rediscovering old work & looking ahead

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I am revisiting some of the dark corners of my external harddrive today and found some old screenshots of work I had done YEARS ago. Here is a WIP screenshot I had taken for a client I had been working with— BelleSF magazine— in early 2015.

I so distinctly remember hating my work back then and now that I look back I can really see how harsh I was being on myself. I think I’ve written about this before because I’m getting some deja vu right now, but it really does blow my mind and puts a lot in perspective. I am at a crossroads right now in my life and taking a hard look at how I currently and used to view my own work is helping me step forward.

I was barely out of college when I landed this magazine gig, and I worked on it alongside my day job, as the solo graphic designer for the entire magazine. It was basically just me and the owner/editor/main writer/client (all one person). Over the course of the 5 or 6 issues I worked on you can definitely see my progression. I was very fortunate that the photography and artwork was phenomenal. It gave me a lot of space to explore.

One criticism I have of the magazine design as a whole is how little cohesiveness there was. It was hard for me to reign myself in; every feature had a different aesthetic completely, and aside from the folios on every page and the body text fonts, they could have been from completely different publications. This had to do with what the client wanted, but also my own inexperience and a lack of art direction, I believe. That being said, I think with the tools I was given and the ones I developed, I can see a strong foundation for what would eventually lead to me working on Image+. In school I tried to rebel against the grid, and this was one feature in BelleSF that I can see I was starting to embrace it and accept it as an asset instead of an obstacle.

I recently applied to Harvard Business Review and did a creative prompt for them wherein I had to design a feature according to their style guide and brand, but of course I felt the pressure to also “flex” my creativity and skills. I didn’t get the job, but I had purchased several issues of the magazine for research, and it amazed me how cohesive every feature was all while maintaining its own personality and tone. It was a genuine eye-opener of a prompt and I’m glad I was given the chance to do it; working within the grid they gave me was also a great look “under the hood” so to speak.

I look back at this feature and see my younger self trying to emulate more experienced designers I admired, cutting out parts I liked and ditching parts I didn’t actually understand, then jamming it together into one magazine. I made a lot of choices that didn’t make sense but it “looks cool.” That’s still a habit I actively work against; I think there’s value in “looking cool” but purpose and research drives an overall publication. I can see while looking back at my previous work just HOW important it is and how much it would have benefited me. I was so annoyed with having to find those tiny details as a student but I practically beg for them from clients now as an adult.

Anyway, I’m rambling a bit now.

I hope that whoever is reading this is having a great Wednesday. :)