Young Creatives

Young Creatives

As we approach the publicized move of The Art Institute of Pittsburgh from the location I grew familiar with, as I attended (good ole’ 420 Blvd. of the Allies), some reflection is bound to happen.  It’s crazy to think that my association of AIP is so strongly tied to that building.  I can remember having some amount of ease that at least my dad knew where to direct me for the small details like parking and maybe where to grab a bite to eat that was close enough for me not to miss class.  He was familiar with the location as his company was in the building before AIP moved in.  Since then one of my favorite lunch destinations (a solid pizza shop with a great deal for many ‘starving’ artists) has changed ownership and names, and the Pittsburgh Penguins only had two cups!

While a senior going through the rigors of working full time, going to school full time, stressing over my portfolio, factoring some time with friends and family, as well as the trappings of being a 22 year old trying to sort out the whole ‘adult thing’ – I often wished I had the opportunity to have my work reviewed by professionals that weren’t my teachers.

The bright-eyed 22-year-old Josh at graduation.
The bright-eyed 22-year-old Josh at graduation.

For a while now, I’ve been given the very excellent opportunity to give back to my alma mater, by participating in mock interview sessions.  These mock interviews are pretty rapid in succession and they are intended to be fairly quick (20 minutes max).  In my experience, if an interview is less than a half-hour… then something has gone horribly wrong!  The industry has changed fairly rapidly since my foray into it some 11+ years ago.  Access to online portfolios and the ability to submit resumes, along with sample sheets, links, and an always recommended cover letter, has become more commonplace.

Let’s get real here, interviewing is weird!  From an employer standpoint: there is a need that they are looking to fill.  From a prospective employee standpoint, it’s the desire to be good enough to not be ignored… and then hired.  Today, if you are asked in to interview for a possible opening, or contracting position, the actual work in your portfolio piqued interest enough to pass step one.  Someone liked your art, and that’s good!  After that, it’s about the fit with the organization, personality, and of course the financial end of things.

If you are asked in to interview for a possible opening, […] your portfolio piqued interest enough to pass step one.  Someone liked your art, and that’s good!

Here are some tips that I’ve often told applicants the potentially help them through this process:

  • Say something that will make you stand out/memorable (One applicant had “Crane Operator” as a skill within their resume, that showed some personality, humor, and even a touch of creativity).
  • Avoid listing something you are not an expert on as a skill or be specific as to competency.
    This has been a Pet peeve of mine on resumes. If a “skill” on a resume, the expectation would be for the employee to be able to complete the associated tasks. In recent years, there has been a trend of seeing ‘proficiency statistics’ in the form of infographics on resumes. Sometimes something like this can be helpful!
  • Learn to work with a budget. Money affects business decisions. A great piece can be limited color and save costs to a client. If you are effective within a budget you will gain trust from a client.
  • Time management – working under pressure is part of the job.
  • Estimating – how long do you think it takes you to do a task? Time yourself to see if you are correct.
    Try to remember additional costs that may factor in (a subscription service for a tool, for example).
  • Speak “business” and/or “reason” to clients.
    Most clients don’t get aesthetic and have to have a reason to not be attached to personal preference. For example, using black on dark green is going to be really hard to read – if someone can’t read they can’t click to buy the product!
    This goes back to the old “Know your audience” point. The client is a factor in that. They need to be pitched and accept where you are trending.

Thanks for taking the trip down memory lane with me, and I hope some of these pointers make a difference to those looking to break into this very strange, but very awesome field of work!


Joshua Schmitt

Joshua is an award winning graphic designer, who has been working in the field for the past 14+ years. As a part of 4CDesignWorks, he operates as the Senior Graphic Designer and has experience in web, print, user interface (UI) design, layout, illustration (digital and traditional), corporate identity, as well as branding areas of design. In his free time he hangs out with his family (wife, daughter, son, and dog), wears flannels, avoids hair-cuts and reads comic books.

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