10.15.15
Bonnie Siegler | Dear Bonnie

Unsure in Utica

Dear Bonnie,

I appreciate that you offer others advice with an open heart. I hope that you might help me with my worries.

I am in my last year of college studying graphic design. I am having a tough time trying to imagine my place in the field since there are many people in my program who I think are more talented than me. This may be an issue everybody deals with at this stage of their career, but I'm wondering if there's something more to it.

My concern is my portfolio. Since I've been in this program, there isn't one piece I am proud of. None of my projects make me go “Wow” in the way I have felt seeing other people's projects. I'm not sure if I'm being hard on myself. I’m just not as knowledgeable and skilled as others. I feel like if i'm not the best, why would someone want to hire me, an “okay” designer. I'm struggling to find what makes me different and where my strengths lie.

I'm not sure if there's a specific question I am asking you in saying all of this, but I am worried and would love your opinion.

Signed,
Unsure in Utica


Dear U in U.,

First of all, relax. Being hyper self-critical is self defeating. It’s okay to be critical of your work, but self doubt will only hold you back. Critical thoughts should be withheld until after you reach solutions. If you have them during the process you will be starting over and over and over and end up exhausted with labored work. You need to find a way to make the work fun. Trusting yourself is key to any creative process.

Look at work you love. Study it and digest it. Absorb the sensibility until it is your own, and then through the filters of who you are, it will morph into something different. Painters often repaint paintings they admire to understand another’s work on a more intimate and physical way. Whatever you do will have your uniqueness embedded in it. Students are often hypercritical of the very things that make their own work unique. You have to trust yourself.

If you are still not happy with your work, toss it all out and make some more. Make lots and make it fast. Try to think less and, again, trust yourself. Make as much as you can without judging it. Share it with people you respect before you tear anything up. Sometimes when you’re have a negative attitude even the masterworks look bad.

Finally, do not compare yourself with your classmates. Learn from them—from their mistakes as well as their triumphs.You are each different and will come into your own at a different point in time. Use them as inspiration, consider their processes, learn from them, but do not worry about being the best. Worry about understanding your strengths, your passions and then, and only then, will you find what you were meant to do.


We want to hear from you! Send your questions for Bonnie to DearBonnie@designobserver.com    


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Bonnie Siegler Bonnie Siegler is an award-winning graphic designer. She is the founder of Eight and a Half, a multidisciplinary design studio based in New York, and before that, was the co-founder of Number Seventeen. She got her degree at Carnegie Mellon University, has taught in the graduate design programs at Yale University, RISD, and the School of Visual Arts and was the 2014 Koopman Distinguished Chair in the Visual Arts at the University of Hartford.

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