The Creative Herd

The Creative Herd

With a multitude of design related showcases winding down within Calgary’s institutes like SAIT, Mount Royal and ACAD, you can expect to find a herd of creative individuals about to enter this industry. If you’re one of these individuals, you can expect to find some tough competition amongst fellow graduates coupled with a reluctant ad agency base which is recovering from some economic turbulence. Don’t worry, here are some tips and what you need to know if you’re looking to get a good start:

1. Personality
It’s what makes you different in a pond full of eager candidates wanting the same thing as you. Build a unique self-promotional brand for yourself and try to reflect your personality through that brand.

2. Portfolio
Make a portfolio. A number of industry pros aren’t fans of seeing school work within a folio so be adventurous with your pieces. Consider fictitious work. You’d be surprised in the value of someone understanding a different approach to something well known which already exist. Re-designing the home page of Nike for example or promoting one of their shoes through a print ad.

3. Contests
If you’re looking to develop your skills as a designer or an illustrator, there’s no better way to do it then by taking part in contests. Fierce competition always brings out the best in creative abilities, there’s a chance to win swag/money, and at the end of the day, you can include what you’ve done in your folio. *Win

4. Stay connected
Keep tabs on your peers as soon as you end your programs. There’s always a chance that the place your friend works at is hiring more staff. If you can’t find something stable and come across contract work to start, DON’T HESITATE. It’s a way to get your foot in the door. Make social media your friend. Absorb as much as you can from the best designers/illustrators, on Twitter for example and apply that knowledge. Network as much as you can at events happening around the city. All you need for that is a firm hand shake, some business cards and decent alcohol tolerance.

5. Criticism
Be prepared to get criticized with anything creative. Learn to take constructive criticism, act on it, and you’ll see the quality of your work increase 10 fold.

6. Stay Inspired
Whatever you do to be inspired, keep doing it, in fact do it more often. Observe what the trends are, how they’re progressing and take notes. Repeat the cycle, and set your own trends that others would gain inspiration from.

7. Consider Re-locating
Sure it’s a big step but keep your options open. You may not live in a creative jungle but you may be close to one. Also consider further studies which may expand your skill set. Teach yourself a few tricks if you’re able to.

8. Passion
Approach your work with love and passion. If you’re in it for the 9-5, you’re in the wrong industry.

That just about wraps it up, now get out there you crazy creative slugger you…

Feature image by Mike Harrison. Give his folio some love.


  1. Eric Spencer Olson

    Great post, man. Number five was/is a big one for me …

    In her book MindSet, Carol Dweck divides the world into two types — “Fixed” mindset types and “Growth” mindset types. Fixed types view talent/intelligence like it’s fixed, like it’s just something you either naturally have or don’t have, while Growth types view talent/intelligence as something you continually build by way of acting on feedback.

    Basically, Fixed types largely end up thinking criticism is ultimately a judgment about their own innate talent and potential, so they see it as a personal attack that has to be either defended against or ignored. Growth types see themselves as a work in progress, not yet perfect, and so look forward to criticism because it’s the only way to actually grow their skills. Anyway, book is totally recommended to anyone working in this industry, check it out!

  2. Peter

    Great post Umer. I would also add that it’s always good to just meet for coffee with industry folk even if they’re not hiring. It’s a great way to get pointers and it’s a small industry so they will be the first to know if positions open up.

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