Christopher King
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
When I graduated and moved to New York in 2008 with a great job lined up, it seemed like my career was starting exactly according to plan. Six months later the stock market had crashed, my bank had collapsed, and the company I worked for was shut. I lost that job a week before Christmas, and there was no work to be found for a recent graduate in New York after that. It was a hard time! I think my whole generation was set back by the financial crisis.
I hated being stymied by forces that had nothing to do with my abilities, but I learned to be more self-reliant. I was really lost for a year or two, but some of the personal work I made during that period helped me gain notice and eventually got me back where I wanted to be.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
Forget your manners. People remember even the smallest kindnesses, so take the time to write a polite thank-you note or congratulate someone for winning an award. Especially when you don’t need anything in return! Take a genuine interest in other people and these things will come back around in ways that surprise you.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
I always thought the best designers get great clients because they do great work, but I’ve learned it’s the other way around — designers do great work because they have great clients. Finding the right people to work with is so important.
Another thing: It is totally OK if your idea of success does not involve making a ton of money or working sixty or eighty hours a week.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
This seems basic, but I have to get some exercise every day. Nothing clears my head like going for a run or riding my bike. It’s become so essential to my creative process that I almost consider it part of my workday: I have to go to the gym now so my brain will work later.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
Yes! Rather than repeating the advice many others have offered — you already know about design, read about something else! — can I use this space to suggest five books I love that changed the way I look at the world? Here goes:
1. The Sound and the Fury  by William Faulkner
2. Walden  by Henry D. Thoreau
3. A People’s History of the United States  by Howard Zinn
4. The Omnivore’s Dilemma  by Michael Pollan
5. Behind the Beautiful Forevers  by Katherine Boo
Also, I’ve been reading the New Yorker  for years and find it essential to my education both as a human and as a designer (seriously). Every week I encounter challenging new ideas and learn something surprising about the world around me. And it has cartoons!
Christopher answered the questions on January 27, 2015.
The answers were published on January 28, 2015.