Recently I attended a state-wide portfolio review for graduating college seniors, and while I appreciated the opportunity help the future generation of design professionals, I left wondering if we have lost something in recent years. It might be the proliferation of technology, or perhaps the times we live, but I could not help but notice a change in both attitudes and more importantly the work being produced.
To be clear, I met with some very bright students who showed great promise – but for the most part, their work failed to embrace the modern trends in our industry and culture, and more importantly, the creative spirit that students normally display. Basically, I wasn’t wowed. So, what’s the deal?
I know the next part of this will sound like and old dad who tells his kids how they don’t know how good they have it – followed by the story of how I walked to school in the snow, uphill, both ways. Never the less, when I went to school, we were challenged every day – learning that through quantity comes quality. Whether being assigned 300 logos on the first day of class, or hand lettering entire paragraphs of copy with a rapidograph pen, we learned quickly that hard work was the key to success. Our often hated and sometimes loved instructor, Mr. Dutch Kepler – or simply, Dutch, gave these assignments to us, which at the time seemed pointless.
Dutch and I had many battles during my senior year, which on several occasions had him politely asking me to leave his class for the day. I say politely, but it was probably more like, “Russo, get the hell out of my sight.” I like to think there was always a lesson buried beneath his rants. Perhaps he was teaching me to be passionate about my work, or perhaps he expected more. Either way, it forced me to decide whether I was ready for this profession. This meant long hours, sleepless nights, and a commitment to dig deep in the pursuit of excellence – no computers and no fancy photoshop filters, just the eternal search for the best idea.
Unfortunately, these same principles seem to have been lost in recent years. I see it every day – recent graduates with poorly put together books, resumes with typos, and expectations of a corner office and the keys to a ready-made career. Few seem to understand the process of learning the trade, or the responsibility that comes when someone entrusts you with the future of their business.
So, I would like to challenge those still in pursuit of a career in advertising or design, to raise the bar a bit, and get serious about what lies ahead. I would like to also thank Dutch for that 300 logos project on the first day of class. It made me realize that we have to believe we can do the impossible in order for us to make the impossible happen.
Michael J. Russo
The Russo Group