We all know that's not the way the saying goes, but I think it's time we changed that notion. As it relates to designers and other creative professionals, I think this is especially true.
Let's face it – change can hurt. As humans we are hedonistic beings meaning we seek pleasure and avoid pain. Learning new skills such as copywriting, retouching, HTML, art direction, etc., can be take a LOT of time. On top of that, these new skills may need to be developed after hours when we'd rather be with our friends and families or at happy hour. And lastly, we may need to fail at them a LOT just to become proficient. Let's not even speak of being good at them.
“The number one piece of wisdom I impart is to become a sponge.”
Sometimes young designers ask me for advice and I have a lot to give. However, the number one piece of wisdom I impart is to become a sponge. Be the first one in the office. Be the last one to leave. Ask to take on as many new projects as possible. When you're slow, volunteer for more projects. Learn anything anyone is willing to show you. Also, show initiative and learn anything anyone doesn't have time to learn themselves. In short, every single day should be an exercise in learning something new.
That sounds like good advice for young designers, right? Wrong. It's good advice for ALL designers and creative professionals regardless of experience level. If we we make a conscious decision not to grow, adapt and develop new
skills we could – at best – be limiting our earning potential or – at
worst – working toward professional extinction.
“Every single day should be an exercise in learning something new.”
Personally, I've had to grow in a number of ways just to do my job. At Banowetz + Company we used to employ a great art director on staff who also happened to be a fantastic copywriter. Once she was gone, I had to learn to write headlines and body copy. That was intimidating. Oh, and she handled all TV and radio production in the studio. Handling that responsibility was just plain terrifying. But, I learned all those skills and now they're almost second nature to my creative process. Additionally, I can't tell you how many times I've said, "I wonder how (blank) is done?" Let me tell you, Google is fricking awesome. Chances are someone has already answered the question I have before I even thought about asking it.
Curiosity serves us well in terms of learning how to do our jobs better and more efficiently. Start making small discoveries today that will translate into new skills tomorrow. Read a book. Write a headline. Learn a scrap of code. Use a new typeface. Explore a new color palette. Whatever you do, stay curious and it may help you stay employed.