Meeting Lizzethe Barcenas and Connie Birdsall
Just a month ago, I attended the National Student Show and Conference in Dallas, TX, and boy, did I get a huge slice of humble pie. I encountered so many talented students who knew their profession and flaunted it. There was so much I didn't know about the design world! For instance, graphic design majors took classes on layout, typography, packaging, etc. whereas I only minored in Art and took 3 general graphic design classes. They were also required to have training in drawing which I totally lacked, BUT I'm taking a drawing class next semester so look out world!
Anyways, throughout the conference, I kinda felt nauseous. I knew I loved graphic design, but I seriously lacked the training. How the heck am I suppose to compete with people who have spent years developing their skills whereas I just started a year ago. During the portfolio reviews, I met Lizzethe Barcenas, a student from University of Texas at Arlington whose portfolio was breathtaking. You can see what I mean here. Feeling totally underprepared (I lacked a physical portfolio and only brought my laptop to share my online portfolio, can ya say n00b?), I blurted out "I'm not a graphic design major and I really just want advice on how to make my portfolio better because I kinda have no idea what I'm doing" or something along those lines. Sweet Liz assured me that with time and practice, I'd get there for sure. But I felt like I had zero time and that I lacked talent and creativity.
That is until Connie Birdsall gave the final keynote. Birdsall began her career in design after giving up her dream to be a ballerina and bounced around from potential job paths. She actually transferred school every year for her undergrad and it didn't hit her until she took a summer typography class at the Kansas City Art Institute. She fell in love with the world of graphic design ever since. After working for a bit, she felt she needed to attend grad school to further her training and went to Cranbrook Academy of Art for her M.F.A. Eventually, Birdsall began working at Lippincott and earned her position as Creative Director. Her projects include Starbucks, Delta Airlines, and Samsung. Basically, this woman is my spirit animal. You can check out her super snazzy Lippincott profile here.
After her talk, I spoke with Birdsall to share that I'm currently a Management Information Systems major and wanting to be a graphic designer. I also lamented that "I don't have the same foundation as the other students here and I have no idea what I'm doing" or something along those lines. She smiled and gently laughed, "So you're like me."
Throughout this entire conference and most of the year, I felt like I was behind, that I was failing. But this absolutely amazing woman was like me. She didn't really know what she was doing at first, but she found something that she loved and pursued it. Birdsall told me that people expect to be the best in such a short amount of time that it puts an unrealistic burden upon our shoulders. And while not everyone needs it, people like her, like me, need grad school to really learn the craft. I thanked her for her talk, it really helped me, and left knowing I was not alone.
Today, I have a better sense of what I must do to move forward. This summer, I'll be interning with Zappos.com as their Visual Design Intern for the 6pm.com Team, and I'm making a promise to myself to learn everything that I can from them. The world of design is large and I need to know where I belong in it. So before I go to grad school, I want to experiment, I want to find my style, and I want to absolutely love who I am as an artist. This summer, I'm going to find my voice.