April 26, 2011

nobody tells this to beginners

My husband + i get asked to talk to beginning Graphic Design students at a local community college from time to time. Although we're not professional speakers we do know our craft (so we tell ourselves) and we have a passion for what we do. Last week we got to share our design work and tell our story again to beginning Graphic Design students.

We actually have a segment in our speech (insert laugh here because again, we're no speakers) titled Advice We Wish We Had and it is my favorite part of the evening. It's also when I get to tell the "100 thumbnails" story - basically the fact that one of the courses taught at this particular school requires the student to sketch out 100 thumbnails ideas for a logo (some schools require 300 - 500). What most students miss about this little sketching exercise and we so brilliantly (wow) point out is the fact that by drawing 100 thumbnails the student works through the junk and makes room for real good work to flow in. Those who tell themselves there's no other ideas left and choose to stop at 50, 60 thumbnails will more than likely miss some amazing ideas. Some treat the assignment as a time-wasting project, unaware they just missed one of the best exercises in creative process - when you continue to push through and find a burst of creativity waiting on the other side. Pretty cool deal.

Yesterday I got an email with a quote from Ira Glass and had to share. I should print it & hand it to students next time. Here's Ira:

“What nobody tells people who are beginners — and I really wish someone had told this to me . . . is that all of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, and it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase. They quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know it’s normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”


  1. This may surprise you (or maybe not), but this was great encouragement for me; thank you! (And, um, hey, I want to hear about your lives as expert public speakers!)

  2. i find it so very amazing that we found this quote on the same day from different sources. i, too, took comfort in it. i wish i was in the audience for your talk. i know i could have learned a dozen things or two.

  3. Thank you for this. You are awesomesauce.

  4. chris, you could learn nothing from me, you creative god you.

    mskai, awesomesauce? I heart you. I'm gonna use that term a lot. :)

    (and marina, our back & forth was too long to be posted here that's why i did it on email)