Josh Smith
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
I was more prepared for the work  part of design than the work environment  part. Design studios look like normal offices, but are rarely normal. Sometimes amazing creative talents aren’t the most professional people. Work hours can be unpredictable. Understanding other roles in our discipline (strategists, creative directors, project managers) can take time. It surprised me to learn that designers are sometimes regarded as the lowest rung in design-centered agencies. Some of these elements I now appreciate as part of the creative environment, while others I continue to work against. Regardless, these quirks took time to work through and understand completely.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
Be fake
“Be nice, be polite, show your best work”… etc. are practical tips, but when you’re interviewing, know that your work has already passed the test. You are there for other reasons: usually to gauge your personality and work ethic. So don’t be fake. Being overly ‘positive’ or ‘upbeat’ makes it hard to be real. I’ve worked with some sassy, grumpy (and hilarious) designers who I would never change. Be your own interesting self. It’s better to be fascinating than polite.
Be lazy
Interviewers look for hidden cues that you work hard. Did you expand something beyond the brief to make it more amazing? Any anecdotes that reveal extra effort are worth bringing up in conversation.
Not care
Designers are sensitive. They work hard. They are proud. It’s insulting if you show up and have no idea who they are and what they do. Figure that out before you ask for a job.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
First jobs matter
Designers are forever branded with their first few jobs (or projects). Carefully seek those out instead of answering random job postings.
The internet lies
The web champions a certain kind of design. It can trick you into thinking that specific styles are the best, most highly prized examples of design. Usually they are not. Web popularity and ‘real-life’ popularity are different. This fact is as true in design as it is most everywhere else.
Designers are accessible
If you like someone’s work, just email them or say hello. It could make a big difference.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
Own the projects
My projects are actually… my projects. If I’m ever stuck or unmotivated, it helps to momentarily reset and imagine them as passion projects: with no clients, no people to please. Just a problem to solve.
Learn things
I love the weird things I learn every day. Each client, workplace, every new bit of work, teaches me something that I could never have expected. Even if the assignment isn’t terribly exciting, the journey can be pretty magical.
Have a purpose
I try to have a vague goal that spans a few months ahead. Something like “I want to get better at X” or “I want more projects like Y”.  It helps me to frame my work and look beyond those tiny details that are easy to focus on in the moment.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
The Shape of Design  by Frank Chimero. Whimsical and reads like literature. It is unexpected and unlike any design book you’ll ever have the pleasure of reading.
Design is a Job  by Mike Montero. Funny, blunt and filled with information that every designer should know. This book changed the way I see certain things, forever. Particularly his insight about framing design work as the actual ‘work’ we do (those hours that typically remains unseen) instead of referring to the outcomes  of those hours as the work  itself.
Josh answered the questions on October 14, 2014.
The answers were published on October 16, 2014.