“Real World” Design: No Napping in the Tall Grass

Now five months into my internship at B+L and starting another semester of school, I seem to have split my time in half. One day I’m knee-deep working on some great projects at B+L, and then the next I’m a student designing for class and attending lectures. This pattern has revealed the differences between “real life” graphic design at an advertising agency and the work done at school.

I’ve learned that the design process is much quicker in the real world. A project is often on a tight schedule and needs a fast turnaround. The luxury of having many hours to create, rework, put aside and reopen projects ends when entering an agency. Not to say as a design intern I’m a mindless droid taking orders and leaving all creative and strategic thinking behind. Creative thinking is just condensed and intensified while trusting more in my own design instincts and ideas. There’s no time for skipping through fields of daisies, napping in tall grass, and pondering the meaning of PANTONE 1595.

Both in school and at work projects need approval. Being back in class this semester I was reminded of how simple the approval process can be in school. If my professor likes it – I’m good. I turn it in, receive a grade, the story ends. The ad agency process is more intricate and involves a few more layers. It’s beyond the tried-and-true saying of “two head are better than one,” and more like “twenty eyes are better than two.” From within the agency on through clients, many people take part in the process of approving a project. As a designer, this encourages the need for a very thorough understanding of the client’s needs, message, and goals.

In school, even though I’m surrounded by fellow designers, I’m mainly working as a one-man band. There are no art directors, writers or production artists tackling the same projects. There certainly is not a project manager keeping me on top of my schoolwork (or making sure I eat lunch). School projects often require working with all your limbs in different places; researching, concepting, writing, designing, developing and producing.

There is value in understanding how the process of an entire project is fleshed out and put together. By doing everything, abilities and strengths start to branch out past design. At the same time, there is something great about focusing on design while the pros at B+L make the magic happen.