TheSumOf’s Kevin Finn at Shillington Brisbane

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We were so pumped to have Kevin Finn, one of Australia’s leading design thinkers, join us for a guest lecture in Brisbane. Finn is director of TheSumOf, founder of Open Manifesto (an independent, self-funded and self published journal of critical writing on graphic design) and creator of DESIGNerd—a “design trivia game like no other”. In other words, he’s super impressive.

Our students were completely invigorated by his philosophies and advice. The talk helped us pull back from the nitty-gritty of their portfolio projects, and think about design and design thinking on the whole.

Finn believes informed designers are better designers, and places heavy emphasis into the research phase of the creative process. We were fascinated to learn that he does not advance to the design phase until the client has a clear understanding of their positioning and their intended direction. Then this also has to meet up with the client’s staff and customers perception. Only once everything is aligned can the design phase begin.

“As designers, there is a reason to everything we do. It has a purpose. It has meaning.”

Finn also spoke about how to approach job seeking as a junior designer. His advice to all emerging designers is not to ask for a job, but instead ask for an opinion. He explained that while many studios and creatives may not have a position currently available, they all have opinions. By getting a chance to visit and show your work, you create a contact that could lead to a position further down the line or a recommendation to another studios that may have an opportunity.

Finn is more interested in seeing how someone got to that outcome, than the outcome itself. While a beautiful project looks nice in a portfolio, showcasing the journey and process of development is often more valuable to future employers. It gives key insights into how you think and develop from the initial brief to the final product. They want to see how you think.

And as if that wasn’t enough, we jotted down a few more words of wisdom from Finn’s talk:

  1. “We need to be experts in our field.”
  2. “Have an opinion and have a way to back it up.”
  3. “Don’t trust your client when it comes to information, validate it.”
  4. “If you can back up your work with solid information, your outcome will have great value.”
  5. “Follow the information. (Don’t make shit up.)”
  6. “If you get stuck, go and ask for more information.”
  7. “Find something to say, and if that means getting away from the desk, do it.”
  8. “Aim high, and work your way down.”
  9. “Be interested, take notes.”
  10. “Show people how you think.”
  11. “Be brief, but make it count.”
  12. “Be respectful, be mannerly.”
  13. “Be resourceful, show initiative.”
  14. “Don’t undercut yourself or your colleagues. Understand your value.”
  15. “Making decisions is a designer’s greatest skill.”
  16. “Don’t assume anything.”
  17. “Understand the importance of writing and understanding. Writing is a part of communication.”
  18. “Find the best people in your studio. Watch and learn as much as you can.”
  19. “You don’t need fear and arrogance. Have confidence and humility.”
  20. “Branding can be the most dangerous thing you do, if you don’t do it properly.”
  21. “When we intuitively create something, it is not necessarily reverse engineering to then find meaning to justify the design. It just takes longer in the brain for logic to catch up with the intuition.”
  22. “As designers, we are in the service industry, but that does not mean we need to be servile. Clients are looking to us for guidance and expertise. We should lead them and not be bullied.”
  23. “Never stop being a student. Never stop learning.”

Huge thank you to Kevin Finn for enlightening our students and allowing us to soak up his information-based approach to design culture. For more, visit TheSumOf and follow Finn on Twitter.

Top image of Kevin Finn—The Weekend Edition.

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