5 Things I Wasn’t Taught at Uni by James Gilmore

We’re pumped to welcome For the People‘s James Gilmore as a new guest author on Shillington Design Blog! Before moving to Sydney in November 2016, James was design director at DesignStudio in London where he worked predominantly on large scale branding jobs, art direction and digital products. Interested in creative education, mentorship and helping the creative community, he has guest lectured at UTS, Shillington and as part of AGDA

After speaking at Shillington in Sydney, I was chatting to the students and I realised how much design education has changed in the decade since I graduated. It made me think about the things I was never taught, but have been fortunate to learn along the way on my journey in design. Here are five of them:

Being a good designer doesn’t make you interesting, being interesting can make you a good designer

We’re taught that design relies on great skills and a good ‘eye’ for design amongst other things. We’re not taught how much of an impact who you are makes to your work and view of a problem. One of the most exciting things about working in the creative industries is the endless possibilities of where your ideas and solutions to problems can go.

By spending time growing your interests in areas outside of design (although there are very few things ‘outside’ of design) you can then bring them into your work. Whether it’s augmented reality, surfing, poetry or making music, everything you do adds to who you are and everything you are forms the work you do.

Read, watch, talk about and consume culture veraciously. It will make you more interesting.

You’ll do the best work of your career with others

When you start out in design you’ll want to be the one who cracks the problem, nails the brief and delivers the best work. We’re all born with a need to prove ourselves, a career in design only amplifies this.

As you start working in bigger teams, with clients or other creatives (photographers, illustrators, animators) you’ll come to know that the old adage is true and two heads are definitely better. Working with more people, with diverse backgrounds, skill sets and opinions can help you see different angles to the problem. The work you do with others, will always be better for that diversity.

Design is about relationships

So much of what you do day to day in design, is about relationships. How you relate to other designers, how you work with clients, building relationships within the community.

Just because you understand how you want a piece of work to go doesn’t mean that everyone else does. Be patient, be inquisitive, understand their worries and fears. Trust leads to permission, and if you can build relationships this way you’ll be able to take clients and colleagues on the journey with braver, bolder suggestions.

Design touches everything

Design is changing rapidly, and it’s changing the world we live in more than ever.

If an experience, place, object or communication comes in contact with a person and has a desired outcome it has been designed. Design has never been more highly regarded. Designers sit on the boards of some of the worlds biggest companies and organisations.

This means we can creatively think about how we can affect and hopefully improve so much more of the world than previously imagined. Embrace this opportunity it and run with it.

Career paths aren’t straight lines

The old linear model of designer — creative director career progression is changing. The way we work has opened right up. You have total control over how your career shapes up, on your terms. You can start an agency straight out of uni, go in-house, work at a tech giant in California, form a collective with friends. No matter what you’re interested in and how you’re interested in working.

Just because things have been done one way before doesn’t mean they have to be done that way now. You are in control of your own career, shape it how you want to.

Want to hear more from James? Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and keep an eye out for work he creates with For the People.