words of wisdom

their website This week was a good week to collect words of wisdom. They came from everywhere— from some non pleasant news earlier this week to conversations with people in the design industry. I guess the lesson to be learned or the question to be asked is; are you listening? There are opportunities everywhere to learn and grow, even the bad moments or those moments that punch you in the gut. I just had one of those this afternoon. While reading some material, I came across a message sent to me that was indirectly blaming me for some things. No, we can’t please everybody. No matter how many times we say it to ourselves, we still need to repeat it over and over. It is those of us who care about things that have to remind ourselves of this truth often, of these words of wisdom all the time.

…the lesson to be learned or the question to be asked is; are you listening?

I have been thinking about the words of wisdom shared by Mike Payne, the owner of Gwin’s Commercial Printing and Derrick Castle, our guest speaker this week at USA.

These two gentlemen work hard, very hard. At our field trip to Gwin’s this week, Mike briefly talked about how he got started in the printing business. I wished he had talked more about that because those stories help the students and me too to appreciate who people are. Nonetheless, there is a story that Mike shared that I thought was worth sharing with you:

  • When making money as a freelancer, put money aside to pay your taxes when it is time. He shared how he had met a few designers who would land a big client, get a big paycheck and not put money aside before spending it. He said, “it would be very sad to take out a loan to pay your own taxes!”  But then he said something even more interesting and profound to me. He said:

    © Alma Hoffmann
    © Alma Hoffmann

    This was something I had to write down and think about for a moment. It was fitting too. I am not sure if my students took note of it or not, but it really resonated with me. As designers we tend to think we are a kind of special breed of people and that somehow the rules, those traditional rules of work hard and show up, don’t apply to us. However, this can’t be farther from the truth. We all have to pay our dues and we all start somewhere.

Mike’s quote takes me to our guest speaker this week, Derrick Castle. I had seen Derrick’s work at Diane Gibb’s weekly online show Design Recharge. He talked about his work, his day job, how he got started, etc.. His work has been seen in many venues gaining a lot of recognition in Nashville, TN where he is from. About a year or two ago, he was contacted by Miller to work on a special artist edition for the design of their beer cans. Initially he turned them down which made him to me more real and more of a human being who at times has self doubt. And this was the thing I liked the most about Derrick, his humility. He started his talk by saying that he can “probably out white trash everyone sitting in the auditorium.” This statement really got my attention. I mean, anybody who is willing to say that about themselves deserves our attention, deserves our listening.

So, I listened and listened good. I took my usual visual notes but I could not get over something about Derrick. He works at a normal 40 hours week job as a web designer. In the evenings and in the weekends, he designs, illustrates, carves his blocks, prints, photographs his prints, and handles a one small family of four operation. He has a nerve, a hunger, a passion for more and a work ethic that I long admired first in my father. But Derrick is also an introvert and a shy person. When talking about how he markets and promotes his work he admitted to being an introverted person so he relied a lot on social media. Social media gave him an outlet to show his work and promote it.

I had the chance to take him out to lunch and we had a great conversation. We talked about food, design education, countries, the South, the North, the Midwest, and our families. He is a very warm person and easy to talk to. Some of his words of wisdom:

  • Once you get comfortable with one thing, go ahead and try another one.
  • Stage your product to take good photos.
  • Do good work and good work will follow.
  • Learn from your predecessors, but also look at the work of contemporary designers.
  • Don’t follow trends but be aware of them, do your work, find your voice, make mistakes, and try again.
  • Start with a simple pencil and paper.
  • Invest in yourself and be business minded.

At the end of the day, it is about what Mike said: A wise person learns from someone else’s mistakes. Derrick is searching and pursuing by learning not just from his own mistakes but also by paying attention and pursuing something better.

Here are some photos of this week including photos of one of my students, Justin McCardle’s drawings of Derrick Castle.




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