Ryan Hildebrandt and Tracy Collins: Mistakes Young Designers Make

Ryan Hildebrant, director of the Gannett Design Studio in Louisville, and Tracy Collins, director of the Gannett Design Studio in  Phoenix, spoke Thursday to students about the mistakes they see with young designers.

“Millennials get a bad rep” Hildebrandt said, “But we love our Millennial designers.”

Gannett Design Studios handle more than 100 publications including USA Today and the Arizona Republic. The company offers many positions to entry-level designers.

Here is their advice to students on how to not trip-up straight out of college.

Mistake 1: Not assessing your surroundings. 

Before you take a job, make sure it’s somewhere the you will want to work, and will feel comfortable. If you like listening to music while you work, find out if people are allowed to do that in this office.

Look at what people are wearing. Assess the generational makeup of the office. Will your co-workers be close in age, or much older than you?

Mistake 2: Breaking style

“The brand is your bible.”

Unless it is your job to redesign the paper, you must adhere to the style that is already set. This means colors, fonts and grid. Don’t break it!

Mistake 3: Too many tricks

Don’t use all the tricks in the book at once. “Just because you know the program, doesn’t mean you have to use it all,” Hildebrandt said.

When it comes to typography, for instance, Hildebrandt said his studio follows the 0-1-2 rule. One change can be something simple, like changing the color of a word for emphasis. But 2 changes is TOO many.

A change can be a variation from the case, font, color, size, kerning, etc.

Instead of tricks, let the visuals drive the page.

“The best pages start with terrific photography,” Collins said, “Save the tricks for days when you have bad art.”

Mistake 4: Not using the grid 

Nobody is too talented or important to ignore the grid. The grid gives pages structure and organization, and everyone needs to use it.

Collins said when doing portfolio critiques, proper organization is the first thing he looks for.

Mistake 5: Not reading the story 

“You need to be able to articulate why you are designing something a particular way,” said Collins. You can’t do this without knowing what the story is about.

Design is about content, and you must understand content.

Plus, you can’t defend your design ideas if you haven’t read the story.

Mistake 6: Overconfidence 

Student media and internships are a great way to prepare for your first job, but they don’t make you a star. Neither does one great design, or getting recognition for your work.

Hildebrandt and Collins stressed the importance of not getting a big ego, especially early on in the game.

Mistake 7: Not enough confidence

During their first free months, Collins said he often sees his designers eyes “spinning.” He said that until designers feel comfortable with their surroundings and abilities, they cannot work to their full potential.

Don’t forget what you’ve learned, and remember you know more than you realize. When you are stressed, it shows in your work.

Mistake 8: Not learning from failure

“Failure will make you better,” Hildebrandt said. You will fail in your career. “You will make terrible things,” he said. Both speakers stressed the importance of not getting upset when people tell you “no,” and how important it is to have people tell you “no.”

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Mistake 9: Being a passive designer

Don’t hide behind your monitor and keep to yourself.  “Be a Design Dementor,” Hildebrandt said, channeling Harry Potter. Ask as many questions as you can. Ask for feedback on your work. Ask your supervisors for their feedback. That’s what they are there for.

Lastly, the duo remind students, that they are responsible for their own improvement.