Some people wonder weather or not a you need a degree in design to be a good designer. Sure you can learn Photoshop and other design software but, I have to say, my degree in Graphic Design from The College of St. Rose in Albany, NY is worth it’s weight in gold. I can not imagine gaining that type of experience and knowledge on my own.
During my time at St. Rose, I had the very good fortune to land an internship in Manhattan with the legendary designer, Milton Glaser. Best known for his ‘I heart NY’ logo, which by the way he never made any money from, and his poster for Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits.
On my first day, I got lost coming out of Grand Central Station, it was raining and the brand new shoes I bought were cutting into my heals. By the time I got to the office of Walter Bernard Milton Glaser, also knows as WBMG, a half an hour late, I was bleeding and must have looked like a drowned rat. Thankfully, the kind folks there didn’t hold it against me. In fact I think they felt sorry for me and it was all up hill from there.
At the time I thought I knew what a big deal this was but the truth is, I really didn’t. One day I answered the phone and took a message for Walter Bernard and wrote down the name David Lauren, I was then informed I just talked to the son of the fashion designer Ralph Lauren. Yes, this was not going to be any ordinary internship.
What I did
I didn’t design much at all, I was mostly send on errands like, take this package down to Time Magazine offices, or go get a variety of soda’s and pastries for the meeting with Fortune Magazine. I was once sent to the library to research old styled fonts for the opening movie credits for the movie Michael, staring John Travolta.
There was one day, about half-way through the summer, that I will never forget. I was on the computer cleaning up the table of contents layout for the redesign of Today’s HomeOwner Magazine in Quark x-press. Did I mention it was 1996? Milton and Walter Bernhard walked in and asked me to work the computer to their designs. So, there I was sitting in-between the two while one asked me to move this up a little, the other would say, okay now move this image down over here. They were trying to come up with a layout for an odd number of featured articles on the TOC, it wasn’t working.
After a bit I hesitate but I could see the answer. I finally spoke up and said “May I?”. The both looked at me like, go for it! I rearrange the images real quick, and looked at them like, “how about something like this?” I don’t remember what Milton said, something like “works for me”, and he got up and walked away. His job was done. Walter stayed for just a minute more to clarify what all needed to be done now. Later in the day I over heard someone ask if that 7 feature layout got done, and I Walter said, “Yes, Tami came up with the design!”. Best.. day… ever!!!
What I learned
There is one other day that stand out, and that’s because there was a problem and Milton, was well, less than happy. Nothing was directed at me but in one open room with only 4-5 desks it’s hard not to take notice. I don’t remember the exact issue but basically the answer was to go old school, get some rubylith (remember that!) and do it by hand.
Milton saw the computer as just a tool and like any other tool designers use, if something wasn’t working with one tool, use a different tool. The beginning of every project and when ever I get stuck, I get out the sketch pad and pencil and remember, the computer is not the only tool around.
I loved those days spent learning how the office worked and helping out in any way I could. Leaving work at 5pm sharp and walking as fast as I could to catch the 5:14 train home, it was a 15 min walk. When I first moved to California just a few years later I was told again and again, “you walk to fast”. Yes, yes I do
Oh, and need proof.. Here I am, second row on the far right, Tami Briggs