John Passafiume
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
I suffered a major repetitive strain injury amidst the first semester of senior year in college. The nerve damage to my right wrist was severe enough — rendering me unable to use a computer for the following two and a half years — I was forced to relocate to Pennsylvania for six months in order to undergo rehabilitation at a specialized clinic. When I decided to move to New York without having fully healed and subsequently hired by Louise Fili, my capacity to handle the physical demands of the workload was uncertain. I was lucky that after struggling to make it through the first several weeks the situation gradually improved, and in time I made a complete recovery. The dark side of graphic design looks a lot like an overuse clinic.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
Be thoughtless.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
The good are good simply, but the bad are bad in every sort of way.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
Be thoughtful.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
Due to the commercialized nature of the industry itself, contemporary egalitarianism, or some sort of combination of those two, scholarship within the graphic arts seems to be especially lacking. For me, aside from the excellent work of Steven Heller, Tufte, Paul Shaw, and a handful of others (mostly typographic treatises: Walter Tracy’s Letters of Credit, Robert Bringhurst’s The Elements of Typographic Style, Jan Tschichold’s The New Typography  to name a few), truly beneficial reading has come from outside of the field.
Perhaps you’ve been graced with the perfect disposition and an intellect to match. However, if you’re human, seek out a mentor or any insightful person of integrity and ask for recommendations:
Altogether best is he who himself has insight into all things,
But good in his turn is he who trusts one who speaks well.
But whoever neither himself discerns, nor, harkening to another,
Lays heart to what he says, that one for his part is a useless man.
John answered the questions on August 1, 2014.
The answers were published on August 7, 2014.