The day after I send out an enewsletter featuring my recent projects is always encouraging. The next morning I usually have about a dozen emails from friends and colleagues responding positively to the work I’ve shown. As a designer you never get tired of receiving affirmation in relation to the work you create, and I always appreciate when someone takes the time to respond to something I’ve done.
This last week I got an email from my former art director at the first creative agency I worked for. It was just a short, simple note complimenting my work and congratulating my success. But it meant the world to me, because as an intern at Perich + Partners in Ann Arbor, Michigan — John Pappas was the person I looked up to the most. His work was distinct, compelling and smart. Unlike many of my instructors up until that point, he was actually practicing professionally – creating relevant work for real clients. And the amazing thing about the summer I spent working there is that he gave me the time of day at all.
In between my junior and senior year in college at U of M, I was completely unqualified and totally inexperienced. But Pappas gave me a shot. As he was designing ads and annual reports and brand campaigns he went out of his way to include me. Not a man of many words – all he’d say was, “Hey Ty, I think I’ve got something for ya.” They were small tasks and I am 100% sure that nothing I did was ever seen by a client, but I approached each one like it was the most significant project I had ever worked on (which was true at that point). Looking back, I don’t even remember what the projects were, only that I was on the team. That summer I gained the priceless experience of having worked alongside talented, creative professionals. And it shaped the rest of my career.
So this weekend I am thankful. Thankful for John Pappas, and for all of the people that helped me become a designer. As much as I’d like to think that I create work as an individual, the reality is that there are hundreds of contributors to everything I will ever design. And I am thankful for each of them.
… my parents who encouraged and supported me.
… my teachers and instructors who invested in me.
… my former employers who created the space and the environments where I worked and learned.
… my co-workers and colleagues who inspired me and raised the bar on excellence.
… all of the other designers and creatives who produce inspiring work that challenges me to make mine better.
… my clients who have trusted me with their brands and given me the opportunity to collaborate and create.
… my amazing wife who tolerates the consistently-chaotic schedule of a spouse in a creative field of work.
In many ways this has been a challenging year – but it has also been one of the most incredible. In the last 12 months, I feel like I’ve done some of the best work in my career. But I never could have done it alone.