Creative Journeys are Rarely Linear

In August, I received an email from Dr. Mas Biswas of Loyola University Maryland asking if I would be interested in speaking to his Capstone Class, which is focused on web and graphic design. To be honest, I didn’t know what a capstone class was, but after a quick Google search, it made more sense. As it turns out, students in Dr. Biswas’ class work on projects with local companies and nonprofits to build websites and associated marketing materials. I was flattered and started thinking about what I might talk about.

Mas and I spoke later in August and we agreed I should talk about my journey as a creative, and how I got to where I am career-wise.

Visiting Loyola

For some of us, career paths are highly rational, leading us in a linear path. For me, it started out more like a meandering walk in the woods. Here is the short version: I’ve moved from being an artist to a poet to a designer to a coder and back again to a designer and artist. Over the years, I’ve advanced in my career while pursuing a creative practice outside of work.

In my talk, I tried to stress a few points:

  1. Defining your own creative practice is a form of empowerment. Even when it wanders in a crooked line… There are few things in life you can control, but how you live your life as an artist, how you define your career as a designer, coder, or marketer (or any permutation thereof) is up to you.
  2. Job titles don’t matter. What matters is what you actually do. More importantly, being flexible and adaptable—throughout your career—is perhaps the most valuable skill a person can have.
  3. Have a sense of humor. Humility is a gift. You might have to take some lame jobs when you first enter the workforce. That’s okay. Learn what you can and move on. Don’t get stuck.
  4. Life is a creative practice. Your creative practice will evolve over time. Give yourself time to learn, time to observe the world, time to make things. And give yourself permission to fail.

Fieldtrip Time!

While we all know that listening to a middle-aged man talk about creativity is informative, if not downright thrilling, going on a field trip is even better. This month, Mas and his class visited Fifteen4 to get a look at agency life.

After a quick tour of our space — which at one time was a bowling alley — we shared some recent work with the students. Ryan Hall joined the conversation to discuss the role of strategy in our work here at Fifteen4. Steve Smallman wrapped up the visit with an open discussion about the students’ goals and aspirations.

It goes without saying, but the students in Dr. Biswas’ class are impressive. Of course, they are concerned with how they will enter the workforce, but they also are keenly interested in learning about the culture of companies and how they might fit in. And frankly, that’s a great place to start.

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