One of my all-time favorite novels is “East of Eden,” by the great John Steinbeck. Near the end of it, one of his characters states:
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.”
I like to think that he means that if you admit that you aren’t perfect, it allows you to be a better person. Or put more bluntly, if you learn from your mistakes, you will succeed.
In the spirit of that quote, my first ever freelance project was while I was a student at the UW for the UW Department of Education. They knew me from my work with The Dream Project as both a student leader, coordinator, and head of publications.
I was unhappy with the quality of work that I produced for them. Part of it was my lack of knowledge that I wouldn’t obtain until 2 more years of school had passed, but the other part was my total unpreparedness for the amount of dedication it takes to work with a client one on one while continuing on with other parts of your life. As a student, I had a prioritization problem, and that didn’t come to light until I took on this project.
Not only did I not give myself enough time to produce multiple options and drafts for the client, but I didn’t plan on meeting with them multiple times, nor did I anticipate they would be unhappy with multiple drafts and have to go back to the drawing board. This was a huge problem because I have always kept a meticulous schedule. I plan out my day from start to finish and at this point in my life I was having a hard time adapting when that schedule was forced to change.
We ran out of time in the end and were forced to print and canvas the campus with these signs:
I learned a lot from this project. As a person who strives to make mistakes only once, I’ve never underestimated time and effort in a design project again. As a student, you are taught how a “good design” is supposed to look. Then you go out into the real world, and it turns out the average client doesn’t necessarily agree with what you’ve been taught. Neither person is wrong, it’s just that a designer has to be adaptable. Experience can be a rude awakening sometimes, but it always makes you better.
I now create a timeline before every project, and it always has plenty of room for change and going back to the drawing board.
There is a stark difference between how I handled this project, and all future projects. I learned from my mistakes quickly and took the time to reflect on why they happened and how I could prevent them from happening again. This evolution in work process and quality can be seen in the difference between this project and the one described step by step in the How I Work tab, which is the assignment I took on directly after this one.