip (2 blocks) around the corner to visit 2×4, a very cool ad agency who works with such clients as Wrangler and the Chicago Bears.

There we met David Stevenson, the president and creative director of the company, whom for two hours, shared his advice on working as a designer in the advertising biz.   It was enlightening, entertaining and inspiring to say the least, and those of you who missed this trip missed out on a ton of great information and advice.

But fear not! Below are some pictures from the trip and some key points that David spoke about.  The only thing your missing is hearing this information coming from the mouth of an experienced ad man, which is priceless.


Devil is in the Details

David started talking about the importance of paying attention to the little details. He says that you won’t believe how many cover letters they get with misspellings and how a really fantastic portfolio or leave-behind can be ruined with just one mistake. “Show that you give a sh*t”

City of Big Agencies

In regards to Chicago, he emphasized the importance in living in a city where three of the largest ad agencies in the world have offices: Energy BBDO, Leo Burnett, Draft FCB. There are also around 200-300 design firms/ ad agencies in this town.

Your Dream Job

Many design students don’t know where they want to work. How many design firms/agencies can you list off the top of your head? If you don’t know, then how do you know where your dream job is? Where do you fit in? What kind of work do they do? What is the culture like?

Designers don’t have Paparrazi

“This is not Hollywood” Don’t be afraid to meet people in the industry. Its perfectly acceptable to walk in to an ad agency and say “I’m a student, can I take a look around?” Most places will say yes without thinking about it. (although it may be harder to do in large places like Leo Burnett)

Don’t “Express Yourself”

The term “Graphic Artist” is misleading. You are not an artist. You have to do what the client wants.

Idea Factory

You need to find a process for coming up with creative ideas. David told us a story of a guy who writes commercials, and whose process includes picking random job titles out of a hat and creating a commercial around that. David himself likes to use Stumbleupon to generate ideas.

Nine to Five ?

Most agencies like to start the working day around 11am or lunchtime.  Although this seems cool it also means they have no problem working until 11pm at night.  David pointed out that you get more work done at 8am when nobody else is around and distractions are at a minimum.

Concept, Concept, Concept

Your portfolio should show a variety of work and a diversity of ideas.  The technical know-how (adobe programs) are not nearly as important as you would think.  The idea is king and your work should reflect that.

Will Work for Experience

Stop complaining that internships are unpaid.  Good internships at a design firm or ad agency actually give you tons of real-life experience you just don’t get in school. “You should be paying us!”  It’s also not unusual to spend a year or two as an internship before getting hired full time.

My Boss Sucks… Awesome!

“You want your first art director/creative director to be a complete *sshole. You don’t need someone to tell you your work is great.  That is what moms are for!  You wan’t someone who will push you to be better than your actual potential.”

Over the course of your adult life, you will hear many recommendations as to what to include in your resume, with many well meaning people giving you some less-than-perfect advice.  Times are a changin and so is the resume; that all important ticket to getting a job.

Some of the staples of the resume are now no longer needed and some are extremely harmful  to your resume.  Here is the list:

  1. References available upon request

    This is one of those things that is a given. I know that you probably have references. No need to take up extra valuable real-estate on the resume for something unnecessary.

  2. The phrase “detail-oriented” or “multi-tasker”

    These phrases are basically cliches that no longer have any meaning. Even if these statements are true it doesn’t matter because EVERYBODY puts this on their resume. So you can imagine what type of impact this has on the person reading it: pretty much none.

    Try to think of other ways to describe yourself that are actually relevant to yourself and hopefully make it so you stand out against the crowd.

    Some others to avoid?

    1. Attention to Detail
    2. Works well under pressure
    3. Results-oriented
    4. Team Player
    5. Good Communication skills
    6. Strong Organizational skills
    7. Great Customer Service skills
  3. An “Objective”

    Unfortunately an “Objective” only tells the reader what you hope to become someday and what your aspirations are which really has no real bearing on who you are RIGHT NOW. The whole aim of the resume is to give me an idea who are so why not use this space to describe yourself in a way that your employment history and skills cannot.

    You can use this space to write something like a personal statement or description of yourself. Just be careful to stay away from writing a personal biography. You should be putting in relevant skills and beliefs that have to do with the job you are applying for.

    It could be something like this:

    I am a veteran design professional with 10 years experience managing successful advertising campaigns for a variety of clients with an emphasis in the food services industry. My strength is in conceptual development and managing teams effectively to develop those ideas. I believe that an effective ad is not the most popular but the one that drives the most sales.

  4. Responsibilities held

    This isn’t horrible to include, but what is better is to list your accomplishments while in the position. Maybe you increased profits or initiated some changes that improved the business. Responsibilities show me that you can do what you are told. Accomplishments show me that you can add value.

    Also limit the number of responsiblities/accomplishments. (1 to 2 is enough) Most people feel the need to jam pack this area full of info but nobody actually reads a resume this in-depth and it can deter the reader from reading the rest. Try to leave something to talk about in the interview.

  5. Hobbies and other unncessary info

    Anything that is not related to the job should not be on the resume. Period. This also goes for previous employment that has nothing to do with the job your applying to. No need to put in your stint as a delivery guy at Jimmy Johns if you are applying to be a designer. Even if it shows customer service skills and that you are a team player.

There is a fabulous show up at Columbia College’s Center for Book and Paper Arts.  It’s all about Wood Type!  I’m organizing a trip for a small group of students to see the show and learn a little about ye ol’ printing process sometime next term.  Until then, check it out on your own or go see one of the corresponding talks:

Curator Tour and Open Studio event
Thursday, October 6, 6pm
Held in association with Chicago Artists Month
Join Wood Type, Evolved curator April Sheridan for an in-depth tour of the exhibition, and stick around for a special opportunity to view artist demos in our letterpress, binding and papermaking studios.
Location: Center for Book and Paper Arts

Visiting Artist Talk
Dafi Kühne, Sward Visiting Artist
Thursday, October 27, 6pm
Switzerland-based designer Dafi Kühne will discuss his innovative approaches to letterpress printing, drawing upon his seminal project Woodtype-Now!  Supported by the Consulate General of Switzerland in Chicago and Pro Helvetia.
Location: Center for Book and Paper Arts

For more info on the show:

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