As I write this post there are two books that I’m reading on my desk; Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler and Work for Money, Design for Love by David Airey. Two books I’ve found to be extremely helpful after graduating from college as a designer. There are a few others in my Amazon shopping cart too, waiting to be ordered. I immediately made the decision to continue my education after school because, first, you can never learn too much, and two, it brings new ideas, new inspiration, and valuable information to my fingertips.

I’m not one for complacency which I think happens to a lot of people after graduation. They find a job, make some money, and stop pushing themselves, stop creating new material, and stop learning. Now, when I say learning, I’m not talking about learning from work experiences because that’s a given; I’m referring to an individual actively seeking and pursuing more knowledge and information about their passion. I’m talking about their hunger for more. I think this is an important topic because educating yourself does so much for you, your colleagues, and the industry of your passion.

By continuing to educate yourself, you do several things:

You show people, friends, and potential clients that you know what you are talking about.

This is extremely important because this is both how you get paid, and how you create new work. Being knowledgeable in your field and sharing your knowledge, shows people that you’re passionate and that you’ve got a good head on your shoulders to do great things. 

You make sure that your fire is still burning.

By actively seeking to absorb new information, you’re ensuring that your brain continues to work. It’s like Newton’s First Law: An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force (i.e. laziness). Keep your brain in motion.

You stay inspired. 

Discovering new ways to create and seeing how other professional are staying successful, can push and inspire you to create success for yourself. However you define it.

You set yourself apart.

There are people who are so in love with their passion, they gobble up any piece of it they can, and there are those who are satisfied with where they are and what they know (or think they know). By adding more tools to your toolbox, more ammunition to your arsenal; your abilities become more diverse, and your jobs become more diverse.

You stay current in your craft.

Every year new technology and applications become available, allowing things to be done more efficiently and accurately. It is your profession, and so you must learn new tools and stay knowledgable so that you may compete with others in your field.

You can help others.

There’s no feeling more rewarding than that of helping someone else. By being knowledgeable, you have the opportunity to be an expert in your field. One that can be a source of guidance to others. Now, being helpful can also help you, though this isn’t why you should do it. It can lead to new clients, new possibilities of collaboration, and you can make some great friends in the process.

It’s quite an adventure discovering new things about your passion. Also, it’s never been easier to access information than it is today. You can read free things online, watch videos, subscribe to newsletters via your smart phone, purchase books and read them entirely on your tablet, and if you enjoy the texture and experience you get from a paperback book, you can easily order those right to your doorstep. So I say if you’ve been itching to learn something new, go for it.

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Victor Davila is a freelance designer and illustrator from the central Florida area, as well as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Central Florida. He’s worked on everything from character designs for film and animation, to editorial illustrations, interactive games, and children’s books. Victor is a member of the central Florida illustrator collective and Giant Illustrators. He’s also on the board of AIGA Orlando and on the Creative Mornings Orlando team. Some of his clients include Scholastic Book Fairs, The Orlando Sentinel, General Mills, Coors, and Dreamworks. You can find more of his work at victordavila.com

RF – Can you describe your path to becoming a designer / illustrator?

VD – It’s been a life long kinda thing actually. I’ve been drawing since I was in kindergarden. It’s something I’ve always done and I knew at some point I’d be an artist of some sort. Initially I wanted to be a comic book illustrator, then I wanted to be some sort of Disney animator or something along those lines, but illustration has always been in ‘the plan’. The graphic designer part wasn’t anything I consciously intended to do, at least initially. To tell you the truth, my grades weren’t good enough to get into the film program, and back in the day the animation track was part of the film program at UCF. And because I screwed around in my early years, my overall grades weren’t good enough, and I quickly tried to come up with a plan B and that was graphic design. It worked out beautifully because two teachers, David Haxton and Chuck Abraham had just started teaching and Chuck actually became My mentor, and still is to this day. David was really pushing 3d animation (back then we were running old versions of maya), so I was able to actually take animation courses even though I was a graphic design major. But I really fell in love with typography and problem solving in graphic design, which is something that I always gravitated towards, even in my comics. It was happening at a sub-conscious level but it wasn’t something I had thought about doing until I started to get my hands into it. I realized I could have my cake and eat it too. So it all kind of worked out. That was kind of a long winded answer huh?

Inspiration

RF – Not at all! That’s awesome. Would you say you made a conscious decision to move away from animation when you found this love of illustration and design?

VD – When I finally worked in animation (which was only for a short time), I got to work on something for the Moser Brothers. I worked on a pilot that never aired (at least my version didn’t), but I realized I didn’t enjoy drawing the same thing over and over like animation requires you to. It just became tedious drawing of movement. There are people who are naturals at this, and I had a lot of good friends who were naturals but I never could really enjoy drawing the same thing over and over again. I realized what I preferred to do was use my illustration and design skills to present an idea. Whether is was a story in a comic strip, or illustrating a book cover, or something like that. I just liked promoting an idea with my work.

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RF – What do you enjoy most about design?

VD – One of my favorite things about design, or just creating in general, is the process. I love the process of creating. Even if I haven’t figured out the solution just yet, one of my favorite things is trying to figure out that solution—creating the sketches, fine tuning the idea, creating the logos, making the layouts, binding the books, seeing things printed. The whole process of getting something made, of creating, never gets old and is always amazing.

RF – What’s something you wish you knew before becoming a design professional?

VD – I think one thing that most designer’s graduate wishing they knew more about is the business side. I don’t think we realize how unprepared we are until we actually have to go face to face with a client, or have to do taxes for the first time, or how have to write a contract, or even how to quote a client. Those are things I wish I knew more of before becoming a designer, or at least a freelance designer. Also, If I could go back and talk to my student self, I’d also tell myself to have more confidence in my work. I think some people have it earlier than others. When you’re in school with your classmates, I think that you have all of these questions and you think they (your classmates) may have the answers to them, like they know something you don’t. But you realize that they are also looking to you for answers, your two cents, or your point of view. So you have to have confidence to give your point of view, especially if it’s someone going to hire you.

RF – How do you keep ideas fresh or how do you find inspiration?

VD – I think like a lot of people I try to keep up to date with trends, blogs, and just visit major design sites such under consideration to see what other people are doing. That can be dangerous though because you see a lot of great work and some people get discouraged by this and think they can’t compete. At the  same time, by doing that, you can sometimes be over influenced by what other people do and I want to make sure that the voice in my artwork is mine. Another key way I keep myself fresh and inspired is by surrounding myself with people I admire and who are doing good work. These are also the people who give me honest feedback on the work I am doing. I look at their work as well and do the same. Guys like Brian Boesch or Clark Orr who are great illustrators and designers (as much as it pains me to say) and I pass my work by them just to get honest feedback. By immersing myself in this community of great people it’s really inspiring, but also it’s a bit of a competition. Healthy competition, of course helps you step up your game. Kinda get’s the fire going.

RF – What’s a pet-peeve you have with design?

VD – A lack of attention to detail. It can be forgetting an apostrophe or forgetting to kern. I think when I see a mistake that’s what I tend to focus on. It takes away from work that has the potential to be good.

RF – Are you satisfied creatively?

VD – Someone asked me that recently and I put it like this: When you’re hungry and you eat, you’ve satisfied that hunger and that means you no longer need to eat. So to that point, I’m not full yet. I feel once you get satisfied with something, you’re done. You stop eating. I’m happy to keep creating and I don’t think I’ll ever be satisfied. There’s designers and illustrators still putting out work like Milton Glasier. I still have an appetite.

RF – Do you have any goals you wish to accomplish in the next 5 – 10 years?

VD – Something my wife and I have always discussed is starting a line of products with my illustrations on them. So I think I’d like to have that launched in the next five years. Like a self sustaining business that can help fuel my work. I also really enjoy illustrating characters and I have lots of ideas in my head that are character based, so I’d like to have a couple books out within the next 5 to 10 years. If everything works out, i’ll have my first book out soon.

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RF – What’s something you think every designer should know?

VD – There was an artist from the 70s named Ralph Bakshi, who created one of the first x-rated cartoons and animated movies, and in a talk a few years ago he said that when he was doing these films, they had to find money, find film, find people to expose the film, and they really put themselves out there but they did it. And now, with all this technology at our fingertips, there’s NO excuse not to put yourself out there if you really have the passion for it. As artists and designers we have this tendency to be introverted and maybe too tough on ourselves, but I think  we need to realize that there are things out there to help put our ideas and our work out for everyone to see. If you’re serious about this, then you have to make it a point to get your work in front of people. Whatever way that is. On walls or on the web. Otherwise, you’ll only be working for yourself and the only person who will be able to enjoy your work is you.

RF – What kind of music do you listen to when designing?

VD – Honestly I listen to pandora a lot. For the most part I listen to a lot of soundtracks for movie, like John Williams who did the music for Star Wars and Indiana Jones. They’re not too distracting and they pump me up to draw. There’s nothing quite like drawing and suddenly the Star Wars theme comes on.  A lot of Beatles for me as well. Especially the later Beatles. I think the reason why is it makes me feel a bit melancholy? Like, I know what’s going to happen to them and the fact that they didn’t really do anything after Abbey Road kind of bums me out. It makes me feel like I want to pick up where they left off. It’s kind of a funny in a way.

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Curiosity. It’s driven me to create this new design oriented blog. I am an ambitious and adventurous Designer, currently residing in the beautiful city of St. Louis. On the topic of curiosity, I have to say this; it is necessary for anyone looking to find or pursuing their passion. From my experience, curiosity has lead me to fun and interesting situations, amazing conversations, and wondrous discoveries, in life and the design world. I decided to make this the first topic of my blog because I would not be here blogging if curiosity didn’t lead me here, and as a Designer, curiosity has led me to where I am today.

I work as an Art Director (which is just a fancy term for Designer in my opinion) in St. Louis for a pretty dope advertising agency where I design for large companies (such as SunTrust and UPS) and make a pretty decent salary having just graduated from college a few months ago. I am extremely grateful in procuring such a position. And of course I am still freelancing. I relocated from Orlando, Florida (insert raised eyebrows and “why the hell would you move from sunny, vacation spot Florida?” question here) to fulfill this position less than a month after graduation. A big and hard decision it was to move away from family and friends. Nonetheless, it was curiosity that led me here.

What can I learn?
How can I grow?
Will it help me improve?

Is this the right thing to do?

These are just a few of the plethora of questions that ran through my mind. I’ve let curiosity drive a lot of decisions in my life and this time is was no different.

Curiosity is how I discovered my passion about design. There’s a strong military presence in my family that has had a huge impact on my life and what steered me to design. Mother, father, aunts, uncles, grandfather, and so far two of my cousins. All in the military at some point, minus one of my aunts who’s a rebel and a nurse. It was this deep tradition that ran through my family that fueled my curiosity about the military. I almost decided to attend the Naval Academy, but instead I joined the Air Force ROTC at the University of Central Florida for a year. An interesting path going from cadet to Designer, but curiosity led me there and taught me that it wasn’t what I wanted to do with my life, and that the military didn’t align with my beliefs and values. The thing about curiosity is that you never know where it can lead you or what it will teach you.

To me, when I begin a design, I find myself trying to rekindle that curiosity that everyone has when they were a kid. The kind of curiosity that teaches you things, inspires you, helps you develop, and leads you to somewhere you’ve never been. Physically, mentally, or emotionally. Everything is so new to children so they can’t help being curious but once they grow and learn, unfortunately, slowly this curiosity dissipates.

Don’t let it happen.

Let everything feel new and fresh. Make mistakes, take notes,  follow your curiosities, and let them flourish. It’s this feeling that drives me and many others as Designers. Approaching a client with an open mind and curious interest in their needs can lead to some pretty interesting things and usually provides a path to the best solution for said client. I often find myself smelling trees and looking towards the stars, or if I find something interesting, i’ll take a picture of it, write it down, record it, research it and see where the research takes me, or just keep it stored in that thing we call a brain. Then I’ll use these things as inspiration for my designs. I apply this curiosity to both my clients and myself as much as possible.

Curiosity is something we all have. We were born with it. Hopefully my journey through this curious thing known as Blogging will help spark discussions where we can explore new design curiosities together. I’ll be conducting interviews with other Designers, Illustrators, and Creatives as well to seek out what they’ve learned and gain insight which I will share with you. Expect interviews once or twice a month (starting next week) and you can expect some sort of post once a week. I’m excited for this adventure and hopefully you are too. Please feel free to comment and subscribe below. Stay curious.