A Random Sampling Of What’s On The Mind’s Of College Students…

Day two of a six-hour class where students are working on a project “ripped from the headlines” I figured I had the kind of time to ask the students a question that gives me something to blog about and also help me have the content that may answer questions for them (and perhaps you).

Out of six students (hardly scientific) the main concern was “how will I find a job?” If there’s anything the powers-that-be should be keeping an eye on is this topic—not simply for graphic design. When those students enrolled into school, we lived in a different world. The job market has tightened so much, it’s a valuable thing for these students to develop a laser focus on what they want, as well as an open mind on how they’ll plan to get it.

Second on the list of concerns: internships. Functional, practical thinking is not amiss here. Part of the value of a MICA flex class is “real-world professionals” something I heard a bit when it came to discussing what they wanted out of the class. But even more importantly where does this lead them? Internships are important as is any real-world experience.

One thing that came up was the desire to be paid for an internship. Here’s where I said have an open mind.

It really depends on the specifics of what a candidate is looking for from each opportunity. One one hand, an internship where one might see a firm that is fairly exclusive and the candidate learns a lot for little commitment (once a week, etc.) one may consider the value of going forward with that particularly if, like many of the students, you’re not sure what exactly they might “actually” want to do.

On the other hand: don’t make the assumption that the paid internship is the best way to go. It’s equally possible to do an internship where they pay you but don’t have the time to teach. So, beware either way… Interview potential internships the way they might interview candidates. Nothing worse than wasting time off!!!

Another comment which was sort of out of “left-field”—in a good way— was a comment on how to manage client-design firm/designer relationships.

For this, I commented that the client/designer relationship is a tug of war. It’s important to realize that the client, or alternatively the designer, views aspects of your credibility while “pulling” the momentum of the project relationship into an equal balance. No firm wants to hire a designer who will not be a good fit by not understanding the business’ fundamentals nor does any designer want to do work for a firm that’s mismanaged its business to the point where the work won’t be produced due to a lack of commitment to the project from the client.

The best relationships contribute trust relatively equally, where the designer understands that the client is expertly briefed in their product and the client understands that the designer knows what they are doing. Holes exist when this balance of trust is off-kilter, in one direction or another. That means each must work at being a good partner in order to make the relationship work well.

Students need to understand that their knowledge of business must be relatively as equal as the opposing client’s knowledge of the value of design, if not more, or run the risk of conceding credibility. How can this be done? Translating experience, gained through projects and internships, into action-able knowledge. Stepping outside of the designer’s comfort zone and reading about business and branding in ways that actively translate to your projects and in some cases being unafraid to allow the client to know their business and allow them to tell you about it, if your dogged research turns up a bit short.

Then, the designer/design firm has to understand that there are times when the client’s fears, internal board politics, needs and other issues may interfere in the successful project. After watching a couple spy movies and looking at the way a spy is supposed to handle his contacts, I reckon that there is a great degree of similarity in the realization that the account management is not unlike working for a spy agency, ferreting out problems before they happen, understanding the client’s motivations, making the client look good for their boss, keeping an eye on the client’s bottom line, etc.

(So, many of these contribute to why clients/firms get fired. Even successful work doesn’t assuage this sometimes.)

But even still, knowing you game may help you get to a point where they respect your input because it’s reasoned and honest, not just because you are a pair of hands, like in one of my favorite scenes from the ’60s drama Mad Men:



Having done the homework of “knowing” the client, the ad man, Don Draper, is confident in the approach and puts it to the client.

By AIGA Baltimore
Published January 28, 2010