When I look back on periods in my life where I struggled to prove
myself, and reach the next rung on the ladder of my career, it's
amazing to me to discover how much of what I went through then, I
am still going through today. Time isn't as frivolous as it used to
be-sleep is more important, as are family and friends. I now know
the value of time, and strive to spend it wisely.
I have spent the bulk of my life paying my dues by doing what other
people asked of me, and whatever I thought was needed to get the
job done. My parents encouraged me to be true to my word. This
became my trademark and identifying characteristic-if I said I was
going to do something, I would do it, no matter what the
consequences. I started hand-lettering in the seventh grade, and
won my first client through a family referral. It was my first
experience with hard deadlines and all-nighters, and in the process
I learned how to estimate my time, and to deliver consistently with
quality and few errors.
In the first years of my life in the design and advertising world,
I was “smart as a whip,” but not the best designer in the house. As
a junior designer at Toyota, I paid my dues by learning how to use
a stat camera, (one that spanned an entire conference room), and
create mechanical boards using a wax machine, an Xacto knife, a
precise eye and a lot of patience. I helped to hand draw a custom
Lexus typeface, and discovered layout, balance and structure. I
witnessed the unveiling of the new Toyota logo that I thought
looked like a cow brand. While the Japanese saw intersecting
ellipses of unity and a subtle “T,” I thought it looked like it had
come straight out of Texas. It was my first experience with the
nuances of cross-cultural design, and how perception might vary
from one culture to the next.
In the years following I delved into the advertising and
entertainment industry, eventually working as a full-time
consultant. “Kelly puts 'free' in the word 'freelance,” my friends
would say, as each project was more challenging than the last. My
normal mode was to say, “sure no problem,” and my clients would
only see the deliverables-high quality and on time. They weren't
privy to the pain and all-nighters it took to get the final
results. I believe I made about $5/hr during that time, but learned
a lot in the process. Working in the entertainment world meant a
certain pressure was applied at all times to pull off the
impossible, whether getting a promotional CD-ROM designed and
published in less than two weeks or to launch a new television
network in two months. I learned how to manage difficult clients
and work with teams in a collaborative (albeit frantic)
Paying my dues has meant setting my vision and intent towards what
I truly love, and learning to work smarter, not harder. Through the
years, I have had the chance to explore several fields within the
world of design and have determined not only what I enjoy, but also
what I am good at. Now, at gotomedia, our mantra is “exceed
expectations and take vacations.” I am lucky to work with a group
of people who actually love the work they do and look forward to
Monday mornings. After more than half of my life in the field, I
find that the journey has been more important than the destination
and that dues are paid along the way, as one continues to learn and
grow. Does one ever stop paying their dues? In the design world,
especially within the field of innovation and technology, it seems
there would never be a time when the dues were paid in full. But
the rewards don't stop either. And that is the seductive draw of
being in a field where change is imminent and inspiration comes
from constant exposure, learning and experience.
One week after I graduated from college in Ohio, I moved to New York with my new wife Dorothy and began working as a design assistant at Vignelli Associates ...
Section: Inspiration -
graphic design, personal essay, mentoring, students
My best advice on this subject is to just drop the notion that dues paying ever really ends. I don't think I've ever stopped paying my dues, and it's been over 20 years since I graduated from art school and got my first job in graphic design.
Just after graduating from college as a printmaker and design student, I returned to Los Angeles because of a love interest. Trying to get my bearings, I found a job at George Rice & Sons, at the time, the best commercial printer in Los Angeles.
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