Design Student

My name is Emma E. Cook and I am a graphic designer and artist in Chicago. I received my Bachelors in Visual Communications with a minor in English at Loyola University Chicago. Currently, I am working for a non-profit called NoStigmas, a mental health awareness organization, as the Visual Team Lead and am studying web design at the Art Institute of Chicago to obtain a Web Design Certificate. I paint, draw, and pursue photography in my free time.

Art and Design students often have different challenges to face in both their college and professional careers. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the amount of critiques and opinions we face on a daily basis. After gradating from college and entering the work force, I have begun to realize that I have not stopped being a student. I must constantly educate myself on potential new programs, techniques, and styles.

Art and design are constantly evolving. Designers consistently feel pressure to be innovative and creative with the new platforms and styles that are being released on a monthly basis. It is common for an individual to feel depressed looking at other designers’ work and feeling that their own work is inferior. As a student, I felt this pressure immensely, crying after particularly harsh critiques, becoming frustrated with professors and professionals, and never feeling quite like I was creating anything original. It did not help when many of my fellow designers and myself were given the critique, “but how is this design YOU? How does this reflect your style?” I began to doubt whether being a designer was what I really wanted to do. However, which much deliberation, I realized that being a graphic designer and an artist was the career I wanted to pursue and I could not see myself doing anything else.

I began to research designers, not just on a basic level where I was trying to fulfill a grade for a paper, but to try and find out who I was and where I wanted to go in design. I wanted to know how I could combine my natural fine art instincts into my everyday, commercial work. Soon, I came across a quote from a notable designer, Paul Rand: “Don’t try to be original; just try to be good”. I realized that in my obsession to do something new that no one had ever seen before, I forgot my natural instincts, my preferred aesthetics, and what I like to do. I was focused on trying to create a “wow factor” – for people to marvel at my work like I was some sort of De Vinci of design. In truth, there are not many original thoughts out there, but this does not mean that your work, even if it was inspired by another artist or designer’s work or based on a movement like cubism or art nouveau, is completely meaningless. It means something to you. It means something to your client. It will mean something to someone walking down the street who happens to look at that piece of work, and then gets inspired to create something else.

Now, when I design, I have stopped thinking, “But how is this original? How is this unique? How is this something that no one ever has seen before?” Instead, I research ideas and combine techniques with my own personal aesthetics as well as the preferences of my clients. In that way, my work is unique and expresses my own individuality.

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