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All I Need To Know, I Learned In Art School

Have you ever heard of “All I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten”? Researching it now, I discovered it is a poem. When I was younger, however, I knew it as a poster. One summer my step-dad (my evil step-dad!) hung this poster in my brother’s room and mine. He couldn’t handle our prepubescent attitudes. He made us memorize it when we were sent our rooms. It was a terribly ridiculous punishment. We thought. Looking back, this poster is great … for annoying 9 year olds, but it doesn’t really fit my professional life that well. I mean, “Take a nap every afternoon”? That ain’t gonna fly in the office. So I decided to revamp the list because all I need to know I learned in art school.

Manage your time wisely and efficiently.
Before and after graduation, I’ve always had more than one time-sensitive project in my to-do lineup. During one sleepless semester in art school, I was taking seven project-based classes, which basically meant I had seven assignments to work on each week on top of class hours and two jobs. The only way to stay ahead of my work (and get sleep) was to focus on time management. My workload isn’t as stressful these days, but I still strive to work efficiently. If I complete projects well and in a timely manner, this leaves extra time for last-minute projects and edits that may (and usually) arise. Think of a waitress. The more tables she serves in a night, the more money she makes. By working efficiently, I have time to work on more projects, which reduces the need to pay an ungodly amount for a freelancer to do it. It’s a win-win.

Do not obsess over the details.
When you’re a perfectionist, like me, it’s instinctual to agonize over mundane details almost to the point of exhaustion. In order to work effectively, you can’t do this. Nothing is ever finished, anyway. There will always be room for improvement, but you need to draw the line somewhere. The main goal is to complete project. Why waste your time perfecting minor details when a client might not care about it and will undoubtedly come back with changes anyway? Producing good cohesive work in a timely manner is better than producing almost perfect work that takes too much time and kills your deadlines.

Know your audience.
On multiple occasions while working on a project, I had to make a design choice between two minor layout options. As I mentioned up there (^), everyone’s opinion is subjective … including your own. When deciding between two options, place yourself in your client’s shoes. Pick the option that your client would pick. I can’t tell you how many times I went with an option based on my knowledge and aesthetic. Then the client comes back and asks for the second option, which was never even brought to their attention. So make sure you know who you’re working for and work as they would. This will save you some time and frustration in the long run.

Don’t take it personally.
My co-workers have mentioned on more than one occasion that I am mild-mannered when it comes to feedback. I attribute this trait to endless critiques in art school. Every class had critiques, and after getting my feelings hurt one too many times, I quickly developed a thick skin. There was always at least one criticism, even when someone produced a masterpiece. No matter what. After always hearing criticisms, it became nature, and I stopped taking feedback to heart. Someone will always have an opinion about how you do your work. They aren’t criticizing you as a person; they’re offering suggestions to help your work. Don’t get offended by it. Just do your best and wait for the feedback. You might learn something from it and better your craft.

Self analyze.
Instinctively, I started to self-critique my own work in art school. This was a result of trying to stay one step ahead of my classmates’ and teachers’ criticisms. By analyzing my work as if I were another student, I was able to correct blinding issues before critiques. This self-analysis has become second-nature to me now. If you can get your work right the first time, then you’ll save time in the long run. It’ll cut back on the edit rounds. If you’re lucky, no edits will come back, and you’re guaranteed an ego boost! Also, being able to analyze your work allows you to be open minded to more possibilities. Those possibilities allow you learn and grow. Don’t limit yourself.

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