This spring, a student I met during the Upstate New York AIGA portfolio review interviewed me for his Professional Practices course at Mohawk Valley Community College. I was honored—even though it made me feel a tiny bit like a design elder!

It was a fun exercise and, after working in the field for more than 25 years, I am struck by how often I need to remind myself of my answers, which follow, to his last question:

“What advice could you give to designers entering the field?”

Finger Lakes Tour tote bag

This bag is the perfect example of “Be nice.” I originally designed the Finger Lakes Tour logo for a tote bag in 2004 but never saw the finished product. When the client reordered this spring, the vendor made an extra for me and hand delivered it too. How nice!

Even when you are working for someone else, make time to do your own work. Whether it’s a personal project or something you volunteer for, it will keep your interest in design up and creative juices flowing.

It might sound silly but be nice. Unless you end up being one of the few rock stars, designers are often the go-between with clients, printers, photographers, illustrators, writers, etc., on projects. A little bit of pleasantness goes a long way.

Connect with other designers too. Even though it’s a competitive field, designers are each other’s best advocates, champions, and sounding blocks.

Understand that most of your clients will never care about the design itself. They are interested in what the design will do for their business. They entrust you with spending huge amounts of their money. It’s an awesome responsibility, but hugely rewarding

Thanks for the nice reminder, Duane!