1. SWEAT THE DETAILS
You are a professional communicator; act like one. Carefully edit everything you publish: résumés, social media, e-mail, blog posts, letters, text messages, everything. Get a copy of “The Chicago Manual of Style” and keep it handy. Most potential employers and clients don’t appreciate text shorthand, so don’t use it. They won’t be ROTFL, and you will end up SOL.
2. PLAY NICE
People you work with and for will make your blood boil from time to time. Whenever possible, be a pro and take the high road. Avoid burning bridges, as people change jobs more often than they did a generation ago. Your paths may cross again in a much different situation, and having a good working history together will make rehiring you easy. Apply this to your online persona as well. Anonymous jabs are petty—be better than that.
3. DON’T FEAR TYPE; BECOME ITS MASTER
Often, being a good typographer means not making the simple mistakes. To accomplish this, you’ll need a working knowledge of classical typography. Go get one. “The Elements of Typographic Style” by Robert Bringhurst, “Thinking With Type” by Ellen Lupton and “Grid Systems in Graphic Design” by Josef Müller-Brockmann are cover-to-cover must-reads. Repeat after me: “Free fonts from the internet are crap, I will not use them.” Keep saying that.
4. DEFINE YOUR AUDIENCE
Who are you speaking to and what is the objective? If you can’t definitively answer both of these questions about a project you’re about to start working on, go back to the drawing board. Graphic design is simply a plan that visually articulates a message. Make sure you have the message and its intended viewer sorted out before you start making. Communicate with purpose—don’t just make eye candy.
5. BE YOURSELF
Be confident in yourself as an author, designer, photographer, creative. Don’t work in a particular personal style. Rather, develop a personal approach to your creative work.
Your commissioned work should never be about you, but it can certainly reveal your hand as the designer. As your work becomes more well-known, you will get hired for exactly that. For your personal work, don’t be afraid to tell your story. No one else is going to do it for you.