Finding The Opportunities


“Finding the opportunities”;  one of those phrases that instantly reminds me of one of my professors at Ringling– whom I will always affectionately refer to as Higgle Wiggle*. During critiques, he’d say something like “Find your journey– go through the winder (VA for window, I assume) and find your journey”

What he (probably??) meant by that is the subject of another post I’m working on, but the weird wonky jargon part —THAT is why we are here.

Last week, one of my beloved mentees(let’s call her B) texted me about an issue she was struggling with– a project in her design class where she needed to recreate the essence of one of her design heroes’ style.

Once she showed me her choice, I was in love– though admittedly, I have never heard of him before: Alexander Brodovitch, a photographer and designer well-known within the Editorial world for his dynamic and typographically delightful compositions.

She showed me her first draft and the solution was instantly (and abundantly) clear. She needed to explore more, and by that I mean PLAY! Pure uninhibited design enjoyment time.

Exploration as it equates to ‘play’ is entirely why I find myself working in the design profession to begin with. I’m naturally a curious person, and often times I would find myself in precarious –and often mischievous situations –before Photoshop and Illustrator intervened, of course.

I’m always finding new ways to help others access and nurture parts of themselves that come naturally to me. Helping B nix hesitation for exploration was this particular days’ lesson du jour, and when am I not up for a challenge– if you could even call this that. Which I can’t really.

When I gave her my suggestions, I started by talking through all of the variables left unexplored. Then I listed it out. Allowing her to see the quick options available to her without even bringing in the option of a change in typeface, color, or even switching around the direction.

After B and I  finished talking, I was reminded of a conversation with one of the designers I was managing while Design Director at Flosites. He was showing me a concept for a client’s brand. I was the creative lead, providing direction and feedback for the client, and K was assisting in the execution. While on a Skype call, he sent me 1 jpg of an illustration. ONE illustration of ONE direction– a simple heart icon that he had spent three days on. I realized a long (LONG) time ago that not everyone works the same– especially the same as I do, so I gently asked if he had thought of other options to present to the client. I will never forget his response:

“No, I perfect this one and I talk her into it if necessary”

It should surprise no one why Jake and I went off to do our own thing, but I digress.

I will never support the diva-esque/lone idea approach that a client has to be talked into. I believe– and coach others–in searching and creating as many solutions (or opportunities) to reach said solution.

This approach allows both designer and client equal weight in the process and I know that this way works best for me. I never failed faster than trying to deliver a finished logo without consulting the client through my decisions. Trust me.

In B’s case, along with the other lovely people that I mentor, I work to instill a confidence in the designer’s instincts and choices. Allowing others to deliver and seek out solutions for themselves and then back them up– but in order to do that, you need to be aware of all of the tiny choices and decisions that can be noodled without a wide overhaul of the work or direction.


Here’s her reworked comp based on that same list of opportunities for her to work within. I’d say she nailed it, and what’s better, she has a stronger grip on what to consider for next time. So I’d say I nailed it too. Hooray!

*Higgle Wiggle, Higgy Bunyon, All terms from love for a man named Doug Higgins

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