Lessons With Longevity: What I Learned From Design School

January 15, 2014 | By Mallory Box, Designer

As the youngest member of the Crush & Lovely team and a recent design school graduate, it’s sometimes hard not to feel like a gangly newborn giraffe, fumbling around on legs I’m not yet sure how to use. I’m far from home—home being Texas—but despite feeling slightly displaced, I’m enjoying the transition into studio life. And although college has ended for me, there are a few important lessons from design school that have gracefully carried over into this new chapter of my life:

Lesson 1: Success requires hard work—and lots of it.

The first and best lesson I learned in design school was to, “Shut up and just do it!” This advice was spoken to me by a non-designer friend after I complained profusely about a grueling assignment. It was the most difficult project of my undergrad career; it required hand-drawing the phrase “success equals hard work” in an excessive amount of font weights and sizes. Two years later, that assignment was deemed a form of hazing and banned from the curriculum. I was relieved for the incoming freshman until I realized how much that experience had shaped my character as a designer. Suddenly, I had a newfound gratitude for the project because it taught me that discipline is key to my success. I learned that without the ability to focus and put in more work than what seems necessary, I will never be better than I was yesterday.

Lesson 2: Work doesn’t feel like work if you’re with “family.”

The thing I miss most about design school is working with my best friends every day. Being in the company of those I love, even if it’s just sitting next to them in silence while we work, is arguably the best and healthiest way to work. I’ve found that when I work near people who I enjoy being around, I have less anxiety, more energy, and am surprisingly more productive. Coworking friends also offer an extra pair of eyes and that can be beneficial after staring at a project for way too long. In joining Crush & Lovely’s team, I was happy to find out that the people here are great friends, if not family, who spend time with each other in and outside of the office, sharing stories, knowledge, and a fondness for animated GIFs.

Lesson 3: It’s necessary to do things that make you uncomfortable.

This nugget of wisdom came to me from an alumni of my design school and has become a cornerstone of everything I do, including defining the kind of work I wanted to do upon graduating. What drew me to Crush & Lovely is their overarching commitment to making products that improve people’s lives. Improving people’s lives happens when you solve an existing problem; however, a problem can’t be solved without knowing what it is, and it can’t be solved well without knowing who it’s for. To do that, empathy is needed, and to gain empathy, you’ll certainly need to reach outside of your comfort zone. Seeking out new experiences and meeting new people can be uncomfortable, but it will help you find a new perspective to work from, which will in turn help you solve a problem in a more unique and effective way. Paradoxical? Maybe, but forcing yourself into uncomfortable places will almost always generate meaningful outcomes—thanks for the lesson on that, John!

Being young has its advantages, but despite our age, it might serve us well to approach new experiences guilelessly as children do, holding more tightly to the flexible, abstract lessons than the concrete ones. As I settle into my role at Crush & Lovely, I am encouraged by the humble, knowledge-seeking attitude of the team. And although I am incredibly thankful that the days of homework are no more, I am reminded daily that my role as a student will never be over—and that is a good thing.