Jillian Adel
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
I fell into a design major at school because I thought I wanted to be a music photojournalist and had to take an introductory design class in order to do so. I had an amazing professor who saw how much I enjoyed it (even though I was god-awful) and encouraged me to take it on as a major. Beyond him, my design education was pretty lacking and I had no idea what it meant to even be a professional designer, so I really graduated completely unprepared to function in the industry. I literally learned everything I know from self-motivated research, practice, experiences, and the kindness of friends and more established industry professionals who answered my incessant questions and critiqued my work. Every mistake you could possibly make at the beginning of a design career, I made. That’s how I learned.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
Have a horrible attitude. Refuse to try anything new, close your mind, ignore all advice given to you by more established professionals, and definitely ignore your gut completely. Don’t do any projects in your spare time that call to you in order to get exposure and experience. Finally—and most importantly—be a dick & never shower.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
Expanding on Question #1, I wish I knew that I wasn’t alone in being completely clueless at the start. I wish I had known that it was completely appropriate for me to know virtually nothing upon graduating and that the thing that really mattered & would essentially get me from where I was to where I wanted to go (Where is that? Still not sure.) was my passion, desire, drive, and taste level. My boss at my first full time job, which happened about 2 years after graduation, was the first to educate me of such things. Anytime I’d beat myself up about hating something I made, she’d reassure me that I had good taste and as long as I kept going, I’d be fine.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
I am always honest & direct with myself and others around me. If you choose to give someone the run-around full of niceties, you leave the door open for them to take a completely inaccurate message from the conversation than you intended... and nobody benefits from that.

I’ve also learned that I have to fight for my time away from work. Taking care of the things in your life that matter, be it family, friends, exercise, meditation, things that make you happy, are vitally important to make your time with your work exponentially more lush. And no one will fight that battle for you. It’s your responsibility.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
Most of my reading involves food magazines & random essays, and the majority of my book collection is typography that I use for specimen reference. All of the Louise Fili & Stephen Heller books are great, but I’m also currently really into the sign painting zines by Colt Bowden.

I did read Design Is a Job  by Mike Monteiro of the A Book Apart series when it came out. That and anything Monteiro wrote on the Mule Design blog really helped me understand and feel the responsibility of taking charge of my role as a designer early on in my career, both in regards to a client-designer relationship and in regards to the communities I was a part of (local, domestic & international).
Jillian answered the questions on July 30, 2014.
The answers were published on August 5, 2014.