Tonya Douraghy
What difficulties did you face at the beginning of your career?
Any difficulties I faced early on taught me quite a lot about navigating the design world, so I’m grateful for them. I think when we’re young we have a tendency to look around and compare ourselves to other designers too much, instead of recognizing what makes our ideas distinctive and building on that. And I had to learn to let my enthusiasm show and stop trivializing what’s in my portfolio.
What should a young designer do in order not to get hired by anybody?
If you can’t talk confidently and coherently about your work, or assume that good design does not need good presentation, that’s a pretty sure path to not getting hired. Only being nice to people because you think they can be ‘useful’ in your professional advancement is another good way to not get jobs. And trying to mold your work to fit into graphic design trends will make it feel soulless.
Are there any things you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
Not so much, since the valuable knowledge I have now came through experience. A big one was learning when to say no to new work, and that it’s okay to take some time off. And that self-initiated projects can be the most valuable part of your portfolio. It helps potential clients know that you’re a human being, and can be hugely helpful in getting you the kind of jobs you aspire to. Design is mostly a very supportive small community, and sometimes the best way to know more is to offer to buy someone you admire a coffee.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
I had a teacher who always said “there are no rules in design, only proven guidelines”.  That still seems like a useful attitude. In terms of habits: immersing myself in sounds, whether it’s music or podcasts or news, helps me ignore distractions when designing. Making lists. Stepping away from the computer. Being curious.
Would you recommend some books that young designers might find useful?
About Graphic Design  by Richard Hollis, Chroma  by Derek Jarman. Lots of magazines. And anything and everything, really. The more we engage with things outside design, the better we are at this.
Tonya answered the questions on August 5, 2014.
The answers were published on August 15, 2014.