Mikey Burton
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
There are so many tough times to make it through when you are first starting, many of which you couldn’t pay me to live through again. The biggest challenge for me though was finding my voice as a designer/illustrator. I spent the first few years emulating other designers, and it took at least 5 years of making A LOT of work till I was producing something authentic. Another difficultly is being creatively fulfilled vs making money, but I’m not sure if this problem ever goes away.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
They should think they are above all jobs that don’t exactly meet the standards of their “dream job”.  We are well beyond the time of a guaranteed job with a degree. For the majority of people, you’ll have to start at the bottom. You are not above any job, even if the only job you can get at the moment is washing dishes. Be humble, it will take you far.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
Be patient. For most, it’s going to take a long time for everything to work out. We are in an age of amazing technology right at our fingertips that lets us access any information immediately. We want everything right now and it’s causing us to become increasingly less patient. If you really want to do something worthwhile, often it takes time to achieve that goal. When I was in college I had a professor tell me it would take 8 years to become a professional illustrator. I foolishly thought “yeah right, I’ll cut that time in half”.  I recently did the math, and it did take me exactly 8 years. If you really want to be a creative, you have to work hard and be committed.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
This is from the standpoint of a freelancer who works at home. I feel like a lot of people view the life of a freelancer as a free for all; A pant-less existence, where everyday is a half day and ends with margaritas. If you are a freelancer (and in today’s job market, chances are you will be at some point), you need to treat your job like a... job. I keep the same business hours as a normal job and have the same routine everyday, the most important thing being I must have shoes on to get work done.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
I don’t really have any books to recommend, but I think it’s very important to always be consuming all types of media about every subject. As a designer, we are required to have the most random knowledge base of general information, so no subject matter is ever off topic, no matter how obscure.
That being said, here are a few of my favorite visual reference: Trademarks and Symbols  (Vols 1 and 2) by Yasaburo Kuwayama, Handbook of Pictorial Symbols  by Rudolf Modley and William R. Myers, American Wood Type, 1828–1900  by Rob Roy Kelly.
Mikey answered the questions on December 1, 2014.
The answers were published on December 9, 2014.