Monday, May 17, 2010

Students inspire, amaze and scare the hell out of me

For more than a month, I have had Autumn Wallace's resume on my desk. She handed it to me at the NDAC's student job fair in March and I got the chance to talk with her briefly. Our conversation began like this:

Her: I want to use human-centered design to address the flaws in complex systems that have been overlooked by the modern world.

Me: Huh?

She took me through her book. It was unlike any book I've ever seen. And I've seen a kazillion. Autumn redesigned an ambulance ride from the patient's point of view. She redesigned shopping technology from a blind person's point of view. She redesigned a fruit brand from a community's point of view. By the end of our talk, two facts were blindingly obviously to me:

1. Autumn was doing what agencies in America ought to be doing. She was finding places where brands and consumers intersect and making them beautiful and efficient.

2. It would be a gamble to hire Autumn based on her book, because after looking at it I wasn't sure she was passionate about doing the tasks that junior designers are expected to do - logos, packaging, websites, and, frequently, shelf talkers and counter cards.

My usual gripe about junior designers and art directors is that their books lack ideas and inspiration. But Autumn's book had the opposite situation. (I can't bring myself to call it a problem.) It was nothing but vision. So at some point in the conversation, I said something like this:

Me: I don't want to kill the dream here. You are doing something wonderful at a high level. But at most agencies, your first assignment will probably be something like, "Design a website." If you're lucky. It might be, "Design a mirror cling." Are you sure you're ready for that, both skill-wise and emotionally?

She assured me she was raring to get going in the real world. And if I had an open job, I would like to think I'd have the courage to hire her. But I keep looking at her resume and feeling confused. And then inspired. And then sad. And then just sort of confused again.

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