happy anniversary to me…

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03/11/2010 by Sarah Ritchie

I couldn’t imagine being old enough to celebrate 20 years doing anything…but here we are! This month is my 20th anniversary of being in the print and design industry. Incredible!

There is a theory, by Dr K. Anders Ericsson (a psychology professor at Florida State University) which proposes three categories of “expert” – “greater experts”, “lesser experts”, and “serious amateurs”. Through his research, he found that “greater experts” had amassed 10,000 hours of deliberate practice by age 20; “lesser experts” had amassed 5,000 hours; and “serious amateurs” had amassed 2,000 hours. This research has been thrown around wildly since the 90s to mean all sorts of things…so let’s take it with a grain of salty-salt. If I do a rough calculation, that means I have spent 38,400 hours doing what I do…so what would that now make me? A “super-greater expert”?!

My career started out in the years ‘B.C.’ (Before Computers…and before design degrees existed) when I qualified as a Trade Certificated Photolithographer. That trade became extinct in the mid-90s with the rise of the mighty Mac. My path flowed with the technological tide and I retrained. Fortunately.

The irony is that my graphic design students are now more “qualified” in graphic design than I am! If experience and ability count, then perhaps I should be given an honourary design diploma or degree. That would be nice. Maybe when I am famous.

I made sure I ingrained into my students that there is a fine line between “self-confidence” and “ego”. You need a healthy dose of self-confidence to survive as a designer, however “ego” (Sarah’s definition) is when one fails to realise that one really doesn’t know it all! An inflated ego is a very difficult beast to accommodate in a design team.

After 20 years in the business I make sure I keep on learning, and stay open to new ideas, information and concepts. In education they call that “life-long learning”. Rarely a day goes by when I am not absorbing something new…stops the brain-rot from setting in!

The key is to enjoy learning from others (even newbies). As much as one likes to impart their years of accumulated wisdom, the best result comes from a two-way learning osmosis. This keeps you humble, mentally-supple, interested and interesting. Here’s to the next 20 years!

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