Leta Sobierajski
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
At the beginning of my career, I thought that I had everything in order and that I had landed the perfect job right out of school. Though I was doing what I loved, after a year and a half I realized that I wasn’t filling my portfolio with any work that I could truly call my own. I learned that I needed to have solid ownership over my work in order to build some kind of reputation for myself, and so I began to slowly build up my own arsenal of personal projects. I learned that I could use these projects as leverage to take on client work after hours, which would eventually help me to segue from a full-time job into a more independent practice.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
A young designer should not be lazy, should always ask questions, and should be humble. If you aren’t engaging yourself in your learning environment then you are depriving yourself of some very valuable knowledge. Learning through internships and my first jobs were where I gathered the most insight about managing time and running businesses, large and small.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
I wish that I knew how to be more patient. I always want immediate satisfaction from what I’ve done and sometimes it takes days, months, or even years of persistence to achieve what you really want. It will all come if you work hard for it but sometimes it will take longer than you expect. I am still quite guilty of being impatient.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
I make lists, reminders, and use a calendar for everything. I tend to forget a lot of things otherwise. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to keep tight restrictions on hours because I’m always all over the place when I’m working, but at least I can manage to remember everything I need to do for the day! In addition, because I work from home most of the time, I find it incredibly important to have a separation from living and working. I used to work from my bedroom, but it is very draining to work in the same room that you wake up and fall asleep in. Now I have a separate studio room devoted to that — I can spread out and not worry about spray painting my bedsheets.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design  by Michael Bierut was a book I read in college and really took to heart. I appreciated hearing the honest perspective of a seasoned designer, and was charmed by the fact that he was not only willing to write about his career but also about how it affected his family and his life. I have also had a lot of help from the Pricing and Ethical Guidelines Handbook, which is great to reference for client letters, documents, and contracts which you may adapt for your own use.
Leta answered the questions on June 2, 2014.
The answers were published on June 3, 2014.