Michael Jeter
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
Keeping my work simple and my life balanced. That was at the heart of all of my difficulties (and probably still is). I would receive a small budget project and treat it like time and money was not even a part of the equation. I’d kill myself to do as much as possible because I wanted people to see that I had a vision and I wasn’t afraid to work. I didn’t understand the value of constraint, nor did I respect that beauty of simplification. It’s so much more impressive that you can make something that works in little to no time than it is if you had months and months to overwork something.
It’s also important that this concept carries over to the simplification of the entire process of being an artist. I find now that I get much more out of my work on days that I allow my self time to meditate and go surfing (yes, California has me by the balls). This doesn’t mean that I’m necessarily working less, it just means that I’m not ONLY working. I really wish I would have understood the power of a simple and balanced work life much earlier.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
First off, be a huge asshole. You know everything and you should let everyone know that your opinion is rock solid and unwavering. Second, never figure out anything for yourself. Just sit around until someone tells you what you should do and how you should do it. I’ve worked with my share of people who aren’t self-motivated and it was awful. But then again, those people still have jobs. It’s a weird world out there folks. My last bit of advice for never getting hired is to never try anything new or different. Be scared and alone and do the same shit over and over. Writing this just made me feel a little sad. Writing in the negative is a weird exercise when all you want for people is to live their dreams and create new and wonderful work. Life is already so damn hard, just work hard and make sure that you are following the path that makes the most sense for what you want out of this short life. When it’s over you don’t want to have wished you were a cat wrangler instead of a UI designers. Also, if you fart in an interview you probably won’t get hired.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
I hate the word I’m about to use. We need to invent a better one. Networking. There is an art to networking in a way that isn’t soul sucking, and it took me a while to figure that out. I never really related to the design scene in SF. It was so up its own ass, and I just didn’t agree with the prevailing views about design. I stopped hanging out with designers, and viewed networking as a terrible necessity for getting paid. It made everything I did so much harder. It took me a while to realize that it was possible to network in way that was not that much different than just making friends. It also helped that Twitter emerged as this tool that all designers adopted as a means of connection with one another. These days I’m friends with many a designer and the best work I’ve done has been in collaboration with them. It’s enriched my lively greatly. The very people that I keep close to make my life better are the same people that make me better at what I do. That being said, don’t only hang out with designers. We are insufferable in large groups.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
Rules? As an artist it’s important to not have too many rules. It limits you. Rules kill creativity and ruins the fact that I get to do whatever the fuck I want any day because I work for myself. The man gives you rules so that it can use you to make money. The fastest path to hating your life is doing something because you think you have to in order to make money.
That being said, I don’t get to just be an artist, I have to be a business owner as well. That part has a shit ton of rules. The one big rule I try hard to follow is be very clear with communicating your process with new clients. There is no worse efficiency killer than getting half way through a project and the client didn’t realize that it was half way and thought they still had plenty of time to completely change their mind about everything. God, that’s the worst.
Also, get as close as you can to the person who makes the decisions. If you are talking to a person that then communicates your ideas to their boss or their client, you’re screwed. The more control you have over the process, the more you can meet the needs of the client. I pride myself in being able to read the client’s needs and making them happy. I do everything I can to keep them involved and see why certain decisions were made. The only time projects have gone awry is when I put in the work to bring the client along and then they have to report to “the stakeholders”.  At that point it’s just a roll of the dice. I think psychologically it also helps to have a relationship when decisions are being made. If the person making decisions doesn’t know you then how can they trust that you know what the fuck you are talking about?
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
No, not really. There is so much advice and info on the internet, just google some shit and you’ll be just fine. Read about people taking a bunch of drugs and having sex in the woods. Read about ancient mystics. Read about aliens. Read about fantastical shit that makes you uncomfortable because it’s so weird that if confronts your view of the world.
I love you all you fantastic weirdos.
Michael answered the questions on June 11, 2015.
The answers were published on June 12, 2015.