Jon Contino
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
Starting out as young as I did gave me a weird outlook on what the real world of professional design was all about. I didn’t take any major internships or work in huge studios. I was freelancing since I was 14 years old and that’s the only world I knew. The hardest part was breaking all my oddball habits I developed as a young designer in order to fit into the high-intensity environment of an effective work schedule. Designing because you love it is one thing, but designing because you love it AND because it’s your source of income is something entirely different. You really need to evaluate your priorities and see how far you’re willing to bend.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
Being obnoxious, cocky, arrogant, unwilling to listen to those who are trying to help... basically being immature or disrespectful in any way. I’ll take a designer with 10% of the talent and skill over a jerk any day of the week. If you find yourself in that position, grow up. There’s no room for a bad attitude in this field. It’s competitive enough and there are a lot of people who work really hard to maintain a career in the creative industry, so if you come into a work environment with that type of personality, it’s not only going to hurt relationships, but the quality of everyone’s work.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
Anything I wish I knew in the beginning, I learned by making mistakes. Looking back, I feel like I would’ve said, “Man, I wish I knew about this!” But in reality, making the mistake and learning from it was the best lesson of all. You can read and listen to advice as much as you want, but getting screwed out of hard-earned money or making a mistake on a big project will never be something you forget.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
The best thing to remember is that when all is said and done, you’re doing this job for you. It’s a creative field, so be creative. If you’re just trying to make people happy, you’ll struggle, you’ll be unhappy, and eventually you’ll be working at a snail’s pace because you hate your job and your life. Go crazy, have fun, and appreciate the fact that you’re getting to use your brain every day.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
I generally think this is always a tough question to answer. Different things resonate with different people. Your best bet is to find a bookstore, go to the design section, and look at every single one of them and grab a few to buy. Do that once every couple weeks or months if you can and you’ll notice a trend of what type of books you find useful or inspirational. You’ll probably notice that the books that help the most are the ones that make you going into different sections of the bookstore. The stuff that’s most helpful usually isn’t on the design shelf, but the only way to find out is by going through it all and figuring it out yourself.
Jon answered the questions on September 9, 2014.
The answers were published on September 19, 2014.