Words of Wisdom from Women in Design

It’s International Women’s Day (March 8th, 2021), and we are taking the time to welcome new women designers into our community. In the spirit of supporting one another, we brought together a handful of amazing women to share some advice and words of encouragement as you embark upon your design journey.

Laura Coe Wright, Advisory Board Member, AIGA SD
Professional | 35 years of experience, Founder and Owner of local design firm

Stephanie Elliott, Vice President, AIGA SD
Professional | 11 years of experience, In-house Creative and Freelancer

Kamille Franchomme, Design for Good Co-Director (Women Lead), AIGA SD
Professional | 15 years of experience, Managing Studio Partner and In-house Creative

Trisha Swindell, Programming Director, AIGA SD
Professional | 8 years of experience, In-house Creative

Sonia Lopez, Email Marketing Director, AIGA SD
Professional | 20 years of experience, In-house Creative

Archana Verma
Professional | 10 years of experience (7 years in textile design / 3 years in graphic design), In-house Creative

Parker Anne Poole
Emerging In-house Creative; graduated in 2020

Sarah Minarik
Student at San Diego City College

Tess Land
Student at San Diego State University and Part-time Designer; graduating in 2021

1. What is one piece of advice you wish you knew before you started down the design career path?

Laura: I wish I knew more about the various design career options available, but really in 1980, there were fewer creative paths for a graphic designer. Today, you can sort through the many directions and find your niche for your individual strengths.

Stephanie: I wish I knew how people-oriented a career in design is (and that this is where the magic is, not only on your screen). Whether interacting with clients, team members, printers or other vendors, there are so many opportunities to meet and collaborate with others. Also, I wish I knew from the start how many people are willing to lend their support. They’re quick to offer tips on a project, where to find resources, mentorship, and more—you need only to reach out and ask!

Kamille: Have the courage to speak up, even if you’re the only person in the room who is willing to share an idea/thought/opinion. Creativity grows! Your idea could ignite something in someone else, which could lead to new connections and new opportunities.

Trisha: I wish I didn’t hold myself back because of doubts that I didn’t have enough experience or skill to do a job. So many men will apply to a job where they aren’t fully qualified and still get that job. Meanwhile, women often refuse to fight for a job or a promotion until they can do it 100%. But every job involves learning as you go. Don’t hold yourself back!

Sonia: Design is everything, not just graphic design.

Archana: You have to be practically perfect, not ideally perfect, because of the constraints in a real-life work environment.

Parker Anne: Don’t try to be a perfectionist; be open and ready to fail because that’s how you get better.

Sarah: Enjoy learning and look for inspiration everywhere. I started off thinking that everything I made needed to be totally original, but I quickly realized 1) That this standard sets an ultra-high bar and 2) It takes years of practice to even get close to it. Instead, I’ve shifted my focus from the perfect final outcome to honing in on how I get there with curiosity, persistence and grace.

Tess: One thing they don’t teach you in design school is to seek out art and design that inspires you and how to do it. I saw the quality of my own design work blossom when I began to actively seek out design, typography, color palettes, etc. that made me think, “Hey, I want to make something awesome like that!”

International Women's Day - Advice from Women Designers - Vamos Muchachas

2. Share some words of encouragement for a designer in need of a good pep talk.

Laura: There are so many talented designers, writers and creatives. Do not be afraid of them, but rather collaborate and encourage each other and you will be amazed at the creativity it breeds.

Stephanie: If you ever look at a new project or blank canvas as daunting and nerve-wracking, instead think positively about all the incredible things you have the possibility of designing. How exciting is it that you, as a designer, get to create something out of nothing? To develop a solution for a problem? To create visual hierarchy where there is disarray? Or whatever your goal may be… Design allows you to figure out how to achieve your goals through your direction of type and form, and that’s pretty amazing.

Kamille: As designers, we go through periods of ups and downs. It’s normal. So take a breath and then take a break. Stepping away to get a bit of clarity does wonders. Enjoying some coffee, wine or chocolate during your break isn’t bad either. 😉

Trisha: You will have times where you don’t feel creative. That’s normal. Creativity is a muscle and it can get tired too. Treat the moments of feeling stuck as opportunities to breathe and take in other peoples creations during this time. You will feel the spark come back soon.

Sonia: Don’t be afraid. Even “famous” designers had to start from somewhere. Quiet that voice inside your head and press on.

Archana: Trust yourself and worry less about others’ success—Be a learner and give yourself time to hone your skills. The best way to learn is to do the work.

The second most important piece of encouragement I can share with everyone is to learn the business side of design—know the marketing and finance side of design. It will surely help you achieve success in your design career.

Parker Anne: Always have a passion project on the side, it keeps things personal, exciting and helps you continue learning.

Sarah: Learn to laugh at yourself. We learn from success, but mostly from some form of failure. So witness the imperfection and do it anyway.

Tess: Always keep creating. You will make mistakes, you will make ‘ugly’ work. It’s okay! Because every time you make something, you’re becoming a better designer! Never feel like you’ll never get better or never be good enough – because that will stop you from creating and stop you from progressing!! Also, make sure you’re making things for JUST YOU. Whether it’s sketching or making memes in Photoshop, personal projects help to refuel your creative tank and cause you to make stellar work.

International Women's Day - Advice from Women Designers

By AIGA San Diego Tijuana
Published March 8, 2021