Sunday, August 21, 2011

Have You Ever...?

Learned a hard lesson...Part 1.

Some things just stick with you. Comments, thoughts or memories that just never leave your head. I have several of these rolling around my mind constantly but I'm going to tell you about one of them today.

I graduated as a product designer but in order for me to get a place in the course I needed to have a portfolio so I started off doing a PLC in portfolio design. Well really I started off doing applied chemistry in Cork after my Leaving Cert but after the cert stage I decided that science wasn't for me. That is a much longer story to tell and isn't for today. Which led me back to design.

At this stage my secondary school art teacher was running the local portfolio course so I contacted her and got a place on the course. I enjoyed the course, I loved that I already knew my lecturer and I didn't really love the fact that the rest of the class had an average age of 18 and I was already 21. I was worldly, I had lived away from home, I had been to college, I had a car, I had stories that could rival, and beat, anyone on the course. I was cocky. And arrogant And more than a little obnoxious. I thought I was great.

About half way through the course we were told that we had a project which was to be based on the local museum display, we were to put on a fashion show which was to be inspired by a section of the permanent exhibition. My section was Stone and Ironage Tools. Not a bad section. And I set to work, sketching the exhibition, detailing the tools, putting together inspiration boards for my 'Collar and Cuffs' theme. I was so proud of my work, so sure of it, so I took it to our lecturer to receive my praise. 

She glanced quickly at my work as she was already working with another student and she screamed when she saw it. Actually recoiled in horror from my pages and yelled at me to 'take that Brain Vomit as far away from me as you can'. I was crushed, devastated, and in shock. The entire class had heard and watched my rebuff. My fall from self given grace. I think I even ran to the bathroom and cried at the time. But she was right. Completely and utterly correct. It was sloppy work. I had taken all my thoughts and threw them down onto a page with no consideration of form or presentation. Her description was 100% accurate, I had spewed my thoughts out and expected everyone to be thankful for my work.

I learned a valuable lesson that day. Humility. I learned that no one was going to reward me for just being there and producing any old thing. I learned that design wasn't just about regurgitation of ideas. I learned a swift and powerful lesson on presentation and effective communication of ideas. 

And to this day I still thank that lecturer for what she taught me. Her method may have been cruel but it was one of the most effective methods I have ever encountered.

What thoughts have stuck with you? How have they affected your life?

Part 2 to follow... 


  1. Oh God, what a reaction!!! I'd have died with embarrassment! But well done you for having such a positive attitude about it!

  2. Oh my goodness, how harsh! I'm glad that you took it, reflected and made it positive but that takes a lot of strength!

  3. @calamity & Kyla - it took me a long time to see the positive in that lesson, but I trusted that lecturer completely when it came to design and I knew that she would never have made that comment lightly.