Hello, friends at Space150!
My name is Rob Johnston and I am applying for a position as a Design Intern at Space150.
My whole life has been a series of obsessions, which turned out to be phases. Like when I was 5 years old and convinced myself that I was Santa Claus, which lead to spending every waking hour trying to turn my parent’s basement into The North Pole. Damn you, Tim Allen.
With each phase, I would be completely obsessed and then eventually burn out and move on to the next one. Then, when it came time to pick a career path, I knew I wanted to do something creative so I figured I would try my hand at Design.
While at college, I was terrified that my love of design would turn out to be another phase. I soon found Design Matters with Debbie Millman. It was extraordinary — learning tricks of the trade from those who have been mastering their craft for years, without them ever knowing I existed. I remember dreading the sound of that damn bell because I always wanted to know more. I had to become a part of this new found world. There was one problem — I didn’t know any real designers.
And then this HORRIFIC train wreck happened:
You can’t make this shit up.
I never in a million years thought Debbie or anyone would respond. Debbie was kind enough to not only respond but to be one of my first guests. In my first interviews I was like a bull in a China shop. It’s really embarrassing to watch now. Fortunately, everyone that I interviewed encouraged my enthusiasm and curiosity. Over the course of the year I would go onto interview 18 Creatives including:
Michael Bierut (Pentagram)
Leland Maschmeyer (Collins/Chobani)
Ron Burrage (Global Design Director at Hershey)
Jessica Helfand (Design Observer)
Rich Tu (Nike Global Design Team) and more!
Rejection, Failure and Not Giving up.
Almost every guest that I spoke with shared their own stories of failure and rejection when trying to make it into the field of Design. Many warned of the difficult but rewarding road ahead but encouraged to never give up. Debbie Millman’s advice in particular would prove to be invaluable:
Over the course of the past year I had the privilege to work with clients like The Hershey Company, Buzzfeed Product Labs and even got to work with my favorite comedian, Bill Burr. While I was grateful for these opportunities, it was difficult to find consistent work with my lack of experience. I failed time and time again. It was one of the hardest years of my life, despite the podcast doing so well.
I could not help but feel I was not alone in my journey. After being bounced out of yet another agency for my lack of experience, I did something I never in a million years thought I would do - publicly talk about my failure to make it in New York. I wrote a piece called 'Follow the Black Dog - A message to my fellow entry-level Designers' and posted it on my LinkedIn profile. I was terrified it would end all chances of ever getting a job. Within one day it had 65 views, most of whom were people I used to work with or mentored me along the way. If this was a bad idea, it was far too late to go back now.
However, many friends reached out, shared similar stories and thanked me for letting them know they were not alone. From that moment forward, Meet the Creatives would take on a new direction. The podcast would become a way to bridge the gap between entry-level Designers and top creatives at some of the biggest creative companies in the world.
My love for Design turned out not to be another phase, but a calling.